One of the bits of fake news currently making the rounds on the geriatric circuit purports to show George Floyd, at age 17, on the Judge Judy show, where he admits to being a carjacker. The message — that he was a rotten SOB and more or less deserved what happened to him at the hands of Minneapolis police — is impossible to miss.
That the video is a misrepresentation would be obvious to anybody with any knowledge of the basic facts of the case. The kid in the video is 17, and the episode was filmed ten years ago, meaning he would be around 27 today. George Floyd was 46 at the time of his death. The youngster’s name was George Floyd, but he is a different George Floyd.
Here is an interesting social phenomenon: When I take the time to point out to my correspondents that they have been lied to, and that they are, in turn, circulating lies, they become angry — at me, not at the person who lied to them.
If you tell somebody a lie they want to hear, then you do not have to worry about explaining yourself or defending yourself — the people you lie to will defend the lie for you. They will hold tight to the lie. It is an amazing phenomenon. It’s small wonder we see so much dishonesty in our politics.
People will go down fighting for a lie even if they know, in their hearts, that it is a lie. There are some obvious contributors to that strange situation — lack of self-respect, lack of religious and moral education, an attenuated sense of civic duty and patriotism, etc.
But I think that the most important factor may be the simplification provided by lies. If George Floyd had somehow deserved what happened to him, then the moral situation would be relatively simple. The reality — that he was murdered by the people we entrust with public safety, that the notional forces of order often are forces of disorder — is more complex, and it is disturbing.
Put another way: The perverse thing is that we cling to lies in order to defend our moral purity.
In fact, Tucker Carlson is not a Nazi, Bari Weiss is not a moral monster, James Bennet is not endangering the lives of African Americans, the recently dismissed curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is not a white supremacist, it is not the case that one out of three women on college campuses will be raped, criticizing transgender ideology is not violence, the CIA did not create crack or HIV, George Floyd is not dead because of nefarious Jews — but we prefer the simple and consistent moral fictions we construct for ourselves to the complex and uncomfortable reality those fictions are designed to occlude.
This is a situation that could be improved with moral education. With a little work, people could be educated to the point that they at least would know to be embarrassed by trafficking in lies. The problem with moral education is not that Americans don’t have it but that they don’t want it.