July 25, 2003
By Howard Hobbs, PhD, Editor &
FRESNO STATE -- The
CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce has taken his place in
history among the high-profile Fresno liars of all time. He
was caught in Naples Florida with his integrity down and has
returned to Fresno in an advanced state of embarrassment. Dean
has been placed on administrative leave by his employer.
The reasons he fibbed about the incident
are obvious. It all adds up and lowers the level of trust in
anything we read or hear from the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.
This at a time when ethics and morality
are near the top of the list of what the public regards as the
most important problems facing the country, according
to George Gallup Jr. "I think the public is alarmed. More
than three-quarters (78%) say our moral values are somewhat
or very weak."
A long tradition in political philosophy
endorses some lies for the sake of the public. Plato first used
the term "noble lie" for the fanciful story
that might be told to people in order to persuade them to accept
class distinctions to preserve peace and harmony in society.
According to the story, God himself mingled gold, silver, iron
and brass in fashioning community leaders for separate tasks
in harmonious public service.
Was Stebbins Dean's lying acceptable
if he believed the full truth could causes harm? Along these
lines, some lies might be justified if they serve the higher
good, says John Carlson of the Pew Forum on Religion and
Public Life. But lies told "for personal gain and
no higher good, to improve one's status or sense of self, or
for self-aggrandizement" are out of bounds.
Liars often fib to escape punishment,
to gain something that can't be earned legitimately, to get
power over others or to build self esteem, says psychologist
Paul Ekman, author of the best selling book on the subject,
"Telling Lies". One common mistake liars
make is to underestimate the consequences. If the lie is discovered,
they may never be trusted again.
Ironically, some lies often involve
people who are community leaders, talented and bright. They
have no need to lie to sustain their importance, and yet they
engage in risky behavior anyway.
This type of liar has been reported
in the literature as a variant of what is called the impostor
syndrome. Even though some of these liars are very successful,
they feel they are frauds. They feel that whatever came to them
was undeserved. And even though they could get caught, even
though they may eventually sabotage themselves, they will engage
in revealing behavior anyway.
Some liars eventually become convinced
they are telling the truth, says Frank Farley, past president
of the American Psychological Association, now with Temple University
in Philadelphia."Our memories are not static, like a filing
system," Farley says. "Memory is dynamic. It is altered
by new experiences and gets edited to accommodate old ones.
You end up believing something that is really a lie."
[Editor's Note: See the Fresno
Republican story of July 21, 2003 "Stebbins
Dean Crack Up in Naples!"]
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