The esteemed philosopher and dental hygienist Johnny Rotten long ago asked, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” More and more.
Slugger David Ortiz’s presidential selfie screamed smiley spontaneity. Twitter, the counterrevolution to Guttenberg’s rebellion against illiteracy, mimeographed the picture for millions to see. But we didn’t quite see what we thought we saw until we discovered that Big Papi has a promotional deal with cell-phone maker Samsung, who put him up to the stunt. Barack Obama, reduced to gauchely peddling health insurance for the past few months, this week unwittingly morphed into a gadget salesman.
The famous Oscars selfie featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, and other beautiful people apparently came at Samsung’s corporate behest, too. Those guys are phonies for a living, so when we fall for one of their acts we can blame ourselves. The inauthentic moment at the White House appears as a high-tech Amway party, where a reveler — in this case the host — believes himself invited to a celebration only to discover himself at a sale. Why can’t we get a selfie of Obama’s face once he realized he’d been had?
Turnabout’s fair play. “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” the salesman-in-chief repeatedly told us. On April Fool’s Day, he unleashed another Joe Isuzu claim: 7.1 million had signed up for health care through Obamacare. How many have paid? The administration, which guards the privacy of Obamacare numbers like Swiss bankers do their clients, can’t, or won’t, say.
A high school dropout now residing in Russia and a transsexual dwarf currently imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth both managed to pry America’s closely-guarded secrets from their hiding places. The press can’t even drag from the president how many of his 7.1 million have actually purchased the product. He pretends to tell the truth. Journalists pretend to believe him.
Another kind of press, the vanity press — a sort of selfie for wannabe authors — thrives in spite of the wider industry’s troubles. Joseph Stromberg awarded VDM “the rights to my thesis in exchange for the sheer pleasure of documenting and sharing the experience,” which he does at Future Tense. The printing behemoth releases 50,000 books a month. Stuck for time, they don’t proofread any of them, a fact affirmed when Stromberg reads his mischievous insertion: “Is any proofreader actually reading this book before it gets printed? Didn’t think so.”
When not boosting the egos of authors, VDM publishes copy-and-paste jobs straight from the pixels of Wikipedia to the printed page. “By stockpiling the rights to a huge variety of works, automating the entire publishing process, and printing books only if they’re purchased at marked-up prices,” Stromberg observes, “the company can cut overhead to a negligible amount and generate significant profits, even if they sell few copies.” As long as there remains a supply of pretend authors, a supply of pretend publishers will compete to exploit their egos for dollars, or in this case, euros.
While we’re on the subject of truth, the producers of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth tell the Hollywood Reporter that they aim to make a sequel. Producer Lawrence Bender believes that petroleum companies have jedi-mind tricked the public into doubting global warming since the original’s release. “They did a really good job of pushing back and confusing people.” So did the weather. Flint, the center-point of another controversial documentary, suffered through the most bitterly-cold season in its recorded history. The Big Chill is already taken. How about An Inconvenient Truth II: The Thermometer Strikes Back as the sequel’s title?
Duplicity remains a much-vaunted job requirement for large corporations. Alas, they’re so nefarious in their lying that they’ve outsourced it to robots. “This is an important message from National Grid,” a recent early-morning call informed. Like the three previous mornings, I hung up. The caller, C3P0’s sister, contradicted the words. If this were truly an important call, then the president of National Grid, or at least his valet, would have been on the line asking for his $78.59.
The automated voice explaining the importance of the call, which could surely pass a lie detector, provokes a thought: What is deceit if not dehumanization? The way a German vanity press defrauds authors and readers, a designated hitter boldly exploited the president, and the president brazenly deceived the rest of us all represent humanity regarding other humans as something but that. Lies, when revealed, tell us much. The teller conveys to the listener that he is not enough of a person to deal with reality or the teller conveys that he doesn’t regard the listener as a part of his reality.
Lies dehumanize. We lie loudest when we deny this.