Art and Manipulation

David Carr’s piece this past Monday about The New Yorker’s Jonah Lehrer and Time’s Fareed Zakaria, reminded me of one of my favorite movies, 1987’s Broadcast News.

In the piece, Carr calls out these two writers for their recent mea culpas for fabrication and plagiarism, revelations that seem to get more frequent with less consequence. Lehrer is lying low, no doubt well sustained by the revenue from his three previous bestsellers (money he will not have to return despite its fruit from a poisonous tree quality). Plus he has the sympathy of dear friends like Malcolm Gladwell who responded when informed about Lehrer’s coming clean after failing in his efforts to cover it up:

“I am heartbroken. Jonah is a friend. He is a decent and sweet and hugely talented guy, and I cannot imagine what he is going through right now.”

What he’s going through? What about the chumps who bought and believed his work?

As for Zakaria, after less than a week suspension from Time and CNN, he’s back at work.

David Carr is an old school, hard-living journalist (check out The Night of the Gun). As such he has the gravelly voice, cantankerousness and guts to call them as he sees them.  To Carr, misrepresenting, fabricating, or stealing other people’s words and ideas is as fundamental a transgression as THOU SHALT NOT KILL.  Carr’s probably not a sweet and a hugely talented guy, but veracity and full disclosure is his code. It’s a damn important code shared by, I fear, fewer and fewer of his colleagues in the journalism “business.”

Everything wasn’t always a “business.” We didn’t always look at the world in terms of return on investment, quarterly profits, or net worth. We didn’t follow Presidential elections based on how much money a candidate raises per month or define the American dream based purely on the pursuit of Ayn Randian self-interest.

We admired people for what they did. Not how much money they made.

As a boy, I remember passing an overly serious lady in the street and making some smart aleck remark. My mother spun me around, grabbed my shoulders and with fury in her eyes said, That woman has the most important job in the world . . . She’s a teacher!

There used to be something called the “public interest.” And it wasn’t all that long ago. The Federal Communications Commission used to require television networks to devote a certain number of hours of programming per month that discuss “public issues, serve minority interests and eliminate superfluous advertising.

When it first came online, the electromagnetic spectrum that gave birth to mass communication was viewed as a limited public resource . . . like water, power and telephone lines once were.  A Trusteeship model to oversee the use of that spectrum (with the government regulating its exploitation) was in effect until the Reagan “Revolution” in the 1980s.

I remember reading as a kid how tribes in what would become New York could not comprehend how English and Dutch settlers believed one person could own a piece of “land.” To them, and later to people like Woody Guthrie, the land couldn’t be owned any more than air could be owned. I don’t think anyone believes that today.

The Reagan era began the dismantling of regulated American markets, but its apotheosis did not arrive until President Bill Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which effectively repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. And we all know how that’s turned out.

Both Republicans and Democrats, increasingly dependent on corporate campaign contributions, abandoned the notion that government should protect the public interest. As a result the Trustee model is just about dead.

In its place, Calvin Coolidge’s 1925 estimation of the American character is now practically institutionalized:

“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”

It’s not without irony that Coolidge’s speech was before the Society for American Newspaper Editors, essentially excusing them from conflicts of interest between editorial and sales:

“There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise…Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences.”

In other words, give the people what they want…a yardstick to measure themselves according to their position in the marketplace. It took a while, but we got what Coolidge prescribed.  Today Super PACs, Hollywood dinner parties, and Paul Ryan’s six pack abs are front page news…the “issues” driving the Presidential campaign. To be important today requires outrageous wealth and celebrity. Not principles or ideas or the courage to express them.

The FCC also used to oversee something called “The Fairness Doctrine,” which required television stations to provide both sides or multiple sides of a public issue (FOX NEWS was an impossibility back then) and limited marketing and advertising to impressionable children.

I was a member of one of the last generations who were only hammered by Madison Avenue in clearly defined time periods. Like most kids of the era, I was usually running around outside playing “kick the can” when those shows came on. It’s true that I do have an unquenchable desire for Kool-Aid. But I’m able to change my brand of toothpaste without too much psychic anxiety.

How many kids do you see running around today? When my kids run around screaming, people look at me like there’s something wrong with them. Why aren’t they docile and quiet like all the other kids sitting in front of their TVs?

It is estimated that a child in the United States sees 3,000 advertisements on television, the internet, billboards, and magazines every single day.  It’s also no secret that cognitively, children eight years old and younger are defenseless against propaganda.

Their brains just don’t understand the concept of an unreliable narrator. They believe in the omniscience of the third party voice over. If an authority figure or voice says something, it’s true. This quality is something pedophiles are very well aware. Anyone with a child will tell you that sarcasm and irony are lost on them. They just don’t get it. It’s why other nations ban advertising to children.

I understand that the government Trustee regulatory model does have serious dangers. Taken to the nth degree, you’re looking at George Orwell’s 1984—a tyranny run by ideological bureaucrats pushing Big Brother values. No one wants to live among sexless shave headed proletariats eating greasy boiled cabbage…wearing the same sackcloth jumpers…obedient to a singular ethereal being inside a plasma screen.

Ridley Scott, Steve Jobs and Apple brilliantly played that fear for all it was worth.  So much so that even today, Apple, a monster corporation with more wealth than innumerable nation states and exploitative manufacturing practices, is considered cool and revolutionary. People actually stop and pose for iPhone photos in front of Apple stores in Manhattan to show their friends back in Anytown, U.S.A.

What’s the opposite of Big Brother?

We’re living in it.

The alternative to an ideologically based culture with multiple values (Democracy is an ideology by the way) is one with only one value, consumerism. It is obedience and deference to the all mighty multi-faceted “free” market. Consumption is all.

If you appeal to a critical mass of viewers/readers/consumers, you win. You draw more advertisers to pay more money to reach the mass and/or tightly defined demographic, which in turn increases your quarterly profit, which then results in a rise in the value of your company’s publicly traded shares. It’s simple.  The more people or the “better targeted” people that consume your media, the more money you make. And money is the only goal.

Placating to the “public interest”—what’s good for them—is ridiculous in the market model. How would Comcast know what “good” is for people? How does the government? Simply feed people the information/entertainment they want to hear (people like Edward Bernays figured that out a hundred years ago) and watch the dollars roll in.

That’s it. The only value? The bottom line.

The problem with the market as savior model, though, is that it appeals to only one human quality—selfishness. In that 1925 “business is business” speech to the media elite, Calvin Coolidge recognized this danger too:

“Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence…But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it…But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness. In every worthy profession, of course, there will always be a minority who will appeal to the baser instinct. There always have been, probably always will be, some who will feel that their own temporary interest may be furthered by betraying the interest of others.”

So how did we get the ascension of a man capable of holding two opposing opinions like Calvin Coolidge to Paul Ryan?

Back in 1987, James L. Brooks created a work of art that not only presciently characterized how this shift happened—from we to all me—he didn’t bore the shit out of the viewer doing it. No egg headed doctoral thesis movie, just great meaningful story.

Broadcast News is wildly entertaining. It deals with real people, struggling with the minuscule day to day decisions that define who they are.  And like all great art, their drama reflects the hidden anxiety of an era.

The movie’s genre is as old as Euripides.  The classic love triangle story. But what gets between the lovers is not fate or family, but ethics.

Holly Hunter plays Jane Craig, a big network television news producer. This was the era of the three networks drawing millions of viewers every night for the evening news.  Craig is the cute, librarian-sexy know-it-all from your High School or College history class with the impeccably organized notebooks.  She’s straight A all the way, and if you’re a guy, you think she’d be the kind of wife who would make you a better person, but deep down you know the relationship would end in divorce.

William Hurt plays Tom Grunick, the dashing up and coming network anchor. He’s remarkably gifted as a communication vessel—sincere looks, great diction—but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He’s the kind of guy who takes shortcuts. He has little problem getting what he wants, whenever he wants it. He sees himself as the exception to the rule. But he’s so charismatic and charming, you forgive him for it.

And the third player is Aaron Altman, played perfectly by Albert Brooks.  Altman is the Jewish intellectual type…incredibly erudite, principled and funny. But he’s also Mr. Rough-Edge Chip-on-the-Shoulder.  He’s not, as Chris Farley once said, “viewer friendly.” He sweats too much.

Altman loves Craig, romantically.

Craig loves Altman as a friend. He’s that sort of fawning male puppy who will always drop whatever he’s doing to care for her. Intellectual S and M.  And it works for them.

Along comes Tom Grunick, and Jane can’t help herself but fall for the guy.  He’s dumb, but so handsome and cool. She can edit him, make him better.

In one incredible scene, James L. Brooks portrays the three cornered dynamic between these characters. And of how together they are magic.

Altman is off work, hanging at home. A major news story breaks and the only ones available to do the pre-emptive live news coverage are Tom Grunick and Jane Craig.

Altman calls Craig at the studio and asks if she needs him.

No we’re fine.

Altman turns on the TV and watches Grunick perform.  He’s doing an amazing job and it’s excruciating for Altman … After Hurt as Grunick reels off a very difficult piece of copy comes a great line of dialogue that only Albert Brooks could deliver.

“A lot of alliteration from anxious anchors placed in powerful posts.”

Altman knows that Grunick’s earpiece is wired into the control booth. And it’s eating him alive because he knows that his beloved Jane is on the other end of that wire, coaching Grunick.

But James L. Brooks doesn’t just play the scene for laughs. He invests it with a deeper meaning. Not with speeches but through action. After venting his sophomoric heckling, Altman appreciates that getting the story right is more important than his bitchy, jealous bullshit.

He calls Jane who is miked directly into Grunick.

Altman :

I think the pilot that shot down the Libyan in 1981 is stationed right here.  Maybe you could get him—and maybe Tom should say that our F-14 is one of the hardest planes to fly. They’re nicknamed ‘Tomcats’.

Craig coos Altman’s expertise into Grunick’s ear and Altman’s words come perfectly pour out of his mouth. Together, the trio—communicator, editor, researcher—is impeccable.  The news brief is just about perfect.

But tellingly, the only one who gets pats on the back is Grunick.  He parlays the success into a part time anchor position.

Later on in the movie, Grunick interviews a rape victim for the show. He’s decided to do some offsite pieces himself to get more street cred as a journalist. Craig and Altman watch the interview. Craig is impressed by the job Grunick did. It’s very moving and at one point in the interview, Grunick tears up as the young woman shares her terrible story. Altman thinks its bullshit.

Altman later confirms that Grunick had only one cameraman with him during the interview. Altman shakes his head in disgust, but he keeps his feelings to himself…until he can’t stand it anymore. Here is the setup for the payoff of the entire story.


I know you care about him.  I’ve never seen you like this about anyone, so please don’t take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil.



This isn’t friendship.


What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around?  Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail.

No.  I’m semi-serious here.  He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing…he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit.  And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen.

Craig ignores Altman’s warning. At the tail end of the movie, Altman gets fired. Grunick gets promoted. Just as he’s leaving, Altman tries to stop himself from telling Craig, but he’s so heartbroken he has to pass on his hurt.

Here is the payoff:


Jane, you know how Tom had tears in the piece the other night? Ask yourself how we were able to see them when he only had one camera and that was pointing at the girl during the interview.

Aaron knows that telling Craig about Grunick only having one camera for his big rape interview will force her to dump Grunick.  There is no way that someone as principled as Craig will be able to live with a liar and fabricator like Grunick.

With only one camera, the interview could only be done with a one shot on the interviewee. Reaction shots from the interviewer—Grunick—would not be able to be filmed. Unless, after the interview, Grunick turned the camera around, faked the reactions (including the tears) and then edited them into the final piece.

Grunick had no problem throwing away journalistic principles to serve his own self-interest.  Having the shot of him crying manipulates the audience away from the real story—the deep wounds of a woman’s abuse—onto him.

Isn’t that Tom Grunick a good, sensitive guy…

The takeaway from the interview furthers Tom’s career at the expense of not only the woman being interviewed, but of his entire audience.  They’ve been manipulated just for Grunick’s benefit.

In a great show of faith in humanity, James L. Brooks made Jane Craig the protagonist of his movie…the lead that every person who watches the film will identify. Like all of us, she can get sucked into vacuity, but by relying on her principles, she’ll make it back to meaning.

This is what David Carr is pointing out about the actions of Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria. Lehrer and Zakaria are the latest in a long line of plagiarists and fabricators like Stephen Glass, Ruth Shalit, Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair, James Fry, Kaavya Viswanathan, Clifford Irving etc. etc. who continue to bit by bit… erode important fundamental principles of civilized society.

As the crime of intellectual deception through manipulative art becomes less and less of a big deal, is there any wonder that we’re losing our ability to discern moral wrongs?

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  1. david Y.B. Kaufmann on August 24, 2012 at 6:31 am

    An important, thoughtful, thought-provoking essay. Reminds me of the intellectual ferment of my youth – when we had Vietnam in our faces and it was hard to avoid what was being done. Not that we succeeded in stopping it. This one needs to get out there. Intellectual deception is the first tool of overlords and oppressors.

    Thank you.

  2. Jeff Korhan on August 24, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Beautifully done! I have a much better perspective of Broadcast News.

    And from one who fondly remembers those nights of playing kick the can as a kid, I agree that the authorities might be called today!

  3. Paul C on August 24, 2012 at 11:19 am

    As a member of the same generation, congratulations on your insubordination to the Google Vanity Network. You used nearly three thousand words, violating the manipulative algorithms requiring 600 words or less, and did it without a ten point plan title and bullet points. You might have cost Steve some VIP points from Google. Jack London’s Call of the Wild, written in the early 1900s, seems more relevant today than Orwell. Walk around the abandoned GM plants and you’ll see nature growing over both the corpse of Big Brother and consumerism.

  4. fjr on August 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Well done and timely.

  5. Elese on August 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks Shawn. Carr’s article is very good, yours too.

  6. Wes Roberts on August 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you for an excellent and creative response to the need for morality that does not take advantage of others intellects. Stories, truthful ones, have as much impact as those embellished or made up. Very stimulating article that I’ll be asking the young developing leaders I mentor to munch on and digest as they carve their ways in our world. Again…thank you!

  7. John Thomas on August 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    A well written article, Shawn. And I absolutely agree that plagiarism is fundamentally wrong.

    My one comment would be that I would ask you to reconsider characterizing Ayn Rand’s writing as advocating financial profit as the principle reason to do anything and the implication that her philosophies are driving this amoral, financial-return driven culture.

    One needs to earn a living. Steve has written about this when writing about alternating projects between what feeds the soul and feeds the stomach. However, when I read Rand’s work, take “Anthem,” for example, financial profit isn’t the primary motivation for why the protagonists take action. It’s because it feeds their soul. It reminds me very much in attitude and motivation of Steve’s non-fiction work. You don’t turn pro because of the money. It may never come. You turn pro because it feeds your soul.

    I see people mixing the idea of being motivated by bottom line profit (not how I read Rand’s ideas) with the idea of not allowing someone else to take what you’ve created without your permission (which is how I read Rand’s ideas). I suspect that Steve and you would agree that no one be allowed to republish what you’ve written without your permission (and, often, I’m sure, compensation). And rightly so. When you read the motivations of the protagonists in “Atlas Shrugged” that is what they are trying to avoid.

    You may disagree with Rand on her society-wide vision of how our culture is turning out or in other areas (I certainly don’t agree with her philosophy of morality as it relates to interpersonal relationships), but let’s not lump her in with Enron and Bernie Madoff, liars and plagerists. Her work doesn’t indicate that she supports the actions of these people.

    And, I suspect, you might be surprised about how many things you do agree with her on.

    • Shawn Coyne on August 25, 2012 at 5:24 am

      Good points all. I too am guilty of often not being able to hold two different opinions. And I confess I loved the movie version of THE FOUNTAINHEAD with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. In that context, yeah individualism! What bothers me is people bending ideas and philosophies to their will…Like Mr. Ryan’s Ayn Rand POV, which I think equates to social darwinism. Perhaps it’s what she’s come to represent and who has latched on to her theories rather than what she really stood for.
      Thanks again for your input.

  8. sam on August 25, 2012 at 4:15 am

    A well written article sir,really good

  9. Kelly on August 25, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I agree, this is really good. Period. End of discussion.

  10. JDub on August 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I’m not sure what in David Carr’s article or Malcolm Gladwell’s comment motivates this essay-cum-rant other than mere speculation about what Mr. Lehrer’s future will be. And perhaps a certain amount of unseemly blood lust.

    Clearly the man has been thoroughly blackballed if even Wired magazine has to tread lightly with his name. Wired does not exactly represent the fabled public interest. It’s a tech industry rag, not the New York Times. Why all this consternation that Lehrer might worm his way into a job at a magazine that famously propagandized the egregious internet bubble of the late 1990s?

    It seems to me, Shawn, that in seeking to further vilify Mr. Lehrer you are exhibiting a nasty mean streak.

    Malcolm Gladwell, if he is indeed Mr. Lehrer’s “friend,” has every right to speak kindly about him in public and empathize with him to the extent he can. He was clearly making a personal statement. It’s monstrous of you to suggest that a personal friend ought to throw him under the bus, and that his failure to do so represents a lack of ethics.

    As to your overall thesis, that we are perhaps living in the “opposite” of Big Brother, does it not strike you as slightly ironic that you’re copping the central theme of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death without giving him any credit? That idea belongs to him, not you, and I find it rather hard to believe you’ve never read his work. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and instead recommend to your readers that they actually DO read his book if they find your concerns about society justified.

    Forgiveness is a virtue. The world’s most famous written testament to its power is the Bible, of course — a book whose ethics we follow implicitly and whose commandments you cite despite centuries of proof from learned scholars that it is, in fact, full of forgeries and fabrications, including entire books of the New Testament.

    Shall we toss it out, Shawn, or shall we separate the wheat from the chaff? I vote the latter, both with respect to books and to the actions of individuals.

    • P.L. Bowler on August 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      The wheat from the chaff. The chaff being acts of deception and manipulation for personal gain/survival performed daily by billions of beings on infinite playing fields dating back to the beginning of time. Hunting game for food or sport is a perfect example, not unlike hunting (fleecing) people’s lives to feed one’s wanton, artless psyche. It’s really about fear and selfishness performed by those who decide the life raft is for themselves only and to hell with the rest of those nameless heads bobbing in the waves.

      The wheat being the gardener’s lot . . . not to “gain” by taking from others, but to create from the compost and atmosphere what serves one’s needs and even the needs of others. To do so with honor and goodwill and harmless resourcefulness. That’s a form of love based on the knowledge that we are joined truly in life even though separated falsely in the human mind.

      I agree you can’t throw us all away because we’ve made mistakes or are selfish or mean or stupid. There wouldn’t be anyone left. But what Shawn has done so well is to call out those in his profession for whom someone must lose for them to gain. And offer a good reminder of the virtues of integrity and responsibility for our actions. His thesis is really copped from the wisdom once spoken that “what you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto Me.” That has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with the quality of humanity’s zeitgeist to which everyone constantly contributes. It’s about what each one settles for, minute by minute, and why.

      I don’t hear Shawn vilifying anyone, or condemning Gladwell–he just pointed out Gladwell’s exclusive center of gravity on this. I don’t see Shawn copping Neil Postman’s theme any more than Neil copped it from countless others who didn’t happen to write books about it. And let us not for a moment believe that the beautiful notion of forgiveness means accepting mediocrity and bullshit as tolerable. It distinguishes the doer (you made a mistake) from the deed (and here’s what it’s costing you).

      Finally, I don’t see a nasty mean streak here, but I do hear a ton of frustration at why people sell out for such pittances when they could be adding to the substance of their profession and the betterment of humankind or at least their own character. With every syllable we utter or write, we vote for the life or death of something. I hear Shawn voting passionately for the values of integrity, honesty and good character. Lehrer voted against all that and he will foot the bill–not because of what anyone says, but because the karmic scorekeeper never makes mistakes. And it’s good that we all know about this and learn from it. If this or any truth is irritating, one should first exam that part of himself that finds it so.

      Nothing personal here, JDub. The subject could be argued till the end of time I suppose. This is a true rant and should be treated as such. Thank you.

      • LilDebbie on September 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm

        The gardener takes. The gardener portions off land for his crops and drives out the flora and fauna that once dwelt there; less to hunt, less to gather. As more and more gardens grow, there is less and less to hunt and gather and soon everyone is forced to make their own garden.

        The garden is a simple place. Maybe half a dozen plant species interacting with a few humans and whatever bees are about. All else is driven out; weeds uprooted, rabbits trapped and slaughtered with genocidal fury. The once beautiful and diverse biome is stripped of its robustness. The gardener doesn’t notice the change as he dies before it becomes apparent, but generations pass and the soil is robbed of its wealth.

        The Fertile Crescent becomes the Sandbox, the breadbasket of Rome becomes the Egyptian desert, and we all turn our collective eyes away because we are trapped in our gardens, for there is not enough left to hunt and gather to survive. And slowly the Earth is stripped of all life in service of a single species who will learn only after it is far too late what it has done.

  11. Basilis on August 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

    The democracy of consumption…
    Intellectual deception…
    Manipulative art…

    Those words are synonymous to nightmare…

  12. Roger Newball on August 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I have to call you out on that 3k per day advertisement stat. At 40k per YEAR that is not 3k per day. Just say’n….you want’n accuracy,integrity and all. Probably ought to fact check and proof read. ( ah proof reading…now there is lost art).

  13. Gregg on August 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I enjoy your articles (blogs, posts?, opeds?) but I believe you made some leaps here.

    People are free to do what they please in the United States. A human being can allow himself to be lead about like a sheep or he can educate himself and make informed decisions.

    Are corporations evil? No. They sell a product that is bought by people. Robots don’t buy things. If you don’t like what a company does stop buying their products. Protest against their inhuman manufacturing practices. Use the money you earned honestly, if there is such a thing in your opinion, and take a full page add in the times expressing your thoughts against the evil empire.

    This country was built by the people and is ran by the people. Humans are smart. Humans are capable of choice. The movement of one finger can turn off the TV or radio.

  14. Mark Wynn on August 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Egad! This ego trip was like watching a fireworks display out of synch with the music. Bomb blast after bomb blast … and a lot of misfires. For example:

    ” … Paul Ryan’s six pack abs are front page news…the “issues” driving the Presidential campaign.” One may agree or disagree with Ryan, but I believe it’s his budget proposal that’s the news. The writer might ease off the entertainment page and pay attention to current events.

    Half the article is like that. The other half is a movie synopsis. I’ve seen the movie many times. It holds up well. Why do I need a synopsis?

    The author could have made his point about integrity in a couple’ grafs. He never did get around to a salient message about “art and manipulation.” He needs a tough love editor.

  15. matt mcconnell on August 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    The piece is a bit all over the place and perhaps gratuitously conclusory and argumentative (e.g., to paraphrase, how do we get from Calvin Coolidge to Paul Ryan), but I appreciate your all-too-unique attack on contemporary society’s lack of moral behavior. Surely we ‘have morals’ today, but in some insane twist the monkeys have taken over the lab, and lying has been mainstreamed even to the point that the word “lying” has been redefined and diluted in common use. For example, lying by definition implies a mendacious or knowing act, but it is common nowadays to hear someone called a liar when they are simply wrong. It is common too nowadays to “find a lie” where there really is none. It’s as though life now imitates law, and everyone in the public forum is subject to an artful though unethical cross-examination. So what to do? That’s where your piece stops, I would argue. To answer, what say you?

  16. rene on August 31, 2012 at 1:08 am


  17. L Seibert on September 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Bravo! Thank you for an intelligent and eloquent post!

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