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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/11/20

The Powerful and Obnoxious Odor of Mendacity

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"Mendacity is a system we live in."

- Paul Newman, playing Brick in Tennessee Williams', Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

A profusion of philosophical, psychological, and political ink has been spent on the subject of lying and liars. The toll in loves lost and relationships destroyed from lying is incalculable. All the war dead are victims of government lies; what Marine Major General Smedley Butler called a "racket." Lies are poison, slow or quick working, and they kill both body and soul.

We are living in a country of lies. A country where propaganda is disseminated around the clock and lies are the air we breathe. Is it any wonder that most people are confused as to what to believe and whom to trust? But it goes much deeper.

I have recently read a number of perceptive, truthful articles that have gotten me thinking further about this subject, although I must add that I have been preoccupied with the issue since I was very young and my father took me to see Pinocchio in the movie theater and subsequently told me improvised Pinocchio stories before bedtime. Whether he knew it or not - and I think he knew - he set me on a lifetime's quest to try to distinguish truth from lies and embrace the former. Then as a teenager, I appeared on a very popular television show, To Tell the Truth. I was recruited to lie, to play the part of an impostor, which I did quite well. I lied for the money and probably would have made a good lying politician if fate hadn't interceded. It was only later that my actions and the show's title kept reverberating through my mind, echoing down my days to the present and my interest in truth, lies, and propaganda. From my father came a love for the redeeming nature of stories.


"More and more often there is embarrassment all around," wrote Walter Benjamin in The Storyteller, "when the wish to hear a story is expressed. It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences."


It was getting dark on the street as the young man emerged from his high school on New York's Upper East Side after basketball practice. He had lost track of time as he dreamed his basketball dreams and headed to the subway for the long ride home. It was December, 1961. A man, dressed in a cashmere overcoat and carrying a silver bowl, was walking his dog on the street. The boy asked him for the time. The man told him, adding with a grin that his watch always ran fast. The boy recognized the grin from what seemed like a dream. He pet the man's dog, and the man asked him about the imposing school next to them. He asked the boy his name and the boy said "Eddie." While the dog did its business in the street, they chatted for a few minutes. The man wished him luck with his basketball and said his name was Paul. As the boy hustled toward the subway, Paul Newman shouted after him, "See you later, Fast Eddie."

The next week the boy went to see Paul Newman playing Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler. He always remembered Paul's words about mendacity and his words from The Hustler:

Fast Eddie: How should I play that one, Bert? Play it safe? That's the way you always told me to play it: safe" play the percentage. Well, here we go: fast and loose. One ball, corner pocket. Yeah, percentage players die broke, too, don't they, Bert?

Lies are a common way of playing it safe. Except they kill the liar.


In an article by Mike Whitney, "Betrayal, Infuriating Betrayal," in which he writes about the Democrats' ongoing efforts - Russia-gate, etc. - to remove Trump from the presidency, efforts based on a string of lies they know to be lies [ my emphasis] and have been proven to be so, he wonders thus toward the end:

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Edward Curtin is a widely published author. His new book is Seeking Truth in A Country of Lies - His website is

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