To read or not to read?


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Can you tell if what I’m about to write right now is the truth?  Can you tell if everything I say is a lie?  Am I writing this post because I am actually interested in the subject matter or am I just writing because I will get a bad grade if I don’t?  To be honest, you’ll probably never know.  Why don’t you decide?  You pick what you want to believe in this post.  Call Ripley’s, if you want.

Generally, the truth is considered as something that aligns with the facts and a lie is something that intentionally deviates away from the facts.  How can two words that seem to have such simple, clear cut definitions create so much questioning in today’s world?  When you add in ethics, morals, values, etc. it becomes clear pretty quickly that these words go from a simple algebraic equation to a mathematical phenomenon that can’t be explained by anyone short of Einstein.  In my opinion it really all depends on what you hold true to yourself.  You are the judge, not only of others but of yourself with the same exact standards.  So, is it a lie if your closest girl friend asks if she’s pretty and you say “yes?”  If your mom asks if you’re going to a party and you say “yes” should you have told her that you are planning on getting wasted with your friends.  Sometimes, the truth is just choosing not tell all the facts unless asked directly.  There really is no easy way to say how much information can be considered the truth so that is a line that you need to establish yourself.

All this being said, here’s how it is for me.  Mike Daisey is not an unethical liar.  Mike Daisey is simply a man with a purpose and a set of beliefs and values that he is trying show the world and I fully respect that.  (Am I really telling the truth right now?….You decide).  Honestly, what’s the big deal if he lied a little bit or exaggerated the truth?  Sure, he lied about the guards, the number of underage people working in a factory, the number workers he met associated with the illegal union, number of factories visited, and about the old man whose hands were shaking from the screen cleaning fluid.  Sometimes, you have to stretch the truth a little bit or fudge the numbers in order to get people to recognize the problem at hand.  I really don’t care if he said the numbers were higher than they actually were because they still hold true at a core level even if he only visited 5 factories instead of 10 or whatever the scenario may be.  He got his point across and he never would have gotten people to listen without doing so.  Storytelling is about personal experience a lot of the time and there is no way to accurately describe what he felt when conducting these factory visits.  I for one can guarantee you that I would side with Daisey if I visited these same factories.  I can almost guarantee I would have been appalled at the factory conditions but I cannot say for sure until I visit them.  I’m hoping for a field trip in the near future.  Am I kidding or being serious?  I know, you don’t.  You define what art, journalism, and truth are.  You hold the power.

The “Retraction” episode is not something that I really enjoyed listening too.  I suppose it was helpful to iron out the knitty gritty truth but not at all necessary.  When the host was putting Mike Daisey on the spot it was almost uncomfortable to listen too.  Mike Daisey is a writer and actor, not a journalist.  Sometimes his job is to exaggerate the truth in order for people to see the deeper meaning.  Kathy, really hit the nail on the head when she said that he is not a journalist and is therefore not obligated to tell the truth.  The “Retraction” reminded me of a presidential debate.  The candidate was essentially asked a question to which he beats around the exact truth and facts of the answer in order to generate a bigger meaning.

Finally, my opinion about the truth is completely skewed due to the information I have access too.  I can check live scores, while reading my email, listening to music and doing my homework all at the same time.  Technology has taken over the world of fact in fiction and there is no way to read every piece of information and sort it out.  Therefore, you have to be the judge of what you believe to be true.  It’s like that commercial where a girl is talking to her friend about meeting her blind date who is supposedly a French model.  The friend spews out some fact and the girl says ‘where did you hear that?’ and he responds the, ‘the internet.”  She asks if it’s really true and he says, ‘yea, everything on the internet is true.’  She comes back with, ‘where did you read that?’ and they both respond ‘the internet’ simultaneously.  Therefore, the power is in your hands, you choose to believe what you want based off of your standards and values.

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7 thoughts on “To read or not to read?

  1. I also find the translator’s role in the “Retraction” podcast fascinating. From a narrative perspective, we have this whole episode about “fixing” the lies. In so doing, they go to the one person who was the eye witness; she was also the linguistic AND cultural translator of the whole Daisey experience. And she is the one to remind the blood-hounds of truth that he is a story-teller.

    Maybe the producers of the “Retraction” did not feel as righteous as Ira Glass did and the inclusion of that bit was meant to re-contextualize the whole story. Or maybe not. They were as indignant as Glass, but, as you say, the experience of truthfulness and fraud are in the ears of the beholder.

  2. Lastly, I think the point you make about whole versus partial disclosure of facts perhaps highlights the difference between truth of statement and truth of relationship. Your mother asks: “are you going to the party?” What does she actually _mean_? And if you don’t answer her meaning, is that being honest to the relationship?

    Did you say LIncoln? if so, there is a great scene with Thaddeus Stevens that relates to truth and lies.

  3. I really like the last comment you made because it shows the complexity that truth can have given the context of the situation. If my mom asks me if I am going to a party she essentially wants to know if I’m drinking or if she can expect me home tonight. There are always underlying pieces of information that people want to know that may be considered the whole truth to some but not to others. If I just responded “yeah” to my mom then I don’t feel it is the whole truth but if I just say “yeah” to a friend than that is the whole truth. Its hard to comprehend how that even makes sense? Therefore, you are really the one with the power.

    • Pretty damn solid post. I really liked that you constantly kept me on the edge by adding in “Am i lying …. you decide” because its so true. I’m only commenting on this post because I have to right….well kind of. And what is true nowawdays is so subjective. Like telling your parents the truth (I used your example) – very touchy subject. I always refer back to The Waterboy – “What momma don’t know – wont hurt her”. All great stuff to think about especially in reference to Mike Daisey.

  4. I find your last paragraph to be particularly relevant. The internet and technology allow us to shape our own truths. If I don’t particularly agree with an article written in the nytimes.com for being too liberal I can just as easily find an article on the same topic with a more conservative outlook on wsj.com; Which article I take to be true depends entirely on me.

  5. I went to Baratunde’s presentation this past Tuesday, and this completely relates to that. How often should we question and what should we simply believe, especially when there is a name attached to the article, proclaiming its truth? Does this also mean that people must subscribe to multiple news forums? that gets costly, and who really has time for that??

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