Truth Bites

A lie may travel around the world, while the truth is still putting on her boots. But alas, the truth has arrived. That mighty rushing wind felt across the country these last few days, was not a great Nor'easter, but Oprah Winfrey's fierce backpedaling. I read with glee the article in yesterday's L.A. Times entitled, Winfrey Throws Book at Frey.

Unless you live under a rock, you're aware of the high-stakes literary drama surrounding Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, and its subsequent debunking by The Smoking Gun, which has sent tsunami waves through the publishing industry. Here's how the Times framed it:

In an extraordinary live broadcast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the top-rated talk show host admitted that she "made a mistake" in backing Frey, whose harrowing account of his drug addiction and rehabilitation has been questioned by the Smoking Gun website and others. Winfrey had told CNN's Larry King two weeks ago when Frey was a guest on his show that despite allegations that the author had fabricated portions of his account, "the underlying message of redemption in James Frey's memoir still resonates with me."

On Thursday, a somber Winfrey said: "I left the impression that the truth does not matter, and I am deeply sorry about that. But that is not what I believe. And to everyone who has challenged me on this issue of truth, you are absolutely right."

Stop the presses! Attention all journalists and memoir-makers: Truth Matters.

Winfrey, at times visibly angry and tearful, asked Frey why he "felt the need to lie." The audience (many of whom probably purchased the book on Winfrey's recommendation) groaned and gasped at Frey's halting, stuttered admissions that certain facts and characters had been "altered" but that the essence of his memoir was real. "I don't think it is a novel," Frey said of his book, which had initially been offered to publishers, and rejected by many, as fiction. "I still think it's a memoir."

I must say, the pseudo-scholarly debates which have ensued about the differences between memoirs and novels, essential truth and factual truth are absurd. Still, many seem to believe that as long as something "resonates" within a person, facts are irrelevant.

But everywhere I turn, the truth is coming back to bite its detractors. Washington Post columnist, Richard Cohen, put it this way in his article Oprah's Grand Delusion:

Here is where Dr. Phil steps in. He might tell his friend and mentor (Oprah) that there is no redemption without honesty. Treatment, as one expert told me, begins with "owning your life" and not embellishing it for the sake of others or yourself. It was one thing when Frey's tale was believed to be 100 percent true. Now that the lie has been exposed, the message can no longer be about redemption but about concoction -- the lies that addicts tell others, the ones they tell themselves.

The gateway to healing, deliverance and recovery is honesty. How significant is it that a book by a supposed addict, which has purportedly helped so many recovering addicts, is based upon lies.

There's an old saying: The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. In Oprah's case -- and the case of her adoring patients -- the reverse was true: The truth set them free and THEN it made them miserable. In fact, it wasn't the truth at all. So were they really set free to begin with?

I think Oprah's somber admission that she was duped will bring her devotees closer to the truth than most of the psyco-babble crap she's ever endorsed. "I left the impression that the truth does not matter," she said, "and I am deeply sorry about that." Bravo Oprah! (Did I just say that?) Your confession "resonates" within me, babe. Thanks for reminding the world that truth bites.


Ame said...

4:55am? Glad I'm not the only one awake when most people are not!

The truth will either imprison you or set you free - depending on whether you're trying to hide it or whether you let it out.

When my husband finally told me "the whole truth," it did bite, but it also set me free. He said, "I've wanted to tell you, but I didn't want to hurt you." I don't think he ever got that he hurt me when he did it, not when he told me.

Truth always has consequences - good or bad - sometimes both. But the lie will always imprison, require more energy and manipulation than ever perceived, and will always destroy.

And, as Oprah has so vividly shown us all, lies are never isolated to the one keeping them. Like an uncontrolled plague, they keep spreading and growing.

Elaina Avalos said...

I'm actually excited that this happened and that Oprah eventually called him on it although she supported him initially.

I'm excited less for the Oprah psycho-babble crap reason you mentioned Mike but because it's good to see truth actually being pursued as a story. Not sure if that makes sense.

It's more popular to take the pc route on so much out there these days. I thought this story would go down in the "well, that's how he saw it" vein or "well he helped people, didn't he?"
While the fact that he's a liar gets swept under a safe little politcally correct rug.

We seem to prefer (Christians are just as guilty of this) the, it made me feel good route, as opposed to truth. Applying your recent post about reviews fits nicely here too. As does my recent argument with someone over a few politcal issues which she could not supply any evidence for her argument. It was just how she FELT about the situation. I feel I'm the smartest, most beautiful woman in all of Christendom. But, well, there's evidence to the contrary so I can feel it all I want, it doesn't make it true. :)

Okay, I'm babbling...so I shall stop now.

Mike Duran said...

Thanks, gals! Ame, 4:55 AM is nothing for me. I'm a full-fledged member of the insomniac brigade (or is it the zombiewalk?). Elaina, you're right-on about the connection to my previous post. I initially tried to jam both thoughts into one entry...but my posts are long enough as it is.

The Oprah/Frey collision reveals, in part, the chinks in relativism as a practical/workable belief system. Believing only what FEELS good sounds great up front, until it collides with truth - objective truth. This is why the real debate centers around "What is truth?" As long as there are real, concrete, observable, historical facts (i.e. James Frey did not spend three months in jail), their connection to feel-good Oprah-ism will remain tenuous. And until I have evidence (facts/data/criminal records) to prove otherwise, Elaina is the smartest, most beautiful woman in all of Christendom.

michael snyder said...

Another great post, but...my friends all say that I'm the smartest, most beautiful woman in all of Christendom!

Ame said...

My girls tell me all the time I am the MOST beautiful Mommy in the whole WORLD!

Hummm . . . I wonder . . . do you think insomnia was a problem before electricity?

Uhhh . . . back to Truth :) I wonder that one needs to be "teachable" in order to accept truth? When we make life all about "me" then we reserve the right to adapt reality to our own truth, desires, feelings - situationally relative.

Eeeeek! MD - did you say you're a friend of MS?

Elaina Avalos said...

Mike S. all I can say is, you're right, you are the smartest and most beautiful woman in all of Christendom.

I acquiesce...

Mike Duran said...

Ame, I think you're absolutely right about selfishness and self-centeredness being the root of relativism's attraction. In other words, the reason we question and distort objective facts, and place so much emphasis upon feelings, is because we are self-absorbed people. Were we more humble and selfless, we would not cling so rigorously to subjectivity or place so much stock in our own opinions. However, at this stage, Mike's gender confusion seems well beyond the pale of mere opinion.

evandahlke said...

Ilove how Casting Crowns said it in their debut album. In one song he sings these great words, "Stop asking Opera what to do!".
I'm quite amused that she got egg on her face and yet all her "faithful" followers are so swayed by her options they can't see the truth. They will support her even if she enters the temple and sets herself up as god.

Ame said...

Ditto Evan - Oprah has always scarred me b/c she sounds so right but is still off center - she mixes in enough truth to sound good. And the women I know believe her - they are hit and miss at church, but they never miss Oprah - VERY scarry. For example, I think everyone has dismissed that she's not married and even ok'd it - foundational stuff. She says she believes in God, but she's taken what works for her and makes that her god, and people follow her . . . truth adapted to "me."

michael snyder said...

That's right, baby. I'm all about gender relativism!

Pedrique said...

I always thought it was love that bites. At least that's what Def Leppard told me.

Heather Smith said...

Truth isn't always easy, but it sure does ease a nagging conscience. I guess thats where the freedom comes in. God never said this road would be easy, huh?

Mary Yerkes said...

Well said, Mike! Your writing always inspires me.

A book contract should be just around the corner for you...