Watching Rand Paul get hazed by the media (both on the left and the right) last week reminded me again just how hot the kitchen can be if you’re playing for big stakes. Rand comes from good stock, so he’ll get the hang of it quickly and learn how to excel at forced smiles while simultaneously giving interviewers the mental middle finger.
When you enter politics, even with rare good intentions, you have to be very naïve not to understand that you’re fair game for slander and defamation, and that, unlike everyday citizens, you can’t file lawsuits in search of restitution.
So when a politician is asked the standard “When did you stop molesting your granddaughter?” question, all he can do is ignore such distracting rubbish and start babbling about make-believe issues such as creating jobs and getting the economy moving. It’s kind of a slimy tactic, but, hey, politics is a slimy sport. And — Who knows? — if you get really good at it, you might just become the next Chauncey Gardner and rise to the office of make-believe president.
But what about the rest of us? What’s a charming, innocent guy like you supposed to do if someone starts spreading lies about you? If you don’t understand your accuser’s neuroses, slander can be a very intimidating tool.
I’ve been slandered by a number of high-profile troglodytes, so I know how annoying it can be. Some of my accusers have fake PhDs by their names, some have evolved into fake spiritual gurus, and some are not fake at all — just malicious miscreants afflicted with Locknose at birth.
For the record, Locknose is a genetic defect. A person suffering from this condition has had his nose locked in a permanent upward position since birth, which causes him to spend his entire life sniffing out riff-raff (i.e., those who have been outrageously successful in the real world but don’t have at least a master’s degree from one of our finer college propaganda mills).
Never mind that the smartest, most knowledgeable guy on the planet, Mark Steyn, never spent a day in college. Nor did Eric Hoffer. And, of course, a pretty good country lawyer by the name of Abe Lincoln. In the eyes of the Locknose crowd, pure dummies!
Since all human beings possess, to varying degrees, negative traits such as jealousy, envy, hatred, and cruelty, slander is widely used for venting emotions. The question is, can you bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools? Probably not.
When someone tries to twist your words, accuse you of something you didn’t do, or tell lies about you, the likelihood is that you want to lash out and defend yourself. There’s a natural inclination to want to prove to the world that what has been said about you is false.
Everything else becomes secondary to righting the terrible wrong that has been committed against you. Unfortunately, once your emotions reach that point, the slanderer has won. After all, all he really wants is to jerk your string.
Why would someone have a desire to screw with your head? There could be any number of reasons. He may envy you because of your achievements; he may be frustrated over his own low station in life; or he may simply be an inherently envious or cruel person.
Nevertheless, when you’re blindsided by a poisonous slander dart, it can be jarring — especially if you’re a person who makes it a habit to mind your own business and focus on your own affairs. There’s so much bitterness our modern Age of Envy — due to feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and failure (not to mention perceived self‑sacrifice) — that the neurotic individual often feels that the only way he can vent his frustration is by badmouthing others.
Perhaps the most difficult type of slander to swallow is the outright lie. It’s like being shocked with a cattle prod. When it strikes, it throws you off balance, often leaving you at a loss for words.
What is most difficult about an out‑and‑out lie is the depressing reality that there will always be some people who are going to believe it, and others who will at least partially believe it. The tendency to give credence to even the most outrageous lie is based on the old adage that “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” — which is precisely what makes slander such an effective weapon.
Fortunately, the effects of a lie are usually short-lived, even among irrational people, provided you don’t make the mistake of keeping the lie in the spotlight by incessantly talking about it. The less you say, the better, because rational people view a lie in the same way they view any other kind of statement not supported by facts. Repeat — rational people.
The reality is that you are going to be slandered from time to time, so you shouldn’t allow it to throw you into a state of emotional turmoil when it happens. If you feel the necessity to defend yourself against a lie, the best approach is to first give yourself time to cool off and think the matter through calmly.
During the cooling‑off period, try your best to analyze the facts with a dispassionate mind-set. Then, after you’ve thought it through carefully, state your defense clearly, simply, and firmly — but only to those whose opinions you value.
Avoid nasty adjectives and broad-sweeping statements that only succeed in discrediting you. Skip extraneous nonsense and avoid repetition. The destruction of the lie in the eyes of those you care about will very much depend upon how you handle the situation.
It’s not a matter of turning the other cheek. It’s a matter of doing what’s in your best interest. To feel compelled to expose a lie to every person who crosses your path is counterproductive.
An overly vehement defense rarely convinces others that the slander is not true. On the contrary, the louder the protest, the more suspicious it tends to make people. An important rule to remember when it comes to defending yourself: The power of the understatement is enormous. State the truth once, state it calmly, state it firmly. Then stop.
Whatever the slanderer’s reasons, the moment you begin analyzing what motivates him to want to hurt others, you’ve already taken a step in the wrong direction. You’re much ahead of the game if you stay calm and recognize that it’s his problem, not yours. Then simply ignore his remarks and move on.
And, by the way, don’t spend a minute worrying that the slanderer might get off scot free. Trust me, Nature will have its way with him.
One last thing: Whatever else you do, don’t try to shush the slanderer — especially if you plan on running for president someday.