3 ways to spot a liar – Oroville edition


Today you’re going to learn 3 ways to spot liars.And you’re going to learn 3 principles to live by.


I want you to be able to spot the lies you’re being told. And I want you to walk away from this post with a renewed drive for self-responsibility. Not because of some positive message that I’m going to share with you, but because there are people in the world who will let you die if it suits their purposes.


200 000 people in California nearly got drowned the other day. In one town. They were told for a week that the Oroville Dam was safe and sound. Then they suddenly got told that they have an hour to evacuate the town before the dam burst and they all died.


Now that may or may not be an exaggeration, but it’s a pretty decent summary of the events.


Daisy Luther (a firm favourite of mine) put out a nice synopsis of what we know so far. She used her article to push the idea that you should never wait for an evacuation order before evacuating. An important point to be sure. I want to use her article to take you a step further. I want to use it as a case study for spotting lies. And to push my own agenda (of course).


Lie spotting technique number 1

The other person brings up the topic of danger.


So you’re talking to a stranger on the subway (ok, let’s pretend that people do this) and out of nowhere he makes a joke “Well I could always follow you home and kill you. Ha ha ha.”


Feels kinda weird and creepy doesn’t it. That’s because it is. The order is thoughts lead to words lead to deeds. He had to think of it before he could say it. Why is he thinking about that?


This comes from Gavin De Becker’s Gift of Fear. The polite stranger offers to carry your groceries and when you hesitate he jokes “It’s just groceries – I’m not going to kill you or anything.”


Gavin De Becker calls this the Unsolicited Promise. It’s like when your kid walks up to you and assures you that nothing’s broken. Unsolicited promise = oh crap.


Watch this trailer and pay attention around the 01:54 mark. Unsolicited promise.


The Oroville dam is perfectly safe. Unsolicited promise.


Red. Flag.


Let’s look at Oroville. Check out Daisy’s timeline of the Oroville Dam updates from the Facebook page. Count how many times they reassure us that “there is no danger”.


When somebody repeatedly tells you not to worry – you need to be worrying.


Nobody in their right mind (i.e. not indoctrinated) believes a government spokesman when he keeps telling you that you’re safe. It’s his job to make you feel safe no matter what the danger is. It’s his job to keep the peace no matter what. It’s his job to lie whenever necessary to do this. It’s not his job to actually keep you safe.


Principle to live by 1

This falls under the principle of never believe anything until it’s officially denied.


Lie spotting technique number 2

Things get renamed to softer terms.


The Oroville Dam has an “emergency spillway”. Well it had one of those, but half way through the Facebook updates there was a stunning feat of engineering and they removed the whole emergency spillway and replaced it with an “auxiliary” spillway.


Jokes aside, just stop and take a moment to think why they would rename a spillway? What’s the point? A new name doesn’t fix the damage.


Reason 1: They don’t want the word “emergency” in people’s minds. OR to be associated with current events. Remember, their job is to keep you docile, not necessarily safe.


Reason 2: Let’s say the dam collapsed. If your “emergency” measures failed it sounds a lot worse than if a mere “auxiliary” measure failed. If your emergency spillway breaks you look like a criminally incompetent department. If some auxiliary spillway (that you just added as an afterthought, just in case) breaks, it looks like you were smart to have actually included such measures.


Watch for someone renaming things so that they’d look better if the SHTF. The sudden appearance of soft-soap terminology tells you that there’s a good change of things ending badly.


– A lower-level manager is suddenly referred to a “junior employee” means this person pissed off management and is about to get fired.


– “Emergency supplies” become “contingency supplies” means they’re about to need their emergency supplies for something unpleasant.


– The victim of a brutal murder becomes “homicide victim number 7 this year” means someone’s worried about their job.


Principle to live by 2

This falls under the principle given to us by Mark Twain: If you don’t read the newspapers you’re uninformed. And if you do then you’re misinformed.


Lie spotting technique number 3

Their words and deeds don’t match.


This is a biggie. When you are being honest your thoughts, words and deeds all align. People telling lies often have a mismatch somewhere in the thought-word-deed procedure.


– The guy shaking his head “no” while smiling and saying “yes”.


– The guy on the street/intruder in your house who’s telling you “OK, I’m leaving now, I won’t be any trouble” while stepping closer.


– The Oroville dam people telling you that you’re perfectly safe while they evacuate economic resources from the dam (the fish).


Any time words and deeds don’t match there’s a liar talking to you. And you should pay attention to their actions, not their words.


Principle to live by:

The only person you can trust is yourself. Do NOT depend on anybody else to keep you safe. Do not ever use the words “keep me safe” when talking about anybody besides you.


Even family members can fail. You might have practiced a drill a hundred times, but if the SHTF you still might have to grab your kid/wife/parent by the arm and drag them along cause they froze/forgot the plan.


This is my agenda – I want you to take responsibility for yourself. This starts with safety, with survival. The bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. The first of the Nine Laws. You are not an adult until you are the person keeping you safe.


You can use other people/things to enhance your safety. Cops, traffic circles, security guards, alarm systems. But you cannot depend on these things. You still bear ultimate responsibility. Ignore this at your own peril.


P.S. Just remember: What would have happened to a few engineers/managers in the Oroville engineering department (California DWR)? They would’ve been fired as scape goats. Maybe jailed. But the DWR department that, as a whole, was actually responsible? Their department would’ve been given a bigger budget next year “to make sure this never happens again”. So is there any incentive to keep you safe?

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