Just how gullible are we?


Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist



Some people will believe just about anything and some people will believe almost everything.

Many years ago, at a leadership seminar, the speaker confidently stated that the word “gullible” was not in the English dictionary. My first thought was, “Nonsense. Of course gullible is in the dictionary.”

Then I realized the point he was trying to make. You would have to be pretty gullible to believe that the word gullible was not in the dictionary. He left his simple statement just … hanging there.

It was going to be up to each of us to decide whether we believed him or not.

Sure enough, during the next break, several people were questioning why the word “gullible” would be left out of the dictionary. A few were surprised that they had never noticed it before. Someone suggested that “gullible” must be some kind of foreign word, since it wasn’t included in the English dictionary.

This happened before the availability of smartphones. I am sure if this was said today that smartphones would come to life throughout the audience as people checked online English dictionaries to see if the word gullible was included in their online dictionary.

Abraham Lincoln has been quoted as saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Basically, Abraham Lincoln was stating that some people are completely gullible. Some people will be believe almost anything, but not everyone is always gullible; at least not all the time. It does gets confusing.

But, did Honest Abe really say that? Some historians doubt it. Who do you believe? What do you believe?

We are in the midst of a political season unlike any other. Over the past year, dozens of men and women have declared their intention to run for president of the United States. All but three have now dropped out of the race. I’ve watched most of the debates and many, many press conferences, Republican and Democrat.

Accusations, insults and lies have permeated every debate and nearly every interview and speech that any of the various candidates have been involved with. I have tried to fact-check many of the statements. I finally gave up, but it has been interesting (nearly entertaining) to read some of the fact-check websites.

Politifact.com is a website that claims to deal with the truth and only the truth (if you can believe that). They have a rating system for politician’s statements. It runs from “True” on the positive side of the scale to “Pants on Fire” on the negative end of the honesty scale. It’s interesting, but can I believe it? I find that I don’t even trust the information on the fact-check websites.

Trust is a delicate thing. It can take years to establish trust and only one moment, one comment or one stupid moment to erode away all the trust and confidence that has been established.

Donald Trump has made some outlandish statements and incredible claims. Some of the things he has said have been so ridiculous that it makes it difficult to believe him when he might be telling the truth. After stating that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, I found it hard to take anything he said seriously. Remember the old adage — “Trick me once, shame on you. Trick me twice, shame on me.”

Don’t think for an instant that Hillary and Bernie are innocent of deception. According to Politifact.com, slightly less than half of Hillary’s statements have been either true or mostly true. The other half of her statements have varied from half-truths to pants-on-fire lies.

Bernie does only slightly better. About 52 percent of his statements rate better than half-truth.

Trump’s record is the worst of all. Only 8 percent of his comments were rated as being true or mostly true, and 76 percent of the things he has said have been rated as being false or pants-on-fire lies.

I’m sorry, folks. I have gotten to the point of not believing a word I hear from anyone running in this presidential race. That is incredibly sad.

Whether it’s political rhetoric, campaigning or nearly anything we hear on a televised debate or political interview, we need to question everything. We have to resist being gullible.

The word “gullible” must be in the dictionary somewhere. I looked, but I couldn’t find it.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist

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