Gore's lies: A deconstruction

By Jamie Glazov
web posted October 30, 2000

He just can't stop lying.

Gore is so completely consumed with the need to exaggerate that whenever he speaks the possibility exists that he is lying.

One of the most unnerving lies Gore has told has been about his Vietnam experience. It crystallizes his lying in a surreal sense:

Getting caught in a cross-fire in Vietnam. Running for cover. Pandemonium breaking out everywhere. Running through a jungle ten thousand miles away from home. Fighting the Vietcong. M-16 in hand, dirt on face, broken bodies and blood everywhere. Fighting in Nam.

The ingredients of Gore's lies suggest that this is precisely the kind of fantasy world that Gore has nurtured about his service in Vietnam. His lies clearly reflect such visualizations of imaginary glory in combat. Yet Gore couldn't just keep his self-alienated visions to himself; he had to share them with the American people. In October 1999, he boasted, with a perfectly straight face (and, of course, with his meticulously rehearsed choked-up emotion), about how, in Vietnam, he "walked through the elephant grass and was fired upon. . . . I spent most of my time in the field….I carried an M-16. . . . I pulled my turn on the perimeter at night."

Gore was a journalist in Vietnam.

Gore learning gun safety in Vietnam
Gore learning gun safety in Vietnam

He did not engage in combat, nor did he witness any. That's because, even as a journalist, special instructions had been given to keep him out of harm's way. That is why bodyguards were assigned to him. That is why Brig. Gen. K.B. Cooper instructed Alan Leo, a photographer in the press brigade office where Gore worked, to make sure that Gore did not go near any dangerous situations. And that is why Leo ended up describing his half-dozen trips outside of the press brigade office with Gore as situations where 'I could have worn a tuxedo."

Gore's Vietnam lies are just like his other lies -- about how he helped write Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey's presidential-nomination acceptance speech at the 1968 Democratic convention, about how he has always been for abortion, about how he created the Internet, about how he grew up on a farm, about how he had an excellent record in school, and, well, about how he did everything else.

So we are confronted with a significant question: what is Gore's problem? The empirical evidence allows us to make a few tentative insights.

The field of abnormal psychology teaches us the term pathological lying. A pathological liar is an individual who lies compulsively; he simply cannot stop himself. He tells lies for immediate self-gratification, even though it is obvious that the lies are self-destructive – in that they will be found out (i.e. saying you carried an M-16 in Vietnam when it is obvious that people will investigate the claim).

There is also the term pseudologia fantastica. The pseudologue tells lies that appear plausible at first but simply crumble into absurdity over time. Yet the pseudologue tells his lies anyway, because he is an expert in weaving together fact and fantasy in such a way that the two become virtually indistinguishable. A pseudologue will abandon his lie, or apologize for it, if confronted with contradictory evidence (i.e. Gore admitting he didn't help write Humphrey's speech). Yet without confrontation, the pseudologue is capable of repeating his lies enough times that he himself can begin to believe them.

Naturally, it would be irresponsible, and unfair, to allege that Al Gore is a pathological liar or a pseudologue in a clinical sense. But it would be legitimate to point out that he shares the ingredients of the behaviours that are labeled by those terms.

Yes, almost all of us lie, but we lie some of the time because we want to -- and choose to. That is very different from a person who lies all of the time because he simply can't stop himself.

Habitual lying almost always stems from an effort to preserve, or create, a false sense of self. It also provides protection from painful feelings caused by a failure to live up to one's own personal self-image. The lie may be an attempt to increase others' opinion of oneself, if only for a moment, much like the effect achieved by abuse of alcohol or other drugs. The immediate high the habitual liar gets from his lie is more important for him than the humiliation he will eventually suffer.

Gore has a very serious problem. He may also soon be the President of the United States.

Jamie Glazov holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Soviet studies. He is the author of 15 Tips on How to Be a Good Leftist.

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