By Tim Barlow
I was watching a TEDTalk the other week, and the topic was “How to Spot a Liar”, and the speaker, Pamela Meyer, started off her talk by confirming that all of us lie. Quite a bit, in fact. She quoted one study that showed that people lied an average of 3x within one, 10 min conversation. But what really stuck with me was something else she said: “Lying is a cooperative act – A lie has no power by its mere utterance; it’s power emerges when someone else agrees to believe the lie”.
So not only do we all lie, but we, all of us, enable each other to lie. And this seems to be one of the core tenets for “Shattered Glass.” Stephen’s coworkers, editors, and even his readers seem all too willing to engage in the lies, because why? Because he entertained? Because they felt sorry for him? Because he was socially awkward or seemed too innocent or too fragile?
Furthermore, something I noticed in myself while watching was how much I was hoping he would get away with it, that he would somehow wiggle off the hook even as it became more and more clear that his lies were crumbling around him. So even I, in the audience, was enabling the lie to perpetuate. But why? Is it because it’s just so hard to watch a person be told that they’re not trustworthy? Is it too difficult to call out someone’s flawed character? To see their face as they make sense of what’s happening. Is that what I was afraid of?
It’s funny how some of the messy things we all do, are some of the hardest to discuss. We all poop, we all fart in public, we all get jealous and competitive with those we love, we all lust, we all lie, so why isn’t it easier to discuss these things if everyone can relate? Is it an unspoken mutually symbiotic relationship? I won’t tell if you won’t? Or are we afraid that when we try to acknowledge the fact that we all lie, try to bring it out into the open, everyone else will deny it? Oh, you lie? Really, you go number 2? No, I would never do that! What’s wrong with you?! So maybe it’s just better to pretend that we’re all lily white?
Of the many people I know, Craig is one of the best at speaking his mind. Sometimes I’ve marveled at his ability to have the tough conversation, the one that most upper midwesterners would try with all their passive hearts to avoid. Is it this trait that draws him to “Shattered Glass?” A cautionary tale, warning him to stay vigilant? Or does he envision himself as the editor, Chuck Lane, or the other journalist played by Steve Zahn, who valiantly cut down the web of deceit when everyone else is fighting to let it just go on rather than get messy? Does Craig want to be the new star of “Lie to Me: Canton” only on Fox? Or, like his reaction to “Capote” does this all appeal to him more from a motive re-examining, creative writing bent?
There’s something here. I’m not sure what, but there’s a reason we all lie and help others lie while simultaneously claiming that honesty is the most important thing in a relationship. There’s something ticking uniquely in those who want to stop the co-enabling cycle. I’m not sure what. But maybe I’ll just leave it there — I’ve asked a lot of questions and I don’t have the answers, so having you read on would really just encourage me…