Bad excuses for lying

There is a clear trend of lying or secret-keeping being considered acceptable when it is anything but, especially in fiction. The purpose of this article is to call attention to this trend and to make the reader more conscious of the issue, so that they will not, acting on social indoctrination, tell lies or glorify the telling of lies.

In Shadow Children and The Reckoners, heroes keep secrets about their operations from each other and justify it with "what if one of us gets captured". Do writers understand fault tolerance? Any time an operation goes badly, one of your agents might need to fill a role you didn't expect, so you can't predict what information they'll need. Such a situation is vastly more likely than someone being captured (it's even stated in The Reckoners that most Reckoners are killed in action and not captured) and divulging true information. Also, if someone does get captured, they are *going* to have sensitive information to divulge - you can't possibly limit their information so much that they can't cause serious damage to your organization, while still giving them enough for them to be a useful agent.

Fault tolerance

In Mistborn, the "what if you get captured" excuse is used to justify not telling the protagonist about some of the rules of the magic system. As if the Lord Ruler doesn't already know them 🤦

In Mass Effect, after discovering that a race of hostile robots called the Geth has a presence on Noveria, local authorities decide to cover it up because "if word gets out about loose Geth, there may be an investor panic". Whaaaaaaat?!?!?! *Shouldn't* there be an investor panic? Isn't panicking the right thing to do if your investments are being threatened by a race of hostile robots? Or if you don't care about the investors, what about all those average civilians in the port? Do they not have a right to know that they could be in mortal danger and they might want to get the hell out? I wouldn't complain if this was supposed to be a self-centered, immoral decision by the local authorities, but it's not portrayed that way - the player has no option to question this policy or to tell anyone about the loose Geth.

In many DDLC mods, benevolent characters who are aware of the *ahem twist* keep it a secret from their loved ones, because "the truth would hurt their feelings". Even though in some of these situations telling them the truth would obviously be the best way to prevent the greatest danger to said loved ones (that thing that happens at the end of acts 1 and 2). In the mod Shattered Worlds, the excuse is used to justify... um... not telling loved ones about the existence of murderers trying to murder them. Like gee, you think the best way to protect someone *from mortal physical danger* is to let them think they're not in any?

I've seen this "the truth would hurt you" bullshit invoked a couple times in real life too. Don't ever do that to someone you claim to love.

In Deltarune chapter 2, the protagonists decide to keep the secret that their world is being existentially threatened by supernatural enemies because... "if people knew the world was in danger, they'd freak out". Literally. Holy fuck. And they keep this secret both from friends and from those with much more power to help combat this threat.

April Fool's day is in theory a tradition of humor, but in practice people often use it as an excuse to tell lies that cause significant emotional harm, such as promising a long-awaited event has finally come only to reveal it hasn't, or japes that can cause real physical discomfort to a nonconsenting victim.

Santa Claus may be the worst example of them all both because of its ubiquity and because of the harm it does. First, it tarnishes the relationship between parent and child by teaching children that their belongings do *not* come from their parents (don't know why the fuck you would want your child to falsely think that), which causes children to act more entitled, which contributes to the harmful idea that our society spoils rather than abuses children. Second, it establishes in the minds of children the existence of a benevolent being whose actions exhibit many of the same patterns as... God! A panopticon being with seemingly unlimited power, who is selective in who he helps, and who does not prioritize those who need his help most? He's just God for atheists. A knot of lies and bad morals rolled into a disgusting, pervasive tradition.


subscribe via RSS

Proxied content from gemini://yujiri.xyz/protagonism/lying.gmi

Gemini request details:

Original URL
Status code
text/gemini; lang=en
Proxied by

Be advised that no attempt was made to verify the remote SSL certificate.

What is Gemini?