When candor loses, cynicism wins | SummitDaily.com

When candor loses, cynicism wins

Wink, wink. Nod, nod. Although it certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, the art of deception is flourishing in the public square of late.

Take, for instance, the recent reassigning of two CIA analysts to the hinterlands for what appear to be some pretty big boo-boos, although their bosses say it’s really no big deal.

According to CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, it “is absolutely wrong to think this is somehow punitive or negative or indicative of anything other than a normal rotation.”

Other folks within the secret organization suggest otherwise and they’re not keeping it a secret. One anonymous CIA official spoke out: “Two of the key players on this problem (Iraq’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction) have essentially been sent into deep exile.”

 Which of the diverse accounts is closer to the truth? Years of listening to public pronouncements, be they from top-secret government organizations or publicly owned businesses, have made most of us leery of official spokespersons, no matter who they are speaking for.

 Recently, Ari Fleischer, spokesman for President Bush, announced he was leaving his position soon to pursue other interests. Some of those other interests may include just speaking the straight truth for awhile.

 The problem is not that spokespeople lie outright, although we have certainly had our share of such deceivers in recent months. It is more we have to pick through their clever conniving to get to what they’re really trying to say.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that when a CEO of a collapsing corporation is described as “retiring after a long and respectable career,” it is really a nice way of saying “he’s being canned before he can do more damage.”

Such politeness may seem both politically correct and proper protocol, but one can’t help but worry that such virtuous sounding vocabulary breeds cynicism and distrust.

The current controversy over the “retiring” of former Gov. Frank Keating from the National Review Board of the Roman Catholic Church in America is a case in point. Keating took heat from some church folks for his comparison of uncooperative bishops to the mafia.

The remark was intemperate, to be sure, but refreshingly revealing in a day and age when communication craftiness seems more prevalent than candor.

Curiously, Keating was chosen for the leadership precisely because he was so forthright. Reportedly, Bishop Wilton T. Gregory, president of the Conference of Bishops, appointed the former Oklahoma governor because he was eager to have an independent and respected voice speaking for the church.

“They may have made a strategic error in the first place by selecting such a maverick to run the committee,” said Paul F. Lakeland, a professor of religious studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut. “On the other hand, Bishop Gregory was so clearly anxious to be choosing independent voices that he may have leaned a little far and chosen one who was not only independent but who also shoots from the hip at times.” (New York Times, June 16, 2003)

A little too independent, it now appears.

Such dependent deceitfulness is certainly not limited to public officials. Most of us find ourselves cooperating in similar dishonesties every day. But when the nature of public discourse degenerates into a search between the lines for some semblance of fact, not only is dishonesty the order of the day but cynicism wins.

And that means we all lose.

Columnist Rich Mayfield tells the truth and nothing but the truth, every Saturday in the Summit Daily News.

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