"The making of a journalist: no ideas and the ability to express them."
-- Karl Kraus, Half-Truths & One-and-a-Half Truths
"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
-- Mark Twain
"All cats die. Socrates is dead. Socrates is a cat."
-- Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros
If believability is your gauge for discerning truth, you are living in a fantasy world. But that is the reality of life in the United States today. This is the land of make-believe in which actors and audiences are engaged in a vast folie - deux full of sound and fury signifying a nothingness that passes for intelligence. Assertions made convincingly enough are the new facts for a population hypnotized by a stage-managed reality show.
The recently closed Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford Show that mercifully had a short run at the National Comedic Congressional Theater is the latest case in point. The believability of the actors was said to be the key issue. In other words, who seemed to be telling the truth. Demeanor was determinative. Facial expressions evidence. The mass media, those paragons of truth-telling, entertained their audiences for a few weeks by marching out their puerile pundits to tell audiences who of the two primary actors was more believable, while the politicians, not willing to allow their media accomplices to outdo them in truthfulness, donned their masks and performed their usual public service of moral outrage and did the same in their unbiased ways.
There was no child to yell and tell the world that all the king's sycophants, like the king, were naked -- naked liars whose jobs depended on disinformation and deceptions meant to amuse an entertainment-besotted and bored public hungry for a bit of truth in a society drowning in agitprop and propaganda. A public watching the wrong show.
The words the real Frank Serpico, the honest and brave cop, not the actor, Al Pacino, who played him in the movie Serpico, come to my mind. He told me that when he was lying in a pool of his own blood on the night of February 3, 1971, having been shot in the face in a set-up carried out by fellow cops, he heard a voice that said, "It's all a lie."
"It's all a lie."
Those words sum up the spectacle that is American society today. And while lies are nothing new -- didn't Aletheia, the Greek goddess of truth, flee into the wilderness just last week and say to a wandering searcher, "Among the people of old, lies were found among only a few, but now they have spread throughout all of human society"? -- we are living in a time of unprecedented technological media mind manipulation difficult to penetrate. Harold Pinter called it "a tapestry of lies" in which facts don't matter. What happened never happened; what never happened happened. It's all about believability in the national media's hypnotic show, whose purpose Russell Baker described 25 years ago as being to "provide a manageably small cast for a national sitcom, or soap opera, or docudrama, making it easy for media people to persuade themselves they are covering the news while mostly just entertaining us."
I know something about believability. When I was a young teenager I appeared on a famous game show called "To Tell the Truth." Of course I lied, since lying was the name of the game then, as now. I was not who I said I was. When I walked out in front of millions of television viewers and the celebrities who would question my veracity, I knew (although I was an impostor and not the real Robert McGee -- son of a U.S. Senator, by the way) how to put on a face to fool the faces that would scrutinize my smallest expressions for any sign of feigning. Although these celebrities knew the game well, I beat them at the believability game, I am sorry to say. My demeanor or mien (facial expression) was in sync with my words, an ability to act that I didn't know I had. I was an all-American boy -- a student at an elite Jesuit boys' prep school, the captain of the basketball team, my father (Edward) a lawyer -- learning the national pastime of seemingly being "perfectly honest" as I lied. And it worked, and the $250 that I won -- I almost said earned -- set me on a path that led to a fork in the road that I took. When I picked this fork up, it hissed and tried to bite me with its poisonous forked tongue. So I quickly threw it down. It was then I realized that my thirty pieces of silver ($250) were a betrayal that would haunt me forever if I didn't try to become a genuine actor.
Soon I would come to realize that my Jesuit schooling was preparing me to be "a man for all seasons." It had nothing to do with beer and girls. It was all about becoming a member of the ruling class. In other words, a man with a forked tongue who could speak out of both sides of his mouth to suit the occasion. Learning this skill would lead me to the social heights where I could smoothly move among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, elites and regular people, defense attorneys and prosecutors, actors and audiences, alleged victims and alleged victimizers, etc. Nothing would be foreign to me, except myself, for I could become a perfect hypocrite, a double-man, my own doppelganger without a shadow.
I could become another judge-penitent like Albert Camus' Jean-Baptiste Clamence in his novel, The Fall, and take up a double profession, become double-faced and rich in the process. Perhaps I could join the CIA and "sincerely" follow its motto: "And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).