Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Liars' Olympics

I'm still trying to grow up, to understand more of the world. In intellectual terms, growing up = destruction. I started life with ideas about how the world works. Then I found out my ideas were, almost invariably, wrong. Experience charged into my head like a bulldozer, destroying my ideas and replacing them with facts.

I thought honesty and openness were the best—the only moral—way to deal with others. This idea appealed to me because I'm lazy and I have a simple mind. It is, however, completely wrong. Deception is essential in human relationships, and people who pretend otherwise are often the worst deceivers of all. 

Robert Greene explains the value of deception in his book, The 48 Laws of Power:

Power requires the ability to play with appearances. To this end you must learn to wear many masks and keep a bag full of deceptive tricks. Deception and masquerade should not be seen as ugly or immoral. All human interaction requires deception on many levels, and in some ways what separates humans from animals is our ability to lie and deceive. In Greek myths, in India's Mahabharata cycle, in the Middle Eastern epic of Gilgamesh, it is the privilege of the gods to use deceptive arts; a great man, Odysseus for instance, was judged by his ability to rival the craftiness of the gods, stealing some of their divine power by matching them in wits and deception. Deception is a developed art of civilization and the most potent weapon in the game of power. 

Deception being a crucial life skill, it's worth studying people who are good at it. In appreciation of her spectacular achievement in this competition, I award the 2011 Gold Medal in Lying to Laura Schlessinger, also known as "Doctor Laura." I will not refer to her as "Doctor," because she is an entertainer, and not a physician or counselor. No one with a serious problem should seek her advice, under any circumstances. Because I like her, I'll call her "Laura." Why not? Her last name is too long.

I like Laura. Her radio show was the perfect thing to listen to during long hours at the desk. Her conversations resembled the Inquisition or Perry Mason cross-exam with her callers. Her therapeutic approach can be summarized thusly: "What's your problem? Yes, yes, right. Well, clearly it's your own fault!" The only callers who got off easy were the very young and the terminally ill. This rock-em, sock-em action was a tart antidote to the whiny blame-game of the 1990s.

I read a couple of Laura's "books," and occasionally she got in a good paragraph or two. They weren't as interesting as Laura's public persona itself, so I read Vicki Bane's delightful biography of the woman behind the microphone. 

This week as I browsed Amazon, I saw a link to a new book by Laura, Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land): Overcoming Betrayal and Dealing with Revenge. Love the title. I clicked into the sample pages and in three seconds, I witnessed a magnificent, breathtaking lie. 

To set this up: In the 1970s, Laura broke into radio by "sleeping her way to the top" with an established professional named Bill Balance. In the late 90s, Balance released nude photos of Laura which went all over the internet. Laura first claimed that the photos were fake, then sued Balance and and his online publisher for "invasion of privacy." You can see more detail on this on the Laura Wikipedia page.

Now, back to the new book. Laura makes this highly questionable claim:  The photos with a sweet expression and bottom covered were indeed me, but disgusting pictures appropriate for Hustler, bottom uncovered, were manufactured.

If this were the olympics, that sentence would get a unanimous 10 score from the judges! It is awesome on several levels at once. If, as I suspect, it's not true, then it's time to watch and learn from a seasoned professional, who operates at a level far above the competition. 

It's one thing to lie about something only a few people know about. It's another to lie about something when nailing you will be difficult [Bill Clinton thought he was home free, until he discovered DNA testing and a sticky dress]. But to lie—in print—about something the whole world has known about for twelve years, this is the zenith of ambition. Laura, I stand before my computer and applaud. 
In case you haven't seen them, one look at Bill Balance's photos may raise doubts about Laura's claim. You can see the photos in one second by typing her name into Google Images. If you'd rather not look, don't worry. We can examine the evidence without any depiction of naughty bits. 

Issue #1: Why would anyone care? Breasts are cleaner than "bottoms?" 

Issue #2: She's not entirely "covered." Even the "sweet" photos of Laura show her jeans departing for her ankles. More on ankles ahead.

Issue #3: She already admitted the photos were real. When the photos first surfaced, Laura issued a statement that they were [presumably all] fakes. Later, when this did not prove plausible, she reversed that position by admitting she'd posed for them and by suing for invasion of privacy. Someone faking nude photos of her would not be an invasion of privacy, because nothing "private" would be revealed.

Issue #4: They don't look fake. Sure, I'm not an expert, but nothing looks out of whack here. Laura's bottomless body looks just like her breast-only body. There are people who study photoshop fakery, and I haven't seen any expert claim Bill's photos were "manufactured" with common software.

Issue #5: Laura doesn't like her ankles. She said on her show that her ankles are thick, that her calves go straight into her feet, or words to that effect. I can understand why this would bother her, because she works out every day and the rest of her body is tiny. So if the photos show thin, dainty ankles, they're probably someone else's. Check 'em out:

Issue #5: Great liars know they are lying, and do their best to (a) cover their tracks and (b) prepare for denial if they are caught. Laura covers both bases by (a) waiting until Bill Balance is dead to claim some of his photos were fake, and (b) writing "disgusting photos . . . were manufactured," and leaving out the source, so if someone calls her on it, she can point to an image from the internet like this one, which was altered, but to add the collar, not subtract her pants.

Or she can say, truthfully, that the original photos were manufactured. The process by which they were manufactured: Laura got naked, Bill pointed his camera at her, pressed the shutter and 7-11 developed the film [these were the good old days, folks]. 

In addition to implausibility, Laura provides us exhilarating hypocrisy on the side. If a female caller told her a similar story, she'd require hospitalization when she hung up. For dessert, we feast on Laura's unapologetic self-pity. People who are obsessed with loyalty and betrayal are a special breed. I've been lectured on this subject many times, and the lecturers had one thing in common: none of them benefitted me in any way commensurate to their demands for loyalty. These people were dead set on getting what they deserved, but they recognized no obligations to others. 

Now I promise you, neither Laura nor anyone handling her business is stupid. They anticipated these suspicions, but they had the chutzpah to put the book out anyway. They did it because they could, and their skill soars over me like the space shuttle. Onward to the stars, brave explorers!

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