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February 27, 2005 - Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Words of Mass Deception (WMD's)

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World’s Laziest Journalist

February 27, 2005

By Bob Patterson


Dannebrog, Nebraska is home of the Liars Hall of Fame.  Dannebrog is near Grand Island.  We wonder if they have an annual induction ceremony and if the media fact checks their news releases very closely.  Can’t you just see them announcing that a famous person was going to be present when he or she inducted into that Hall of Fame, and then when it doesn’t happen, they’d just say: “Fooled ya with a fib!”


We’d love to visit the Liars Hall of Fame and do a column about the experience.  Do they have an annual event or awards show?  How do they select their annual winners?  Do they have experts like Al Franken, author of Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and Bill O’Reilly, the “No Spin” guy, on a committee that selects the winners each year?  (Wouldn’t you love to see those two working together on such a committee?)


Do they consider one big lie a better award winner than someone who produces a constant unrelenting series of small fibs?


Do they consider campaign promises that are not adhered to, a lie, or are they to be exempt like the lines an actor says in a play or film.  We all know that Sean Connery is the actor’s name, but we all love to hear him say: “Bond, James Bond.”  Is that a lie?  Who do you think of when someone says the name James Bond? 


We’ve read somewhere that lie detectors are not as reliable as they used to be.  A good liar can fake out a lie detector machine.  In fact we were told that lie detector tests are no longer considered admissible as evidence.  Was that true, or was someone just trying to see how gullible this columnist is? 


Saki (AKA H. H. Munro) may have explained the liar’s philosophy when he wrote: “A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.”  [The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations edited by Robert Andrews, p. 521]


A German fellow wrote:  “ … they (the great masses of the people) more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big.”  He went on to say “they will not be able to believe in the possibility of such monstrous effrontery and infamous misrepresentation in others….”


Obviously the folks at the Liars Hall of Fame not only know it is possible, they try to cash in on it, in the true spirit of American enterprise.


We’ve heard Bill O’Reilly say that it is not a lie if you believe what you say.  He did not explain where folks who are delusional would be rated on the truth scale. 


We know of a retired teacher who, when he went to the bank to turn in a half of a large denominational bill, in all honesty had to tell the clerk that his dog had eaten the other part of it.


Lies are not to be confused with tall tales.  We’ve done some Googling but can’t find any contemporary reference to the annual competition.  Isn’t (or wasn’t) the annual tall tale competition called the Liar’s Competition?  As we recall one year the winning entry was about a grandfather clock that was so old the pendulum’s shadow had worn a grove in the wood.


One of the biggest and best known examples of tall tales is Paul Bunyan the famed logger.  A tall tale is so patently false that it is obvious.  A tall tale is for truthfulness as oxymoron is to logic.


If some kindly regular reader of this weekly column (or anyone else for that matter) offers to lend us a Ford Cobra so that we can drive from Los Angeles to New York and back we will cover this year’s Book Expo and chronicle the transcontinental journey online and possibly include a stop at the Liar’s Hall of Fame.  Who knows, maybe another of the regular readers could offer us a crash pad nearby?  (Maybe we’d even get a chance to try the grub at Kristy’s Family Restaurant or the Cookhouse?)


We did one of the first stories on the internet about the Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kansas.  The last we heard it was going to open up in 2005.  A road trip to New York through flyover country is sounding more and more feasible.


For anyone who has ever read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, it’s hard to think of that area of the country, especially southeast Nebraska, without thinking of the beatnik’s classic work of literature (particularly Chapter Four.)


We noticed an AP report in the Los Angeles Time (Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - page E-2) that the original manuscript for On The Road is currently on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art and that the “Road Tour” will take it to the Las Vegas Public Library in March.  Hah!  Guess where one of the next columns will be datelined?


Right after we read that information, Los Angeles was hit, in the early hours of Saturday February 12, by a tremendous rainstorm of such intensity that it woke us up.  We flipped on the radio to hear Music For Nimrods and were astounded to hear that Reverend Dan, the disk jockey for the KXLU show that features vintage Rock’n’Roll music, would begin a reading of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in the next hour.  We stayed awake for that.


The Trucker’s Music Hall of Fame moves around from event to event because it is contained in a truck operated by Joey Holiday.


Quentin Crisp has been quoted as saying (Andrews - op. cit. p.520): “Of course I lie to people.  But I lie altruistically – for our mutual good.  The lie is the basic building block of good manners.  That may seem mildly shocking to a moralist – but then what isn’t?”


The disk jockey’s music library is overflowing with songs about lying, but he has selected CW McCall’s Old Thirty, the song about Highway 30, for this week’s outro music.  We’ll convoy out of here for now.  Come back again next week.  Until then, do not speak with forked tongue and have a good week. 


[If you want to know who said there are lies, damned lies, and statistics; most folks give credit for the phrase to Mark Twain, but . . . that might not be true.  Robert Andrews, in the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations says that Benjamin Disraeli said:  “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics” and that Disraeli was quoted as saying that by Mark Twain in his book Mark Twain Autobiography.  George Seldes in his book The Great Quotations gives credit to Walter Bagehot for this quotation: “There are lies, damned lies, and church statistics.”]



Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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