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What Happened to Intellectual Honesty?

November 1, 2010

What Happened to Intellectual Honesty?

One of my core values is intellectual honesty. Harvard ethicist Louis M. Guenin describes the “kernel” of intellectual honesty as “a virtuous disposition to eschew deception when given an incentive for deception.” Intellectual honesty involves presenting and discussing facts in an inclusive, fair, and open-minded manner. It entails examining and considering all available data not just the information that supports one’s preferred solution or position. Intellectual honesty requires that people put aside personal interests and assumptions and be as objective as possible. The opposite of intellectual honesty is “spin” – creating misleading, distorted, or false impressions by intentionally omitting some facts and/or selectively emphasizing or exaggerating others to promote one position or viewpoint over another. Spinning is calculated misrepresentation.

One of the most troubling aspects for me of political discussions and the national dialogue in the United States is how deprived they are of intellectual honesty. Spin is the order of the day. Misleading impressions are advanced and information is presented far out of context. The common practice is to say anything to get elected or promote an agenda, including personally maligning one’s opponent. Much of this seems to be accepted in the rough and tumble of politics. Citizens are left to sort out fact from fiction and hopefully make an educated, informed decision.

Okay, you might say, “That’s politics.” No doubt it has always been that way to one degree or another. It’s how the system works. Perhaps this election just seems to be especially nasty. Propaganda is ubiquitous.

I also find it ironic that the very people who are asking us to trust them, and to have confidence that they will represent our interests well, are engaging in such deceptive behavior.

My problem with the dearth of intellectual honesty goes beyond its unethical dimensions and impact on citizen voting decisions. As national and local leaders engage in it relentlessly, they are watched by people of all ages, including impressionable children, adolescents and teenagers, with whom we are trying to instill healthy values. Yet the people who are seeking elected office, who should serve as positive models, demonstrate that it is acceptable to present distorted information for personal or political advantage. Their behavior and advertisements scream, “vilifying your opponent is okay if it helps you win.”

Most parents strive to teach their children the values of fair play and honesty. Many emphasize looking for the best in people. However, on television we see adults – national and local leaders – proudly displaying just the opposite, with their ads concluding with, “I’m ______ and I approve this message.” What is the message these ads are sending to our kids? How is it affecting their behavior and values?

I am sure there are other ramifications of insufficient intellectual honesty in our daily lives. I think the world would be a better place if more of us made a greater effort to practice it more often. When we are not true to our values, we are not true to ourselves or those we touch.

*             *             *

If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in a prior post, “What Does Integrity Look Like?”

We post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The topic on Monday will be “What Triggers Our ‘Trust Antennae?'”

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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103 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2010 8:10 am

    Great post! Glad to learn what true intellectual honesty is. We learn so quickly how to spin things to our advantage.

  2. November 1, 2010 8:20 am

    That hard part is to be completely objective…to open the mind and free it of all previous thoughts and biases.

    • November 1, 2010 8:26 am

      Thanks for your insight. Perhaps we can never be totally free if bias, I think the objective is to genuinely try.

  3. November 1, 2010 8:34 am

    The irony, of course, is that by tagging the commercials with “I’m ___, and I approve this message,” it’s intended to hold these candidates to the high standard of intellectual honesty! After all, would they “approve” it if it didn’t adequately represent their thoughts and platform?

  4. November 1, 2010 9:18 am

    Thank you for your insight. With new media and the 24/7 news cycle, we are bombarded with so many messages. Sometimes it is overwhelming and people don’t know what to believe anymore. That is why I think it is especially important for politicians to remain as authentic and transparent as possible in order to gain the public’s trust.

    • November 1, 2010 9:31 am

      Arielle, thank you for your comment and observations. I just read a few of your posts and think you have some great insights. I love the video clips you selected, especially the on from JFK’s campaign. I am recommending your blog for anyone interested in political communications. I will also mention it on my Facebook page.


      • November 1, 2010 9:49 am

        Steve, thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it, and I enjoy reading your blog as well (I tweeted about it today). It is truly insightful. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

        All the best,


  5. November 1, 2010 9:58 am

    Curious…do you believe spin is always intentional? I often wonder if sometimes individuals become so of the belief that they are doing things the right way, believing the right thing or promoting the right issues that their words and actions reflect that. And that they are not intentionally misrepresenting an issue or concern. Is there room for grey in an almost black and white subject?

    • November 1, 2010 10:10 am

      I think you have a great point. Sometimes it may be unintentional and a product of firmly held beliefs and assumptions. However, disregarding or dismissing information that is contrary to one’s positions, without seriously evaluating it, does reflect intellectual dishonesty.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope to hear from you again.


  6. November 1, 2010 10:12 am

    Hi Steve,

    I was so excited to read your post! Intellectual Honestly is really what the basis of a free society is supposed to be about and I’m afraid our society today isn’t regarding as important as they should. It speaks volumes about our political state, what we as a society are tolerating and accepting from those in office and on TV.

    Thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront and opening discussion up about it. Some very good insights here.

    Keep well,

    • November 1, 2010 10:28 am

      Bonnie, thanks for your feedback and sharing your observations. If I can help with your discussion on this topic, please let me know.

      My best,

  7. sayitinasong permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:33 am

    I agree re: spin. It is not so much what is said- but how it’s said and sugarcoated and made to serve one’s purpose. Look at news reporting…

  8. November 1, 2010 10:38 am

    Intellectual honesty is abandoned in a culture of fear. This is especially prevalent on any national news channel around election time. People divide themselves into camps, hurl half-truths at the “enemy,” and believe anything as long as it’s said by their camp.

  9. November 1, 2010 10:47 am

    The sad thing is that the people who use spin aren’t listening to this kind of feedback. I suspect they think the ‘average’ American has poor reasoning skills. Maybe they are right. And, it would have been interesting to hear way FFF would suggest to those many of us who are sooo depressed about the situation. Voting certainly doesn’t appear to have any effect.

  10. It's just a web site man! permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:51 am

    Great post. I think the problem got infinitely worse as technology advanced. Today, there are so many ways to both research information and discriminate it.

    It is used for both positive and negative purposes. We must be very careful what we read, write and believe….

  11. November 1, 2010 11:07 am

    That was such an honest posting! 🙂

    Nice job.



    • November 1, 2010 11:46 am

      Ava, thanks for your feedback. I visited your blog and am blown away by your voice and song, “We the People.”

      All the best,

  12. November 1, 2010 11:32 am

    very inspiring!

  13. November 1, 2010 12:16 pm

    Hi! Super post. My kids are definitely old enough now to be aware of the “political decepticons” as they call them. These types of people leave them feeling like the future is in grimy hands.

    Posts like this keep us all on our toes. We must look into the political records of people running for office. Good luck to us all!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. 🙂

    • November 1, 2010 12:32 pm

      Nora, thanks for your comments and input. It’s amazing what kinds absorb and how perceptive they are.

      My best,

  14. November 1, 2010 12:17 pm

    It is worrying isn’t it, the manipulation of information. It’s only since I’ve started an essay into Che Guevara’s failure in Bolivia that I’ve realised just how much corrupt information is out there, both from Castro and from the CIA in this case, but in a more transcending view, literarily everywhere.

    Statistics can be used to prove anything, and where does that leave those who rely on those statistics to make choices? As you said, the common voter…

    It’s a worrying dilema, as we ALL have an agenda, and a boss to please, even if it’s only our own super-ego

  15. November 1, 2010 12:29 pm

    I don’t watch much television, but my wife does and I’m often within earshot. Lately, most of the commercials I’ve overheard have been on behalf of political candidates. There’s usually a string of ads, three or four of them in a row, run by people campaigning against each other. Every ad accuses the opponents of dishonesty, corruption, self-interest, and incompetence. If you were to take all of them at face value, you’d have to conclude that none of these candidates deserves to be elected. In addition to the issue of trust, which you addressed so thoroughly in this post, there’s also the question of creative thinking. As so many citizens — and the nation as a whole — struggle with a variety of complex problems, how can we place power into the hands of politicians who seem incapable of anything beyond childish name-calling?

    • November 1, 2010 12:48 pm

      I really like your point about the complex nature of the challenges we face as a nation, and within our communities. And there is far to little creative thinking and problem solving. It seems like systemic problems have been dumbed-down into simplistic sound-bites.

  16. November 1, 2010 12:34 pm

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    This is a really important topic in politics – especially as of lately. I am fine with a difference of opinion. I’m not fine with statements that are so misleading they are pushing the line of being almost a plain lie.

    I find the biggest example of this in Fox News and in some of the major Tea Party candidates who outright lie or spin stories in such a way that it’s impossible for some people to see the truth. These people are told news is “fair and balanced,” when it is quite the opposite.

    I understand it’s not just conservatives who are guilty of this, but I think most intelligent people would agree that Fox News continually pushes the limits of intellectual honesty.

    • November 1, 2010 12:43 pm

      I agree that this is an important issue and appreciate your insights and observations.

  17. November 1, 2010 1:05 pm

    We were just discussing this today! How timely. Your blog may be my lesson plan on Wednesday! And I have no doubt that intellectual integrity is at an all-time low. I have more students committing plagiarism than ever before. And adults keep complaining that students don’t know how to employ critical thinking skills; meanwhile students would argue there is precious little information out there for them to sift through to “figure things out” (as you said) so they have to rely on what they can find on the internet – where certain sites do not always present the best, most balanced information.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Come visit me!

    • November 1, 2010 2:10 pm

      Hi Renee,
      Thanks for your feedback and kind words. I appreciate the additional observations and insights you shared. I hope my blog is helpful should you use it in your lesson plan. If you do, please let me know how it goes. I hope to hear from you again.
      My best,

  18. stuckoutsidethebox permalink
    November 1, 2010 1:13 pm

    I love this post! Unfortunately it seems all too many people are so easily won over by anything they hear and don’t even stop to consider whether it might be the whole story. My mom and I listen to political ads and propaganda on the radio and pick apart everything they say. Really, they aren’t saying much of anything except “do what I want!” “Vote for this because I want you to!”

    • November 1, 2010 1:38 pm


      You know this has been an issue with adverts for years. We have to teach our children how to critically think about what they are hearing and question what they think is true. I bet you and your mom have loads to talk about with the nasty commercials being thrown around right now.

      What I really dislike is when the politcal ads flat out lie, then come back later to quietly say oops, we goofed. Sorry about that. It is often too late however and the damage is done which is exactly what they planned on.

      • November 1, 2010 2:29 pm

        Bonnie, I think you are making excellent points. Your last paragraph about when politicians later say, “oops I goofed” is usually just more intellectual dishonesty. And as you say, the damage has been done. You can’t un-ring a bell.

      • stuckoutsidethebox permalink
        November 1, 2010 5:26 pm

        So true.

      • November 1, 2010 6:57 pm

        Here we go again – we all lie. Our whole existence is a lie until we can see that we exist in a perceptual reality. To put forward perception as truth is ludicrous – wake up people. There something else to look at. Everyone is missing something in this discussion.

    • November 1, 2010 3:52 pm


  19. Mike permalink
    November 1, 2010 1:20 pm

    While what you write is all true, the example you’ve described is but one symptom of a phenomenon which permeates modern life in America. People are intellectually dishonest with themselves about a great variety of things. A perfect example, stirred up by the book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, is the relationship people have to food, and in particular meat. There is an absolute disconnect in the minds of most between cuddly anthropomorphized animals and the animal products we all use everyday, be we omnivores, vegetarians or vegans. The cycle of life necessarily includes unpleasantness like aging, sickness and death, but as technology has, since the industrial age, ‘alienated the masses from the means of production’ those truths have become more remote and thereby more readily ignored or denied. Is there a solution? Perhaps, but it seems life only continues to grow more mediated through technology. My only hope is that movements seeking quality and authenticity such as those pushing for local sustainable agriculture, might bring people around to the facts. That said, I’m not holding my breath.

    • November 1, 2010 2:31 pm

      Mike, thanks for making so many additional points and extending this discussion. It is amazing all the areas on which intellectual dishonesty is prevalent.

    • November 1, 2010 6:54 pm

      This is strange – no body talks of why we are all like this. All of us. This is human nature you talk of. If we desire to see a more honest world then we need to learn to expand our realities beyond the limited range of thought that fear can survive in.

  20. November 1, 2010 1:45 pm

    I feel the same way. There is so much spin in the news, yet people I talk to (on both “sides” politically) think their side is valid and the other party is stupid and/or evil. I wonder how much is intentional versus ignorance. I suspect much is intentional.

    A while back Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “American people don’t care about statements that people make that may not be totally accurate.” Really?!? (I had to rant about that one!) I heard Dan Rather say, “I believe you can be an honest person and lie about a number of things.” No, no, NO!

    I also think we tend to be under-informed on issues. Think about it — how balanced of a perspective can we get on an issue when a news program covers it in one minute? Even if they spend 5 minutes on that topic, are we getting a balanced perspective on all sides? Doubtful.

    I also wonder why schools don’t teach people how to think objectively and to debate logically. (I’m sure some do, but I’ve been through some that don’t.) It seems like a lost art these days.

    I could go on and on (and I do, on my blog)… 🙂

    • November 1, 2010 2:26 pm

      Chat, you ask some great questions and make excellent points. Television news is usually superficial. People need to take the time to read about the isses from multiple perspectives and reach an informed conclusion. Your question about schools teaching how to “think objectively and debate logically” is especially apt. Teaching how to be intellectually curious should go along with it. I hope to hear from you again.

  21. hoope permalink
    November 1, 2010 1:49 pm

    I liked this post.. very thoughtful and inspiring 🙂

  22. robynsheppard permalink
    November 1, 2010 2:23 pm

    First kid: “Does your dad work?”
    Second kid: “No, he’s a politician.”
    First kid: “Honest?”
    Second: “No–he’s crooked like all the rest of them.”

    Reminds me of the old Tom Paxton song, “What Did You Learn in School Today?”:

    What did you learn in school today,
    Dear little boy of mine?
    What did you learn in school today,
    Dear little boy of mine?
    I learned our country must be strong
    It’s always right and never wrong
    Our leaders are the finest of men
    And we elect them again and again
    And that’s what I learned in school today,
    That’s what I learned in school.

    • November 1, 2010 2:37 pm

      Robyn, Thanks for the laugh . . . and reminding me of the Tom Paxton song. You make an excellent point.

    • stuckoutsidethebox permalink
      November 1, 2010 5:28 pm

      Robyn- haha. 🙂 Reminds me of when Obama had that chat to students and schools or whatever… my mom said if they made us watch it at my school, she was keeping me home for the day because it was wrong to try to brainwash kids like that.

  23. davisblair permalink
    November 1, 2010 3:03 pm

    Nice post and important topic. Personally I feel that one of the quotes here is a little outdated and is at the root of the problem: “Most parents strive to teach their children the values of fair play and honesty. Many emphasize looking for the best in people.”

    Unfortunately, while we may have been raised this way by our parents, that probably does not hold true for many raising children today. General lack of accountability and failure to call out and punish wrongdoers has created a culture of relative morality where anyone can argue their position and back it with partisan/like minded rhetoric, ignoring valid points from the other side and sometimes causing irreparable damage to others. For example – nobody ended up in prison for wiping out trillions in retirement savings here in the US and almost collapsing the world economy. For Example: Companies like HCA pay hundreds of millions in fines as they are discovered ripping off the government and STILL GET BILLIONS IN GOVERNMENT BUSINESS; IT’S EVEN WORSE WITH THE DRUG COMPANIES. In fact, Rick Scott is on the verge of becoming Governor of Florida while the company he used to run was charged with hundreds of millions in fines for fraud. This is not a secret; and it has not impacted the minds of the voters (see how quickly the mind moves to political offense or defense based personal affiliation?) There are too many examples to cite: Goldman Sachs paying fines equal to a very small fraction of the profit they made for the behavior that unfairly created the profit. If they would have been fined 10X total annual profit for the previous year maybe it would have an impact on future behavior – but what do you think the odds are that a judge would impose that kind of punishment and have the ruling stand?

    When we get back to serious repercussions for obvious wrongdoing, we will start to see changes in behavior. The question is whether the money has become too powerful to block political will.

    • November 1, 2010 4:56 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment and adding so articulately to the discussion. I think you have a great point about the tendency of many parents not to teach their children accountability and to promote a culture of “relative morality.” This also seems to have permeated many aspects of our society.

    • November 1, 2010 6:49 pm

      “Serious repercussions for obvious wrong doing” – I am understanding you correctly, that you think we need more enforcement and controls? We cannot learn to be decent people by promoting more fear as fear is creating the behavior we are talking of here. I may have misunderstood you but it sounds like you are promoting a world that we will eventually have no free will in. Who decides what right and wrong is? And anything that uses brutality to maintain control – like governments – is not wisdom, just stupidity.

      • November 1, 2010 7:28 pm

        That is not my viewpoint at all. People need to take responsibility for their own behavior. I am not an advocate of enforcement. I believe in free speech. I also believe in the value of intellectual honesty as a value and practice.

  24. November 1, 2010 3:49 pm

    Negative adds leave me with at least as bad of an impression of the candidate they’re trying to help as the candidate they’re trying to drag down. If you can find a politician who does not succumb to such tactics, he or she is probably more worthy than most.

    • November 1, 2010 4:50 pm

      Thanks for commenting. I think you are right that there is a boomerang effect and that negative ads often say more about the sender than anything else.

  25. Tronsky Troll permalink
    November 1, 2010 4:00 pm

    Well, it’s a fact of life that mere words are able to sway us. Even Obama thinks so. (oh wait, he’s a politician..)

    Why not get used to it as early as possible? Because maybe, deep down, your ideals feel violated? Proper presentation of your arguments goes far beyond just the veracity of your statements, and just because it’s logical doesn’t mean it is appealing. You may argue that honesty is a virtue we should all adopt, but really, can you even presume that life can be seen through a neutral looking-glass? If everything was in black and white, we wouldn’t need the word ‘grey’.

    See, the main problem really lies in your fundamental assumption that facts are all that matter; discussing facts, logically arriving at conclusions, assessing decisions based on statistical data. These are important, irrefutably so, but they do not constitute the entirety of intellectual discourse. Also, although it may not seem obvious, these ‘spins’ that you claim to be wholly unimportant may have real, tangible benefits. For example, in a recession, where consumer demand is weak, economic forecasts of a rebounding economy could restore consumer confidence. In such a case, does the veracity of the report matter?
    This phenomenon extends beyond the scope of macroeconomic behavior, even for individuals, our daily actions are often guided by more than just rational reasons.

    Of course, you have many valid points as well, but really, would you have been able to reach out to your readers if you had just listed them as points? Words are the essence of communication, and ‘spins’ are merely a derivative.

    • November 1, 2010 4:48 pm

      Thanks so much for elaborating on these points, presenting an alternative perspective, and contributing to the discussion. I appreciate your logic and well-articulated insights. I think there is plenty of room for gray . . . and there are often many ways to interpret data. For me the issue is not that there may be alternate interpretations but in the intent to interpret deceptively. I hope you weigh in on other posts as well.


  26. November 1, 2010 5:00 pm

    Our culture is in dire need of an appreciation for honesty. So many times people simply lie because they think they can get away with it.

  27. November 1, 2010 5:02 pm

    But all discourse is inherently ‘spun,’ isn’t it? I’ll prove it.

    You chose to discuss intellectual honesty. When did you choose to discuss this? Indeed, on the day before the country goes to vote in a quite-contentious election.

    You’re essentially saying that aspects of our political process may exhibit dishonesty. In foregrounding this fact before the election, you’re calling into question the expected results of some if not most of the elections.

    Now, you can protest vehemently and say that you intended nothing of the sort but it doesn’t matter. The fact is that when you hit the ‘publish’ button and put your discourse in the public domain, it became ours. We will do with and make of it what we please because that is our prerogative, in fact, our duty as your readers.

    And you knew that. You knew we would do that. And you knew we would do that the day before the election.

    So, whether you realized it consciously or not, whether you intended to galvanize us in one political direction or another, you tried.

    So, is your discourse intellectually honest? It can’t be.

    (And, to be perfectly honest–though I know I cannot be either–discourse can never be honest for so many other reasons having to do with theories of deconstruction a la Derrida and others)

    Thanks for the great post!

    – Mike Raven

    • November 1, 2010 5:27 pm


      Thanks for your insight and perspective. I think you have some great points. I believe that just about all communication is intended to be persuasive in nature in one form or another. Blogs are no exception. The distinction I would make is whether the attempt to persuade is intentionally deceptive. That’s when I think it crosses the line to become intellectually dishonest. I think the honesty aspect has little to do the the timing. In that regard, we see the issue differently.

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you contribute to the discussion frequently. I appreciate your perspective.


  28. stuckoutsidethebox permalink
    November 1, 2010 5:30 pm

    This is such a fascinating conversation going on here! Just wanted to say. 😀

  29. November 1, 2010 6:40 pm

    I see much truth in what you say and it is very obvious that this is the case with our politicians. I guess i approach such topics by going deeper into the reality of human nature and what drives such deception. This will sadly continue as long as we exist in a perceptual reality – which is currently where all humans reside. There is no truth in perception as it is just one of an infinite number of ways of looking at something. I have discovered that there is only one energy within us that can become bigger than the fear which creates intellectual dishonesty, and that is compassion – which is not just a word, it is real. I read many people talking of a more honest world and everyone certainly expects others to be honest to them whilst offering lies to them.However, few people can see the importance of facing everything that is encompassed by denial. I am a human behavior observer and recently have been focusing on one topic to see just how deluded we have become as a species – and that is the way we treat and justify our behavior towards other sentient beings. For example, you talk of what we teach our children, well what are we teaching them when we show them that selective murder is okay depending on the laws of the day. I mean we live in a world that eats dead flesh still – so maybe you are jumping the gun before you have looked at the more obvious signs of our deluded states.

    • November 1, 2010 7:19 pm

      I appreciate your insightful comments and observations. What do you think are the drivers of deceptive behavior, outside of self interest? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

      I also appreciate your comment about compassion as a motivator. About a month ago I wrote a post called “Compassion, COMPASSion, and ComPASSION.” I’d love to hear your reaction to it.

      You can read it at:


  30. November 1, 2010 6:47 pm

    Thanks so much for following this conversation and adding your thoughts.

  31. November 1, 2010 7:17 pm

    Be it Dems or Republicans in office makes no difference. Until people who work and obey the law are respected they will demand change at each new cycle. They may never see reform, but they will hope for it until the end.

    Dr. B

  32. Handsome Matt permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:27 pm

    I think part of the problem is that we’ve adopted an “ends justifies the means” mentality. Look at Wall Street, especially the “I’m doing God’s work” quote from Lloyd Blankenfein. Yes, derailing the American economy and ruining lives in the pursuit of wealth was truly “God’s work.”

    Or look at the love of Bill Clinton. Terrible man, definitely not a role model, but because the economy was running well; it was all okay.

    • November 1, 2010 7:43 pm

      Thanks Matt for your comment and contributing to the conversation. Your observation about an “ends justifies the means mentality” gets right to the heart of the matter. Intellectual dishonesty is often driven by rationalizing deceptiveness with the contention that the end is worth it or makes it right. And as a result, integrity is sacrificed and trust is eroded.

      • Handsome Matt permalink
        November 2, 2010 9:11 pm

        Thanks for the response! Congrats on being “freshly pressed.”

  33. David Yamada permalink
    November 1, 2010 9:07 pm

    Great post. I featured it in my blog, Minding the Workplace:

    It’s especially appropriate for this political campaign season, but I see this as an overarching crisis of integrity.

    David Yamada

    • November 2, 2010 3:03 am

      Thanks for your feedback and featuring it on your blog. I agree that the bigger issue is integrity. I also appreciate your analysis on your blog. While we, as people, may be unable to be completely objective, we can still evaluate and discuss issues and challenges in an honest way. For me, intellectual dishonesty stems not so much from normal subjectivity but from intention misrepresentation. As you say, there is a fine line.

      Thanks for sharing my post with your readers and elaborating on it. It’s a problem in the business world as well . . . in addition to education, entertainment, and many other areas of society. Is there a way to roll it back?

      I hope to hear from you again and I’ll be a regular reader of your blog as well.


      • David Yamada permalink
        November 2, 2010 6:19 am


        You’ve obviously struck a chord here! Not every Freshly Pressed post attracts so many comments and likes. Bravo.

        My own political beliefs fall to the left of center, but I find myself drawn more to people who exhibit intellectual honesty, integrity, and heart — and that cuts across political lines. Alas, in my work world of academe, more than a few liberal types lack the intellectual honesty of which you write! So…it has been a life lesson to realize that where one falls on the political spectrum does not necessarily correlate with character.


      • November 2, 2010 6:45 am

        Thanks for your kind words. Like you, I make a clear distinction between political beliefs and integrity. It’s an important distinction to make and unfortunately many have a tendency to impugn the character of those who do not share their political beliefs.
        My best,

  34. partialview permalink
    November 1, 2010 9:11 pm

    It has been a delight reading this post. It is one of those things that make you feel thankful there is someone who subscribes to your point of view, and puts it so very succinctly, too! Enjoyable read. Thank you.

    • November 2, 2010 2:50 am

      Thanks for your feedback and kind words. It’s very nice to hear.

  35. jaswrites permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:09 pm

    What great insight, Mr. Steve. I finally am relieved to see that there are some great individuals who still believe in academic and intellectual honesty. I am truly enlightened by your post, Sir.

    I’ve noticed this trend starting to evolve very rapidly over the past few years (and I’m not sure if this relates to what you said, Mr. Steve): people have begun to engage in intellectual dishonesty but guess what is the “valid” excuse they provide for it: “In today’s world, that’s the only way you can get by. It’s necessary to make a living, that’s why I’m dishonest”.

    A pathetic excuse is what I say it is.

    Men and Women lie and endorse and approve only to gain approval of others. Students write things on college/university admissions essays which they don’t believe and take part in activities which they have no passion for just to enhance a resume. So it is with our leaders.

    Can we trust our nation into the hands of men and women who give us nothing but intellectual dishonesty?

    I surely think not.

    • November 2, 2010 2:39 am

      Thank you for contributing to this discussion and your feedback. I think people justify dishonest for a variety of reasons, most related to self interest. Some of these are “the ends justify the means,” everyone else does it,” and “I need to defend myself,” in addition to the ones you mention. Ultimately, it erodes trust as you point out, which makes it especially disconcerting.


  36. November 1, 2010 10:51 pm

    Overall, the type of globalized democracy we have nowadays is relatively new. I think extremism is bound to occur – though I fear it because it stems from desperation. A lot of the arguments on television are exaggerated but when it comes to defending oneself in front of millions… well it would change your responses because you would want people to understand you. Unfortunately the fear of being misunderstood may lead to the point being missed and anger/frustration promoting dishonest behavior. Intellectual honesty is easier to come by in smaller groups in my opinion… it may be something that politicians need to advocate directly?

  37. November 2, 2010 3:44 am

    I guess more and more people of today have succumbed to the philosophy that what’s popular is automatically right. The sad truth is that the number of those who dare oppose the norm is but a handful.

    Defining our values–keeping them, through life’s many aspects will definitely add up to our intellectual honesty.

    Thank you for sharing your insights, sir.
    This is a nice post!

    Congratulations for being featured on Freshly Pressed, too!

    • November 2, 2010 7:10 am

      Thank you for your kind words and feedback. I agree that defining your values and being true to them is very important. I would even take it further and say that is what defines one’s character, develops trust, and builds credibility. It’s at the core of who we are.

      • November 2, 2010 7:17 am

        I agree with your elaboration on values, sir.

        …got nothing else to say.

      • November 2, 2010 7:22 am

        Not at the moment . . . but please say tuned for future posts. We post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  38. November 2, 2010 5:01 am

    Often I wonder that the intellectual bodies who make decision or the leaders who we elect to represent us and our interests are fed data which has already gone through the ‘spin’ process prior to them receiving it.

    Normally departments are set up on the basis of serving the nation or the interests of the public, and the expectation is that data analysed and concluded has gone through an honest process where the reports generated as a result are fit to be given to higher authority – where the higher authority accepts the report as a honest research and conclusion – hence further decision are based on it. But if the data being sent up the authority is corrupt and gone through a spin then the data from its root is corrupt leading to corrupt decision making.

    Take for example – the build up towards war with Iraq, where reports handed to the government leaders had claimed WMD could be operational within 45 mins. The question is on such examples, where has the spin been applied?

    • November 2, 2010 7:06 am

      Interesting points. I think sometimes people, regardless of their responsibilities, are selective in the information they focus on based on their predispositions and prior assumptions. They many also try invalidate or minimize the import of contrary information or sources. They probably do not challenge the soundness of their own assumptions and beliefs, when that may be helpful in developing a more balanced perspective and better analysis.

  39. November 2, 2010 5:15 am

    And then they wonder why they have trouble getting people to vote! I’m staring at the candidate choices for an election and you may as well flip a coin or go eeny meeny miny moe. They all act alike. You have to have time and patience to dig through all the lies and false facts. We tend to be short on both.

    There was a line recently on the show White Collar that summed it up perfectly: Politicians were the original con men. I guess that line wasn’t too popular with politicians. I wonder in some cases if they aren’t’ falling for their own spin.

    I’d be more likely to vote for the person who didn’t throw ‘mud’ at his opponent, even if I didn’t agree on anything, at least I could respect them.

    • November 2, 2010 6:57 am

      Thanks for your comment. I think a lot of people feel that way.

  40. strongwithin permalink
    November 2, 2010 6:09 am

    Thanks for posting this, def very informative, and def an inner question to ask ourselves if we are being intellectually honest with others. I know it’s easier to look at others and point the finger, but this post helped me to question myself, not in a bad way, but to ask if I am doing my best at this moment. Thanks, and keep up the great work!

    • November 2, 2010 6:41 am

      Thanks for your feedback. It is so easy to cut honesty corners. We all do at times and perhaps need to discipline ourselves to preserve our own integrity.

  41. November 2, 2010 6:44 am

    Good post. It is sad that your comments ring so true as we look at our elections process. It is hard to comprehend that we don’t demand honesty from our leaders, and that so many are swayed by ‘messages’ rather than by developed ideas.

    • November 2, 2010 7:15 am

      Thanks for your feedback and input. If we only knew how to turn it around. I think one step is for the public to hold politicians accountable for honesty and true critical thinking — not just parroting simplistic messages.

  42. November 2, 2010 6:50 am

    It’s nice to see that as I wade through the 95% of crap that’s on the Internet, I still find great posts like yours.

    PS: I put my blogs firmly in the ‘crap’ section as they are meaningless.

    • November 2, 2010 7:11 am

      Thanks for your feedback. It’s much appreciated.

    • unixgold permalink
      November 2, 2010 11:26 am

      Flying Squidwolf, I share the same sentiments. FFF Team did good with this post 😉 (my first read from any of the blog)

      • November 2, 2010 11:35 am

        Thanks for your feedback. Please let us know your thoughts on some of our other posts. We post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  43. November 2, 2010 12:33 pm

    Great post Mr. Steve. It was a pleasure to read your article. Thanks for sharing.

  44. November 2, 2010 3:30 pm


  45. November 4, 2010 8:00 pm

    GREAT POST!!! I couldn’t agree more!

    I wish this could get through the heads of the politicians who claim to represent us. =-\ So many people I know personally have stopped voting for this very reason: intellectual dishonesty. They would love to vote, but have lost all faith in politicians. Intellectual dishonesty has ruined our ideological democratic system. I’ve been writing in my chosen candidates for years (after much research). I know the chances are slim that my candidate will win, but I feel that at least I am doing my civic duty, and I am following my heart.

    • November 4, 2010 8:22 pm

      Thanks for your feedback and comments. I think many of us are troubled by the intellectual dishonesty and spin in our political debates. The challenge is remedying it. I would love to see a serious conversation about that. It’s a pervasive issue. I hope we hear from you on other posts. (I see that you also commented on Robin’s post on “Cast Your Vote” and she will probably reply to it.)

      My best,

  46. November 5, 2010 6:05 am

    Nice post and great insight on intellectual honesty. Somewhere along the ways, all events take a spin for the advantage to the voter and the concerned party. I really don’t know if they forget that they are answerable to all the voters’ at the end. Democracy demands it.

    • November 5, 2010 7:41 am

      Thanks for your feedback and input . . . and optimism. I think you have a great blog as well and am encouraging people to check it out.


  47. November 2, 2010 10:28 am



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