Fact or Fiction?
The dividing line is thin. Consider Mike Daisy’s 2010 exposé of harsh working conditions in a Chinese factory. Daisy’s monologue was aired on This American Life. Unfortunately some details – armed guards at the factory, work injuries, under-age workers – turned out to be wrong or not based on personal encounters, as Daisy had claimed. In a retraction, also aired on This American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/460/retraction), Daisy made excuses for his dubious practice. The simple truth just didn’t have enough punch to provoke action, he said.
Yes, folks, that’s the problem with truth. Not enough mojo! Gay activists have long been aware of that. In civil rights cases, the plain truth makes for a lame argument. It isn’t enough for plaintiffs to be truthful. They need to be photogenic and have a great love-and-dignity story. Activists don’t want people like John Geddes Lawrence and his one-night stand, Tyron Garner, two men who were arrested in Texas in 1998 on charges of sodomy. Lawrence had a conviction for murder and Garner was a young black man with no fixed address – not exactly poster boys for the gay community. (http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/03/12/120312crbo_books_lithwick) The fact that tolerance for gays has significantly increased among Americans in the last decade is often credited to Will &Grace, a TV show featuring likeable gay characters. Apparently, what counts in raising tolerance levels is personal acquaintance with gays – real or fictional.
The difference between real and fictional matters only to book publishers. They have a decided preference for real stories over invented ones. That’s why aspiring novelist James Frey was unable to find a buyer for his novel until he called it an autobiography. At least that’s what he told Oprah in a tearful on-screen confession, but he stopped short of a complete apology. He made mistakes, yes, but hey, what’s the big deal? There was some sort of truth in his book (http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprahs-Questions-for-James).
It was only a matter of time until someone came up with a term to describe that sort-of-truth, the one we want to exist: TRUTHINESS! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCQtDkuHGRc).
This blog, Rummel’s Incredible Stories, celebrates all things truthy: scams, impersonations, story-telling, UFO sightings, palm readings, exorcism, lies, and damned lies.
Comments? Anecdotes? Let’s hear your favourite experience of truthiness!