Sex, Lies, and Videotape
The first I heard of the argument that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state was on Focus-on-the-Family’s James Dotson’s radio show. That was about three weeks ago. I thought it strange that a man who, as far as I know, had never visited Schiavo could make an assertion of her consciousness so baldly and in the face of a medical and legal near-unanimity the other way.
This is so tragic, and so manipulative: Schiavo’s own family has been convinced. They want so much to believe that she is conscious of them that they interpret blinks and involuntary utterances as attempts to communicate.
Not only they: Senator Bill Frist (whose reputation as a surgeon is stellar–though this instance leads one to question his judgment) watched videotapes of Schiavo and pronounced (according to The Washington Post):
“I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office,” he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. “She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.”
The very idea! Anyone, in our media-savvy world should know that an edited videotape (even one unedited) is no vehicle for diagnosis–and Frist surely knew that what he was watching was not raw footage.
But he wanted to believe the lie. For his own purposes, Frist wants it to be true, so was predisposed to believe and not to question. And the tape gave him just enough of an opening, one his belief could expand into “truth.”
Now, I don’t care about Dotson or Frist. Their agendas and beliefs are not things I care about. But Schiavo’s family? It makes me sad that they have come to this state. These poor people have wanted something so much that they now believe that simply believing will make it true. With them, I sympathize.
Which brings me to the third of my title triumvirate.
Lying and wanting to believe lies are integrally connected. When you come right down to it, few people lie outright to deceive others. Most liars are also deceiving themselves, making a case in defense of what they hold most dear–evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Take, for example, this lie: “Aaron Barlow is a sex offender.”
Do a Google search: you will find over 1,000 entries backing up the lie. For, yes, there is an Aaron Barlow who sent emails fantasizing about child molestation. He is quoted as writing:
I wish we could get our hands on a baby or a girl and have some real fun.
That “Aaron Barlow,” however, is half my age and lives an ocean away from my home.
Still, if someone wants to slander me, they can repeat the statement “Aaron Barlow is a sex offender,” knowing that it is true but being unwilling to look any further–to determine wheter or not I am that Aaron Barlow. With that, they could dismiss me and anything I may say–and there is very little I could do about it. The connection of the names is enough; there’s no easy refutation to the charge that can’t be made to sound like a weasel.
Take, on the other hand, this lie: “Aaron Barlow was a colonel in the Revolution.”
Your Google search would tell you that’s true (not me, though: my great-great-great-great-grandfather) with over 750 hits. Here, however, the argument against it being me is way too clear: I would have to be over 250 years old. My refutation of the lie would be simple and clear. No one could roll their eyes and say I am “just trying to get out of it… why don’t you fess up and accept responsibility?”
Both lies are easily provable as lies… but the first can be argued as true using implication, innuendo, and a refusal to look beyond the immediate. The second? No one would bother to argue it–for one thing, belief in it would not further any agenda (whereas, for someone wishing to discredit me, the first lie would).
If there’s a possible way to make something seem true to our beliefs, we will make it seem so–even in the face of evidence to the contrary. All that’s need is a “well, it could be true” for people to decide that something is true.
For me, it’s just an annoyance, though, that someone in England with my name is a convicted pervert. The connection and the lie (if it were told) don’t mean much.
In the Schiavo case, however, the lie is destroying a family of good, kind people (not to mention what it is doing to our political fabric).
And, again, that is tragic.