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Feb 23 2014

How to defend the indefensible

Stephen M. Walt gives 10 tried and true ways to defend yourself, your boss, or your country when caught doing something bad. Close political observers will find the list drearily familiar because they can be heard at any press conference or interview where a policymaker is asked awkward questions following exposure of their actions.

Included are some classics such as stout denial by saying, “It’s a lie. It never happened”, blaming someone else (wags have suggested that interns have been invented to serve just this purpose), saying “It was for the greater good” (popular when the government is caught doing illegal things), saying “Everybody does it, and our opponents do it even more than we do” (very popular when the government commits atrocities), and so on.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    readysf

    Excellent! I note the reasons range from bald faced lies to positions that are arguable in face of the truth. People often rationalize, but outright lying takes a special kind of person!

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    I noticed #6 and #7 are favorites of Colnago80.

  3. 3
    wannabe

    Walt forgot the “That’s old news” response, used just this morning by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker: Scott Walker on Fox News dodges question on secret emails. It was combined with “You’re/They’re just trying to change the subject” which Walt’s article also omits.

    Walker also said, “I’m not going to get into 27,000 different pieces of information.” See, it’s really very complicated and answering the charge would take far too much time. Another Walt omission.

    (This is the inverse of a common argument for paranormal phenomena: “There’s so much evidence for X that I can’t even get into it.”)

    I’m sure you can find more in the linked article. Walker was well-prepared!

  4. 4
    Mano Singham

    @wannabe,

    You’re right. Those are common excuses too.

  5. 5
    grumpyoldfart

    I followed that link and got stuck with one of those annoying registration pages that tries to keep you there until you say “yes”. Had to hit the back button about ten times before I could get away.

  6. 6
    Timothy

    Two more that appear to be used in specialized cases:

    1. The “I-did-it,but-I-found-Jesus” strategy. Popular with televangelists caught being sexual in un-Biblical ways.

    2. The “I-can’t-tell-you-because-it’s-secret” strategy. Used religiously during the Bush era:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2006/05/secret_guarding.html

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