CSotD: Do you remember truth?

Seems like President’s Day is a good excuse to start with this example of our love of lies and mythology from Barney and Clyde (WPWG), particularly since this isn’t President’s Day. It’s George Washington’s Birthday.

Her teacher’s comment leaves a lot unsaid. Does she mean that it’s inaccurate because George’s father praised his honesty, or because the whole story is a load of hooey?

And if we still celebrated Lincoln’s birthday, we’d have to admit he never walked a bunch of miles to return a customer’s change. And if you wait until Columbus Day, you’ll have a whole tractor-trailer full of mythology and bullroar to sort through.

History has always been vulnerable to mythmaking. It seems harmless enough to believe that Washington heaved a silver dollar across the Potomac, but that story falls under the category of “Why would you lie about something so inconsequential?”

One of the possible answers, then, being “To soften you up for lies that matter.”

Hannah Arendt wrote that in 1951. She was right then and she’s right now, the difference being that we’re getting a whole lot better at blurring the lines between fact and fiction, between true and false.

I ranted over the ease of deception 30 years ago, and you can read the whole thing here, but here’s the lede, which sets the scene for the rest:

The problem with Forrest Gump wasn’t the movie itself but rather the evidence it provided of how easy it is to create fake history in alarmingly realistic forms. The movie might not be so harmful if Time and Newsweek hadn’t differed on just how dark OJ Simpson’s skin was, touching up his mugshot at greatly different levels, or if Newsday hadn’t published a fake photo showing Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan skating together at Lillehammer.

Which in turn reminds me of a friend who was doing his psych rotation in medical school when the Church Committee began to reveal the level of surveillance the FBI and CIA were keeping on citizens. It made it hard to reassure paranoid people, he reported, when they could site evidence to prove their view of reality.

I met my first “Elvis lives!” true believer in 1987, two years before we had a World Wide Web with which to spread lunatic theories. But back then we maintained a line between supermarket tabloids and real news sources, and it was easier to snicker at people who believed nonsense.

Not everyone who is wrong, or hard to understand, is deliberately lying. Lisa Benson (Counterpoint) seems to be blaming Biden for shrinkflation, either because he caused it or because he’s not doing enough to curb it.

I have no idea what Benson intended, except to dump on Biden’s handling of the economy. Her message of the cartoon is unclear, though “Joe’s Club” suggests he’s setting prices.

But it’s not as if Biden weren’t working on it, as he told a crowd in South Carolina.

I’d rather see his plans criticized than see a flat denial of their existence.

David Cohen points to a more substantial issue of trust and clarity. The witness whose testimony was absolutely central to the Freedom Caucus’s attempt to impeach Joe Biden has been arrested and charged with making it all up.

In a sane universe, this wouldn’t be a crisis. His testimony had often been questioned, not because he was known as a dishonest person but because the time lines he cited didn’t match up, and there was no other testimony to confirm what he was saying.

Now, first of all, in a sane world, it wouldn’t have gotten this far, because the House Committee would not have brought charges based on such a dubious, one-source claim. And, second, in a sane world, they’d look at the evidence and back away from the guy.

But we’re in a world where anyone who says something we don’t want to hear is a liar. If the FBI arrests this guy, it’s not evidence of false testimony, it’s proof of the Deep State.

He must be telling the truth: That’s why they’re trying to make him look dishonest.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Martyn Turner

Matt Golding

Cathy Wilcox

Turner puts the impossibility for Gazans to retreat from the conflict on personal terms; Golding takes a more birds-eye view of the situation.

And Wilcox points out the impossibility of maintaining a single, official storyline in an interconnected world.

Unless, of course, like the fellow in her cartoon, you assume the official word is scripture and that anything contradictory is a problem.

Meanwhile, over at Google News, the fact checkers are explaining all the phony video and bogus claims that are floating around, on opposite sides of the conflict but united in creating a media world in which nobody knows what to believe.

Rich Powell gets a laugh with this hipster who is upset because AI has taken over the fine art of drizzling on coffee foam. We may survive the collapse of barista self-expression, but it’s one more brick in the wall, one more stick shoved in the spokes.

And one more reason to believe that Houthi rebels hit this oil tanker, and those who claim otherwise are in on the conspiracy. Also it’s one more reason to disbelieve..

I blame Vince McMahon.

A generation ago, professional wrestling looked real, even though most people with double-digit IQs knew it was fake. There were absurd characters and on-going melodramas, but all under a waffer-theen veneer of authenticity.

McMahon and WWE blew the sport up into a nonsensical universe in which even the most gullible fan had to concede that it was entertainment, or, as we say, “fixed.”

However, like the cat who, having sat on a hot stove lid, will never sit on another hot one, but will also never sit on a cold one, either, the response has been “Then everything is fixed!”

Not just the Super Bowl, but national elections and the war in Ukraine and all that woke nonsense about people changing genders and places hiring minorities … it’s all fixed.

Except candy boxes. As Agnes pointed out years ago, if you pay attention, you’ll always know what you’re getting.

Meanwhile, today’s video is buried in Mark Fiore’s most excellent rant about truth, news and social media.

It’s worth the click.

18 thoughts on “CSotD: Do you remember truth?

  1. Hi Mike,
    Love the column. You’ve introduced me to new comics to follow and inspired me to subscribe to Comics Kingdon and GoComics. I hate to quibble, but the former editor in me would like to point out that it’s Presidents Day (no punctuation).

  2. I think OJ was guilty AND they tried to frame him. He obviously did it, but the cops needed to make it better, and wound up ruining the case.

  3. I think the Elvis Lives conspiracy began right after the ’69 Comeback Special, in which the music world claimed he was resurrected, but afterward it was the same old warmed-over modern country-cover-version replacement. Nope, the living Elvis had been taken out by his ’58 tank-batallion service time in Germany, where, clearly, the government got at him.

    1. Elvis didn’t die until 1977. Paul McCartney’s conspiracy theory said he was dead but replaced by a double, but I never heard that about Elvis — just that he had faked his death and retired into obscurity.

  4. So true — pro wrestling being nothing but fixed has been well-known for over a century. I’ve seen articles about that in newspapers as early as the mid 190xs. In 1941’s The Shadow of the Thin Man, Nick Charles delivers a line suggesting that the newspapers could do the fans a favor by printing the results of tomorrow’s matches in today’s paper. Maybe there were people that didn’t know it, but it was hardly a secret.

  5. What does Lisa Benson expect Joe Biden to do–have the government take over any company that practices shrinkflation? Then the government would be taking over half the companies in the country, and all those who work for them would become government employees. Maybe that’s a Republican thing, but the last time I checked, the Democrats believed in a free market economy.

  6. A widower and three sons lived out in the country. their outhouse was next to the bluff at the river’s edge. One of the boys pushed the outhouse over the bluff into the river. The father told the boys of how G. Washington was rewarded for being truthful admitting he chopped down his father’s cherry tree. One of the boys admitted to pushing the outhouse in the river. The father spanked the boy severely. Through tears the boy said, ‘but, George was rewarded for telling the truth’. The father replied, ‘yes, but George’s father wasn’t in the cherry tree at the time, was he!’

  7. Just this one more comment: Given the fact that there is more than one shooting every day here, I fear that there is NO SAFE PLACE here, either. And, that is something I think you CAN believe.

  8. “Until there is a vaccine for paranoia…” Oh, but how would you convince those who most need it to take it?

  9. “We’re in a world where anyone who says something we don’t want to hear is a liar.”

    Exactly. “I don’t like what you’re saying, so you must be lying!” has become an increasingly common sentiment.

    But honestly, it’s only going to get worse. At first, I thought the furor over AI was overblown but let’s face it: with AI images, AI voices, and now AI videos it’s becoming much more difficult if not outright impossible to tell what’s real from what’s fake.

    And we thought Photoshop was bad.

  10. “…this isn’t President(‘)s(‘) Day it’s George Washington’s birthday….”

    While there is some confusion about his actual birth date (because of the switch from Julian to Gregorian calendar) there seems no evidence it was Feb. 19. However, there have been several years when “MLK Day” fell on January 19, which is the actual birthday of Robert E Lee, so anything is possible …

    1. They could call it “Happy Snow Day” and if that were its official name, that’s what it would be, regardless of the weather. The holiday is called “George Washington’s Birthday,” not “Presidents Day.”

  11. As a federal holiday it is George Washington’s Birthday but states are not required to regonize federal holidays. As a state holiday it can have a different name. Some states use George Washington’s Birthday. Most states use Presidents Day, Presidents’ Day or President’s Day. In New Hampshire it is President’s Day. In Arkansas it is “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Bates Day”.

  12. The thing is, when the name first came up of “Presidents Day” it was understood by many to be a combining of the two big February presidential birthdays, Lincoln and Washington. To then say “No, it’s only Washington after all” feels like admirers of Lincoln have somehow been scammed out of a celebration for our guy.

    To Paul’s point about state holidays, indeed some states continue observing Lincoln’s Birthday, including of course my home of Illinois. But it does feel second-tier.

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