Saturday 5 May 2012

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 (, 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. (  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 (

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! (

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!


  1. Truth may depend on whose side truthiness belongs.

  2. Looking forward to more Truthiness by rummel! Go for it!

  3. Love that word, truthiness. Great blog post, Erika.

  4. The meaning of many words, as historians know, has changed over the centuries - in every language. Since the meaning of language/words is not fixed. Nor is it precise. Is it? The reasons may vary. This might be an interesting topic for a history project. What are the different reasons, why do reasons vary, are they always political etc. etc

    Great blogging idea, Rummel.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, it would be a great subject for a historian. But been there, done that -- historical research, I mean. I've retired from writing history books and gone into fiction. In fact, I've tackled the suject of truthiness/seeming/being in my novel, PLAYING NAOMI. There's a synopsis on my website: And, maybe the historical research on why words change meaning has already been done (see article in the NYer:

  5. Truthiness : truth = placebo : standard medicine
    It often works.
    Anonymous 2

  6. Memory revises truth in favour of truthiness.
    Try to avoid being in a police line-up!

  7. For centuries philosophers have been pondering the concept of truth and gone in search of truth. Now we have this new concept of truthiness,which has more to do with successful marketing approaches, political correctness, and attempts to circumvent known facts and definitions. Where does it lead to? First it leads to dilution in an established society's norms and cultural practices, then eventually that society ceases to exist, having been replaced by a more permissive and self-centered form of living. In the end, there will be some sort of "Sodom and Gomorrha" with a more disciplined outside group taking over, most likely by means of economic prowess coupled with a higher rate of reproduction.