When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, a segment of the American public called then President George W. Bush a liar. His administration countered that most intelligence agencies of our principal allies believed, too, that Saddam Hussein had such weapons.
I do not believe that President Bush was lying. But I do believe that some cunning character in the intelligence chain had contrived the falsehood in such a way that it gained credence throughout the world, aided and abetted by Saddam who must have been enjoying the charade until it blew up in his face.
That was eight years ago. Since that time technology has moved ahead at warp speed and it would be doubtful that such a lie could be perpetrated so flawlessly. Indeed, the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden illustrates the point. Technology is making it increasingly difficult to get away with a cunning lie.
Bin Laden’s whereabouts were studied and pinpointed. Advanced technology made it possible for the Navy Seal helicopters to sneak into Pakistan undetected, do the job, then beat a quick retreat, albeit with the probable loss of the technological know-how embedded in a destroyed helicopter tail that made it possible. DNA technology made Osama’s identity proof positive. What is even more remarkable was that the entire operation was observed as if it were a reality television show.
What I am trying to illustrate is that we have all become googleized and it is becoming increasingly impossible for any public figure to lie about anything. Nothing can be hidden. Instant research has arrived. There are no secrets. Technology is making it impossible to lie.
There is, in fact, little wiggle room for hypocrisy. For example, when the President of Pakistan denies that elements in Pakistan had made it possible for Bin Laden to live there and continue to operate, no one, including his own people, could possible believe him.
While I am dealing here with public figures, I make that claim for private people as well. Technology has narrowed the options for lying in every public activity from petty crimes like speeding to serious crimes like murder. There are cameras everywhere. People are watching and listening. Privacy is swiftly disappearing. Like most things about technology, it has a good side and a bad side.
For a public figure it spells the end of hypocrisy, which is especially confusing for those like me who were brought up on George Washington’s story of the cherry tree. Yes, I did chop down that tree.
When our leaders tell us that we are going to war to protect civilians from being massacred in Libya, and then blandly ignore the brutal massacres of innocent civilians in Syria for example, we wink at each other. We know this is a lie because technology has brought us the truth in pictures from smart phones and sound recordings from victims in Syria.
It is getting more and more impossible to lie. Wall Streeters who profit from inside information are also vulnerable to technological advances. Ditto for organized crime and other attempts to operate clandestinely.
We’ve come a long way from the days when Thomas Jefferson could deny his affair with the underage Sally Hemmings. And Newt will have a tough time rationalizing his tawdry adultery record although the Bill Clinton experience does offer a game plan for how to beat the system by redefining the meaning of words as in what physical action constitutes having sex.
When the White House invited a rap star who has disparaged cops, excused a convicted cop killer and purveyed pandering hate lyrics, googleization made it impossible to deny it, and the administration spokespeople were forced to provide pretzel-like explanations that sounded foolish, sanctimonious and blatantly hypocritical.
It should be obvious that technology has ushered in a new age of transparency. Nothing will be safe from the seeing eye and the hearing ear. My meager examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In fact, the iceberg has already melted.
On a public scale the upcoming Presidential election will be the most totally transparent public vetting of the century. Hypocrisy will not cut it. Lies will be impossible. Every media meister from every political persuasion in the world will be playing “gotcha” in visible chapter and verse. There will be no place to hide. Speeches will have to be totally googleized and teleprompters had better be working.
If there is a glimmer of hope for our species it might be that technology will force us all to adopt again the old verities trumpeting honesty, morality, ethics, compassion, fairness and decency.
The facts are that the gates of privacy have been breached forever. Perhaps the last bastion is the human mind itself, where the imagination still reigns supreme and thoughts are protected in the buried vaults of the human brain. If that is ever penetrated from outside by technology, God help us all.