At 500 million dollars net worth, Dolly Parton is the wealthiest of my favorite 21st-century philosophers. Asked about being the poster child for “dumb blonds”, she pulled a switcheroo and said:
“I’m not offended by all the dumb blond jokes because I know I’m not dumb,… and I also know I’m not blond.” Funny? Absolutely. Back in your face? Certainly. Her sass contained self exposure, vulnerability and an explosion of honesty where none was expected. Her hush hush revelation scored laughs because, in reality, it was already a well known fact.
Dolly’s authentic truth telling is welcome. In the self-obsessed hype of the entertainment world, any exposé is delicious. It’s a refreshing contrast to the celebrities climbing the media ladder with phony ego eruptions and bluster.
In our current media environment, with daily accusations from all sides of “fake news”, we find that truth, humility, and occasional confessions of vulnerability dispel the fog of cynical distrust that is our current zeitgeist. Dolly for President? Yes… if only our inner angels could have their way.
Will Dolly’s edgy reply change any of our media darlings? No. Why? Because of our inner devils. Humans have identity based opinions. In politics, we seek reassurance of our views. We also seek entertainment. Our leaders should be damn good fun. But when we crave both affirmation and entertainment, we create a hothouse that allows bluster and fake facts thrive.
Turns out humans are complex: In pursuing bluster, we fine tune our own personal version of truth, we become complicit in bending facts and encouraging fake news.
Daniel A. Effron, an associate professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, conducted a study recently in which Americans were asked to rate a series of false claims on how unethical they were. He concluded:
“The results revealed a subtle hypocrisy in how we maintain our political views. We use different standards of honesty to judge falsehoods we find politically appealing versus unappealing. When judging a falsehood that maligns a favored politician, we ask ‘Was it true?’ and then condemn it if the answer is no.
“In contrast, when judging a falsehood that makes a favored politician look good, we are willing to ask, “‘Could it have been true?'” and then weaken our condemnation if we can imagine the answer is yes. By using a lower ethical standard for lies we like, we leave ourselves vulnerable to influence by pundits and spin doctors”
NY Times 4/28/18
(Trigger warning: This is not a Trump attack.)
So what is this guy saying? That it’s our fault politicians are doing what we hate? He seems to suggest we’re hypocrites, complicit in the dishonest news we condemn.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as immoral, but Effron concludes that our impressions of morality waver, depending on the outcome we desire. If that’s the case, it’s a much bigger problem than Dolly’s hair color.