What it means to lie

When we talk about lying, we usually assume we’re talking about outright fabrication: making a statement of fact which directly contradicts reality, but actually there are several different ways to lie. One might exaggerate or distort, or lie by omission. One might distract from the issue by weaseling around the question. All of these are effective ways to coerce people to behave in certain ways, which is the purpose of deception. It wouldn’t occur to anyone to lie if it made no difference in the way other people respond.

But then there is the good old-fashioned, straight up lie, in which you simply make shit up because the truth gets in the way.

Exhibit A: Andrew Wakefield.

What do you call it when people in positions of authority get together and create an outright falsehood for the purpose of pursuing a lucrative lawsuit over a problem that doesn’t exist? What do you call it when they turn that falsehood into hysteria that leaves thousands of people—especially small children—vulnerable to otherwise preventable disease, which inevitably kills some of them? What do you call it when they make a career out of lying to parents of young children about the health risks facing their kids, out of demonizing the big bad corporations that make products which actually keep people healthy?

What do you call it when you promulgate a lie that spreads disease that used to be vaccinated to near-nonexistence, without making the slightest dent in autism rates?

Because that’s what I call evil.