You’ve probably heard some variation of the Liar Paradox before, even if you didn’t learn about it in Philosophy class. It’s a simple and instructive example of a paradox that doesn’t take expensive ivy league schooling (or even a reasonably-priced, state college education like mine) to understand. The standard version is: “This statement is false.”
If the statement is false, then the statement is true, which makes the statement false, which makes the statement true, etc. Boom! Paradox.
The Liar Paradox involves a statement that defies logic or reason made by a person who is assumed to be lying. And it’s exactly what I think of every time I hear from Josh Mandel’s Senate Campaign.
Back in April Josh Mandel laughably told an audience at an event with John McCain that he, just like the Senator from Arizona, “always tells the truth.” But at the time this statement was made, Politifact had already rated seven of Mandel’s statements lies including four “Pants on Fire”, two “False” and one “Mostly False”.
We already knew Josh Mandel has not spoken the truth many, many times before. And yet, here he was, publicly proclaiming that he never tells a lie.
While I realize there’s a slight difference in the logic, it’s close enough that every time I hear Mandel speak, I’m taken back to my freshman year of college, and University Hall, and reminded of the important lessons one can learn by studying liars and lying.
In total, Mandel now has eleven statements judged by Politifact to be untrue, including today’s 6th Pants of Fire rating for a completely false statement about Sherrod Brown sending “billions of tax dollars to foreign countries”. Politifact called the statement “a ridiculous stretch.” Not exactly telling “the truth”, as Mandel claims he always does.
How could Mandel always tell the truth AND have told so many lies? The fact is: he can’t. And his statement about always telling the truth, is seems, was just another lie.
Unlike the theoretical paradox from Philosophy class, this real-world dilemma could easily be resolved if Josh would just stop lying, or at least admit he sometimes does not tell the truth.
But Mandel seems to have no desire to put an end to the contradiction of his statements. Quote the opposite, actually.
After Mandel received an earlier Pants On Fire rating, he was called out by the Plain Dealer for continuing to repeat the lie. Instead of taking responsibility and apoligizing, Mandel chose to berate the Plain Dealer’s staff and “vowed to repeat the assertion ‘again and again’.” Mandel claimed he “sees no downside” to repeating false claims. And, apparently, no upside to admitting they were ever false to begin with, despite being debunked
In the classroom, a good lie can make for hours of interesting discussion. In the world of politics, it can make or break a campaign. For Mandel, the latest polling seems to indicate it’s going to be the latter.