Something occurred to me late in the 2016 presidential race.1 Everybody was like “this guy lies and never faces consequences,” but was going about it in pretty much the least effective way possible.
I’m sure folks who hold this opinion were well-meaning, but they seemed to be coming from a time where being caught lying is the worst thing a public official can do. Slimy politicians are supposed to, what, recoil with shame, mumble an apology and exit the spotlight?
That’s obviously not the playbook now, and it should have been clear to anyone even a little awake in 2016. So can I just propose some slick new language for describing a case where a public statement doesn’t quite match up with reality?
You don’t call it “inaccurate” or “unfactual.” We’re all very impressed that you went to college.
You don’t call it “lying” because that’s what 4D-chess-playing businessmen do when they negotiate, I guess.
The word you’re looking for is “wrong.” They’re wrong, you say they’re wrong.
Wrong helps keep a record. It classifies the statement into a clear category, helping reinforce objective reality in a time where it’s needed.
Wrong is, at the same time, a little soft and assumes the best intentions. Swing and a miss. Good hustle out there, little buddy — you can’t hit ’em all.
Wrong is, most importantly, universal. You could be a middle school dropout and remember the feeling from, I don’t know, multiplication tables or something. Being wrong isn’t game-over, but each wrong stings a little.
At some point, if anyone’s actually keeping score, consistent wrongness writ large in headlines for years on end makes a case for malpractice. And who the fuck would tie up their identity supporting somebody who’s just so loudly and consistently wrong, in public, all the time?
- I know, I’m sorry I kept this to myself. ↩