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July 25, 2003
Stebbins Dean's
Tarnished Brass!

By Howard Hobbs, PhD, Editor & Publisher

    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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