The Charlie Crist-Rick Scott Debates and Harry Frankfurt

I watched the final Crist-Scott “debate” last night so you didn’t have to. For context, look first to a dispute in the final 2010 Alex Sink-Rick Scott debate. At one point, Sink burst out in frustration: “Well, my opponent has said that he would do away with the Department of Community Affairs.” Scott denied it, claiming that he wanted only to “go back to the original purpose of DCA.” True or not? The next day, Politifact Florida called Sink’s statement “False.” It turned out to be “false” only in the sense that Scott couldn’t be pinned down by Politifact. He killed DCA immediately after being put in office.

There were no questions last night about water or the environment, with one exception. Scott was asked why he refused to go along with the vast consensus of climate scientists on the reality of climate change. As he has before, Scott avoided answering. Instead, he recited his memorized lines about dollars spent on various projects, almost none of which related to climate change.

Both candidates shaded the truth at times but Scott went far over the line much more often. Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt explained this tendency in some people. Frankfurt would deny that Scott was “lying” about the Department of Community Affairs in 2010 or climate change in 2014. It was something different:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describes reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose. (p. 14)

I am sure that some excellent fact check stories will be written. Nonetheless, it is hard for journalists, let alone voters, to see the truth when so many dump loads are being thrown into the air. We have to wait until November 4 to learn whether Scott will “get away with it.” Florida water resources will bear the consequences.


The Charlie Crist-Rick Scott Debates and Harry Frankfurt — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks much, Katrina. Scott is terrible even in short interviews. In longer “debates,” the contempt he shows for the knowledge and intelligence of listeners is amazing.