Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

The whole truth and nothing but the truth… more or less



By G.D. Maxwell

"Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well."

— Samuel Butler

"Truth is truth."

— William Shakespeare

"That depends on what the meaning of is is."

— William Jefferson Clinton

Given a fair chance, I’ll usually tell the truth. The biggest problem with the truth is that people are very rarely interested in hearing it. In fact, people are so used to not hearing the truth, truth slips past them like a shadowy apparition, a scurrying mouse in a darkened room you’re not quite sure you really saw.

Don’t believe me? Try this. Next time you dine out, or the time after that if you get lucky next time, tell your waiter the truth when he or she inevitably asks, "How is everything?"

How many times have you overheard the people at the next table – or perhaps at your very own table – complain about the indifferent service, mediocre food and laughable pricing or haute pretension through two courses only to answer with a meek, "Fine; everything’s fine." when faced with that question?

Tell the truth next time. Say something like, "The veal made me wish I were a vegan and whatever was on the side reminded me uncomfortably of what they market as gourmet dog food."

Chances are you’ll get that same vacuous, middle-distance focused stare. Somewhere between the table and the kitchen, the waiter may hesitate and wonder whether he or she actually heard you right.

But I for one still choose truth. Trouble is, I’m never sure which truth: unvarnished or shaded. Yeah, yeah, I know all about sins of omission. But like the restaurant example above, it’s in the shading of truth social discourse is rooted.

I prefer truth simply because I squandered whatever tricks of memory one needs to possess to be a good liar. It doesn’t really matter though. We’ve all been lied to so frequently and so publicly by politicians, captains of industry, marketers, teachers and friends we may as well be living life in a travelling carnival.

Unless you’re a journalist.

Just last week, the National Post – formerly the right-wing rabble rag of Lord Black of Crossharbour, himself as scurrilous a liar as ever bled a company dry – fired Brad Evenson, a senior journalist who covered the world of medicine, for fabricating quotes on a number of his stories. Unlike the novella-length mea culpa published by the New York Times last year when Jason Blair – or Bliar, as he’s come to be known – was found to have pretty well made up whole stories, the Post’s editor cryptically referred to quotes not made by the people cited but stressed no medical information was fabricated.