Saturday, January 21, 2006

Poetic Justice

It's always satisfying to hear a story about crooks that get tangled in their own stupidity. One of my favorite stories from the world of food service is about the armed robber whose plan was to steal the money, then using the manager's car to make a getaway. All went well until he realized at the last minute that he didn't know how to work a standard-shift transmission. Panic and failure followed. Doesn't take long to catch a robber on foot.

I was reminded of this story by this Jonathan Edelstein post about a couple of writers whose creative imaginations were not quite creative enough.

After reading some comments about the James Frey deception, which a lot of credulous readers seem to have swallowed whole, I was ready to come across a simple tale of right and wrong where the bad guys got what they deserved, one way or another. Steven Levitt, the Freakanomics guy, was snookered as well as Oprah. He's of the opinion that by standing by her man she is kinda preparing for another false-but-true-anyway event.

This brings us to a more serious take on the meme by The Anchoress who points to a good opinion piece by Daniel Henninger on the pages of none other than the Wall Street Journal.

The Anchoress:
He finds the rationalizing and acceptance of “fake but accurate” to be a very troubling indicator of where we are headed as a society....Truth no longer matters. Anything you want to hear, anything that shores up opinion has become your “personal truth.”
Moral relativism holds that there is no “truth.” There is only perspective. It has always struck me as an idea someone came up with while under the influence of cannabis - possibly while eating cheese doodles. Relativism is one of those things that sounds wise and tolerant, “if a man has been raised to believe it is good to kill Jews, then to him it is good, and that is legitimate, even if we do not agree.” In truth, the embrasure of such muddled thinking gives tacit permission for bigotry, persecution and chaos. And it is also, quite simply, a big lie.
We seem to be slipping, very quickly into the thick and clinging bog of feel-good-falsehoodism.

Quite so.

Daniel Henninger:
Maybe the power of personal opinion and personal experience are becoming more valued than facts. As Oprah said, "I believe in James." But for now, the fact people aren't conceding victory to the factoid people without a fight.

Smoking Gun's editor, Bill Bastone, a former Village Voice reporter, told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Frey is "dishonest and unethical." Author Mary Karr cites "the venerable standards of journalism and history" and the damage done to writers "who don't break the ethical code."

But this is old school. The new school poses a competing value called "emotional truth." And right now "A Million Little Pieces" is exhibit A. This tension is clear in the world of Mr. Frey's subject--drug and alcohol abusers.

And so on and so on...
(My emphasis BTW)

At some level I am still amazed at how a simple case of everyday, mindless guile becomes serious grist for smart people.

I still think the whole stir is a tempest in a teapot.

And something in me wants to grin when a writer with The Village Voice on his CV is called "old school."

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