BBC article "The jobs where liars excel"

Here is a BBC article about jobs that are deemed “sales-oriented” vs. many other types of work, and how this philosophy of marketing strategies overlaps with our personal lives and communications.

My own knee-jerk naivete is to persist with my typical thought that marketing professions are of the devil and that the multinational / large corporate scene can be counted on to get nearly everything ethically wrong. But since I suspect that my views may be just a bit overboard [most marketing majors and professionals aren’t Satanists … probably], I probably need to write off my neat battle line there as another fantasy of my own. Not so much that those things don’t have boatloads of evil, but more my fantasy that I don’t. This article does a good job of pointing out how mainstreamed, common, and even expected/solicited/wanted lies have always been among all of us. As you tuck your child in tonight, does he or she really need to hear “you might die tonight, honey” - or is it okay to send them off to blissful sleep with the “everything’s going to be okay!” even though you can’t know that?

The article asks “Do you really want your flight attendant telling you that you should be worried about turbulence?”

To which I would answer: yes! - if it is actually something I should worry about, which it almost never is for any seat-belted passenger. So the flight attendant isn’t being dishonest most of the time with those sorts of words; so I think the author could have picked a a better example.

Other thoughts on truth, deception, communication?

[And once again, just to prevent misunderstandings, I do know good and decent Christians who lived Godly lives as professional sales people - so my blanket castigation of marketing professions above needs to be taken as (mostly - even if not entirely) tongue-in-cheek.]


Mark Twain wrote a short story about The Decay of The Art of Lying

He also said, “A lie is an abomination before the Lord, and an ever present help in trouble”

More seriously though, even the author says that probably his lies did not help him be a good worker overall.

Another Christian book which makes me think of reformation in the terms of lies was “In His Steps.” In that, the business leader changed practices to be very honest. George MacDonald also gave the example of a horse trader. In that, his protagonist advised the horse trader to always be truthful. At the time, apparently, a horse trader was very much like a used car salesman today. He pointed out, however, that if a horse trader told him that a horse had a particular flaw, the buyer would not protest that he was being unwise, but with feel that he had been a good neighbor to him.

Prob 20:14…an OT example

It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.



Yes - I remember that … in “The Fisherman’s Lady” I believe. I really like how Macdonald showcases Christ’s pre-eminence in all areas of life including the business person’s work practices. Macdonald has his salutory characters (if they happen to be shopkeepers or such) insisting that their customers would not purchase anything other (or more) than they really needed, and the shopkeeper considers it part of his or her task to help the customer make the best educated choices, even if that means less money changing hands.

That would all be entirely foreign and enigmatic to nearly all commonly accepted business practices today I’m thinking. And it must have always been that way too, since Macdonald shows ample exposure to and clarity on those issues.

Added thought …
The posted menus in the fast food industry are a showcase of deplorable marketing strategy at work nearly everywhere. Have you ever noticed whose agenda is empowered by the fast food industry? Hint: it isn’t yours. Not by a long shot. A hungry and conscientious customer wanting to make good, healthy, and economical choices has an army of marketers arrayed against him to make sure any good sense he may have started with will be stymied. Do you just want these simple items a, b, and c - and with water to drink? Fool! Who were you to think you should be an authority on what you need for lunch. No no no no. You walked into our establishment, and by doing so you ceded all expertise about your ‘culinary’ experience to us. So we will fill those menu boards with a dizzying array of pictures and combo deals (to make sure you buy the things we need to move … like soda - even if you’re trying to cut back on that), and to maximize our takings from you, because you see, this is our world and not yours, and don’t you forget that! You will have to search long and hard to cobble together your simplistic notions of what you thought (derisive snort) you needed! (and with people waiting behind you).

[It might be somewhere around this point that the manager makes an appearance and asks me to leave … (just kidding of course - I quietly buy combo #4, and just meekly take my seat with the rest of my patient family)].

1 Like

Thank you. I’m quite impressed that you know George MacDonald so well! That was one of my favorite books too.

In other arenas, it helps to remember that the casino owners are not really putting out a charity.

I just want to make 3 points here.

  1. Not all businesses are based on hard sell. So it doesn’t automatically follow that everything in private enterprise suffers from this demonic morality of the marketing profession.

  2. Politics is all about marketing, and in spades for that matter. So I think politics definitely suffers from this moral corruption and everything connected with it. In other words, its not just in elections but in all the operations of government, including police, the legal system, and social programs. They all have to cover their butts according to how things can be made to appear – intangibles such as truth, justice, and the well being of real people are a frequent casualty.

  3. Oh and the news and media industry… whew!

1 Like

My namesake certainly had a way with the language.

1 Like

Yep. Marketers certainly aren’t the only profession to have been seduced by it and none of us are exempted or immune.

The article briefly speculates on evolutionary origins of deception. It is an interesting exercise to try to think of examples where deception seems the better choice. Or are there cases where you would be glad you had been deliberately deceived by someone? I.e. they did it for your good - because they loved you and perhaps were protecting you from something. Is it ever justified?

I’ve been thinking about this. What about dying your hair, putting on deodorant, and otherwise making yourself look good? Is that a little deceptive? sometimes, I do appreciate it.

There is a difference between deception, alteration, secrecy, and privacy. Just because you want to keep some odors to yourself doesn’t mean you are trying to deceive anyone. And people who die their hair blue are not trying to convince anyone that there hair actually grew that color.

1 Like

Agreed. Nobody is deceived by blue hair. But what about dyed blonde hair …? And on it fades into areas where fairly innocent deception is involved.

When I was in Haiti, we attended Sunday morning services with very very poor people (up in the highland village of Mombe Croche). And they came in their spectacular best to the small airy church building to have a rollicking good worship service. So in the positive sense, these people (or so it seemed to us cultural outsiders to the extent that we could be perceptive about any of this) were eager to honor God with the best that they would have (probably the only good outfit in their possession). They all knew each other well enough that nobody would be fooling anybody else with pretense about being richer than they really are. They seemed eager to just be respectful and worshipful to honor God … as it should be.

But this also (I recognize this even more in myself and in American churches, though I’m not naive enough to think it doesn’t apply universally) … this turns into “putting on aires”. I.e. social occasions (of any kind, but certainly including church) become a spectacle where I would very much like others to think I’m wittier, more competent, better looking, more _____, than I really am. And that is now not quite such benign or innocent deception. It is a sign of spiritual decay. I mean, yes, it is one thing to bathe so that we don’t make our pew-neighbor’s visit unpleasant; but quite another for me to engineer or cultivate whatever I can in order to compel others to think better of me than what I really merit. [which often leads to a hard fall later - so it’s a really shallow, short-term way to think - but for some reason that isn’t enough to stop us from doing it.]

Anybody remember the Simpson’s episode where Marge gets some help prepping her resume (which of course ends up being significantly ‘padded’ to sell her), and she gets a job at the nuclear plant. Then taken to the machine she’s supposed to help with, but she pleads that she doesn’t know what to do - her coworker responds to her ‘jest’ with a laugh: “according to your resume, you practically designed this!”

Despite dire (but usually postponed) consequences to lies, it would seem that animals will still sell themselves and their plumage to the best of their ability in the moment. So on one hand some “deception” seems hardwired into nature. Or it might be a precursor to deception if other animals were capable of being reflective about it later: “Yeah - those brilliant feathers you were displaying in that little dance back there, but you neglected to mention how lazy you are when it comes to helping build the nest!”

I know several successful salespeople who exhibit good Christian ethics in their work. It is a difficult field however. For a salesperson to place to client ahead of self interest is admirable, and while may result in some lost sales, is rewarded with loyal customers.
It reminds me of an retired insurance executive I knew who truly saw his work as helping people in reducing their risk in a positive way, and was serving God. I was a bit irritated with insurance companies at the time, and while I think abuses are common, I came around to the idea that providing insurance appropriately truly is a caring and loving activity.

1 Like