Sunday, January 24, 2016

304: Truth

“It seems to me a person with an imagination could make a lot of money.”

“So,” I said, “you have an imagination?”

“Quite so.” C.W. was walking with me in the snow that had fallen overnight. He resembled the late actor and comedian Robin Williams as he stepped gingerly in the five-inch layer of white. “I can think things up with the best of them.”

“What sort of things?” We exited a wooded area and turned onto a country lane offering a pleasant vista of snow-covered branches arching over a straight path that seemed to lead somewhere peaceful.

“Things for the news to report.”

“Made up things?”

“Sure. That’s what sells,” he said, stepping over a fallen limb.

“Made up things sell?”

“Your media doesn’t seem that obsessed wth accuracy these days.”

“So you make things up, they report, and the people abide.”

“Pretty much so.”

“You will invent ‘facts’ and sell them to the press?”

“Ya got that right, Pilgrim,” he said, trying to mimic John Wayne.”

“Give me an example.”

“Let’s see,” he said. “Something really ridiculous. Hmmm. We could sell them a proven fact that every time taxes have been cut in your country, tax revenues have increased.”

“Sorry,” I said.


“That’s been done. In fact, that fantasy news channel runs that almost every day.”


We walked in silence for a while, enjoying the solitude. Then he broke in. “How’s this? I read where the taxes in your country rank 26th out of the 30 countries in the world-wide Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Let’s sell the fantasy that your taxes are the highest in the world.”

“You haven’t been paying attention, have you?”

“Been done already?”

“Every night on fantasy news.”

“Drats.” He brightened. “Iraq bombed the World Trade towers.”


“I know,” he said. “We’ll pick out a decorated war veteran and say he was a coward.”

“Have you ever heard of John Kerry?”


“Let’s just say that has been done already as well.”


“Look,” I said. “I’m not sure this is a good idea. I don’t think you could get rich making things up for the news.”

“Bill O’Reilly has.”

He had me stumped there. I suggested we walk back to the farmhouse and that he let me offer him some proof. We chatted about other things. He was curious about the vast differences in the price of vodka in the U.S., given the fact that import standards require that it be pure, odorless, and tasteless. We were still discussing the field of marketing when we arrived home. “You mean,” he said, “that a chemical compound like bleach, that only exists in one form—a single, specific chemical compound—can be marketed for different prices?”
Words are like some of your politicians
and professionals I could name. For enough
money, they'll do anything you want. - C.W.

“Welcome to America,” I said.

“But if you alter the composition by one atom, it’s no longer bleach,” he said. “Everyone knows that.”

“Apparently we don’t” I said. “Check next time we go to the supermarket.”

“What do you have to show me?” he said, slumping in a chair.

I retrieved a stack on news clippings I had been saving and began showing them to him. I began with one claiming that residents of Colorado were buying marijuana with food stamps. Then one asserting that a U.S. Senator lost his family’s health insurance because of the Affordable Health Care Act. He read them carefully. Once, he looked up at me. “But the President of the United States was born in Hawaii,” he said. “Isn’t that one of your states?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “But who cares?” Then he saw a claim by a woman whose son had beat his wife and threatened her with a rifle.

“No,” he said. “She’s not claiming that the President made him do it?”

I said nothing. He handed the clipping back with a downcast look.

“You may be right,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t make up stuff like this.”

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