BEING HONEST IS NATURAL—A PRACTICAL, ACHIEVABLE GOAL FOR SECURING THE STABILITY OF BOTH THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY.

THE NEED TO LIE—A HOAX

A RECENT MOVIE, The Hoax, illustrates the repercussions of telling just one lie. Based on the compelling story about Clifford Irving's unauthorized writing of Howard Hughes's biography, the movie chronicles his erroneous claim that Hughes—who had long refused anyone permission to write his story—gave consent to the biography. The initial lie snowballed, as Irving forged letters with Hughes's signature and plagiarized an unpublished memoir to add verifiable details. Adding lie upon lie, Irving secured a publisher and received a large advance before even writing the book. When Hughes stepped forward to denounce him, Irving admitted his deception, voluntarily returned the money he'd made, and served prison time.

There's been more and more public dialogue lately about the legitimacy of lying, and some people seem to feel that it's sometimes inevitable and natural. One indication is that websites have sprung up lauding the brilliance and purported kindness of "little" lies. Getting caught doesn't appear to deter many ardent or casual prevaricators; you find enthusiastic bloggers claiming, for instance, that the need for employment justifies fabricating a better resume. Along those same lines, on April 26, the dean of admissions of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned, admitting that 28 years ago she was hired under the pretense of having degrees from three institutions—when, in fact, she didn't have one from any of those. Even in much smaller ways, many of us are probably tempted to agree that saying the pie tasted good beats offending the cook, through a desire to spare another's feelings—the lesser of two evils, perhaps.

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May 28, 2007
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