TRUTH TO WRITERS, POLITICIANS AND NORMAL PEOPLE
So, baring the return of the hanging chads, the oft-predicted (but so far nonexistent) voter fraud, or a glitch with Tagg Romney’s voting machines, it looks like the election season is FINALLY coming to a close soon.
The past two years have been a steady stream of campaign stump babble, pundit analysis and snarky commentary om all of it, punctuated with much hand-wringing by those who profess the most passion for the campaogns, yet seem to know the least about what is actually going on. Why? Because the truth is what politicians make it. When writers create “truth”, it’s called world building. When our elected officials do it, it’s called democracy.
Because I filter eveything through the prism of THE WRITER, I’ve been wondering what the art of politicking has to say that will inform the art of writing. Obviously, fact-checkers have put in long hours trying to debunk false or misleading claims by the various candidates, but it doesn’t seem to slow anyone down. People speaking on behalf of the Romney campaign have even said they won’t let fact-checkers stand in the way of getting their message out. Candidates in both parties, at all levels, can play fast and loose with truth because it works. People don’t always ask the right questions.
But we keep voting for them. Where’s the disincentive? Somebody’s going to get elected, no matter what.
In contrast, we tell people to read critically, don’t trust everything you read. If a writer makes something up, we, the readers, can call her out. We can stop buying her books. (Or shell out for a sweet book deal on a different book. You’re a lucky man, James Frey.) We have choices about who we want to read.
But we don’t really have choices about who to vote for. You either vote for THIS ONE or THE OTHER ONE. Or you just don’t vote.
If you vote for THIS ONE, you’ve validated the strategy of not telling the truth. If you don’t vote at all, well, then lying still wins because at least you didn’t vote for THE OTHER ONE. Even if you do vote for THE OTHER ONE, at this point, you don’t know if THE OTHER ONE is any more honest than THIS ONE, How do you know what’s true anyway?
THE WRITER and THE POLITICIAN are, to a large extent, the same. Both use words to sell a product: a candidate or a story. Both see their careers defined by those words. George H.W. Bush pledges “no new taxes”, then approves some and becomes a ome-termer. George W. Bush is “the decider,” but is accused of being Cheney’s puppet. John Kerry “voted for it before he voted against it.” Clinton “did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
And, at the fork in the political road where THE WRITER kicks THE POLITICIAN’s ass, Joe Biden might have been president twenty years ago had he properly attributed a quote he used to the author who actually came up with it.
John Frey published a memoir that wasn’t a memoir, but got a sweet book deal later. Dan Brown is widely criticized as a “bad” writer, but his books sell bazillions of copies. Shakespeare’s words were so good, his wife must have written them, so the theory goes.
What will the words Obama and Romney and their surrogates have uttered this campaign season do to their careers? We’ll find out Tuesday.
And what about us mere mortals? Those among us who get out and see nature, rather than typing on a computer all day like THE WRITER or shaking endless clammy hands at rubber chicken dinners like THE POLITICIAN. How do they define “truth”?
I think basically, truth is whatever comes out of that personal little coffee filter we all have in our brains. Truth is like snowflakes. No two are alike.
We’re all screwed.