I read a fair amount of fiction. It relaxes me and allows me to stop thinking about Web Innovation (a decade-long obsession that continues). My wife TiVo's (I want to build a brand who's name becomes a verb, but that's a different post) Oprah every day. I find Oprah pedantic and self-aggrandizing almost every show, but I understand that she is well-loved. My contention is that she's a good person, but too much praise and adoration eventually corrupts even the good among us. Anyway, I digress.
Oprah's latest grandstand is over James Frey's "memoir" called a Million Little Pieces. For those who have not heard (both of you), it has become clear - and indeed James Frey has admitted - that his "memoir" contains a good deal of fiction - which Oprah contends with great anger, should make it a novel, or at least "based on actual events". Apparently Oprah is impressed when outrageous things "actually happen" to people, but is less moved when events happen, but are embellished to make a better story. I've never seen Oprah so haughty and self-righteous as when she continually calls Frey's embellishments "lies". Whatever.
While I don't think it's ok to blatently lie, let's be honest (no, really!). We live in a society that lies (ok, at least embellishes) everyday about everything. A few examples:
- Steve Job's has a legendary "Reality Distortion Field" around him. This is seen as charisma, and panache. My observation (even when looking in the mirror) is that ALL entrepreneurs share this trait to some degree. It's called "spin", and "irrational exuberance", but aren't these just fancy rationalizations for "little lies"?
- Not to pick on Apple, but Macworld podcasts are still featured on my iPod, so it's front-of-mind. The new Intel-based iMacs and MacBookPros are said to be 2-4 times faster than previous Macs. It wasn't that long ago that Apple claimed that the G5 Mac was the fastest PC in the world. How could that be when Intel processors of the same time period were faster. The answer is that benchmarks can be massaged to give you whatever "spec" you want. Again, isn't that really, after all, a lie?
- One final example, not in technology. I will probably regret someday all the bad things I've said about organized religion and my belief that it is the greatest evil man ever created, but it's my "truth" and it's my blog, so deal with it. Our entire country, our history, our leaders decision processes, for cryin' out loud it's even written on our money, that we are "Under God" and predicated on the proposition that we are a country that was built on the notion that "In God we trust". My personal opinion is that this is the world's most elaborate lie. And we want to legislate that our teacher's continue this little fantasy by teaching it as science.
In the end, it's important to tell the truth - as best you can, all the time, no exceptions. But if we're honest with ourselves, objectivity is almost always subjective - to someone. One man's objectivity is another man's bald-faced lie. It's all in the ear of the listener, skewed by personal perception and motive and human frailty and ego, and on and on.
So a final word to Oprah - lighten up, stop worrying about your reputation with your audience. You're loved beyond what anyone person could want, and really just admit that A Million Little Pieces is still a telling of essentially what happened to James Frey. It still makes a very good story, and you ranting about him this week on TV has made some very compelling television, but most of all that rant has made you a lot of money. That, I suspect, is no lie.