Monday, 10 November 2008

The Unbearable Weight of Being (a Liar)

Nov 10th, 2008

Let me describe you one of the most successful, at least in my opinion, sketch of Hidden Camera.

You know, those TV shows where people are “forced” into situations that exploit or maximize their natural reactions, filmed without their knowledge and later shown with their permission.

In this particular sketch, I cannot recall the exact year, but I think it happened in the late eighties, early nineties, and was broadcast in the Portuguese RTP1.

The plot was very simple: a fake TV crew arrives late on scene to do a report on a supposed suicide, the “victim” is approached and told that they would face unemployment if they didn’t return home with the news, and so was asked to come up with something about the suicide so that they could get away with it.

The crew then would get an interview with a witness who had “seen” it happening, and nobody would be wiser.

Or, saying it as they said it, we are desperate, so won’t you please, please lie for us? Pretty please?

The first part of the interview was to get the victim to come up with as much detail as possible about the event, such as gender, timings, clothing, reasons, etc. And once the bait taken, just reel it in.

This, was done by a person, member of the team, who approached the interview, and started to pay close attention to the interview. A normal bystander.

And as soon as the “victim” had had all the major facts out in the open, he would then interrupt with a very innocent “Sorry, are you talking about the suicide that happened an hour ago? If you are, I have to say that what this person is saying is not correct at all. I saw the whole thing. It wasn’t a man, it was a woman. And she certainly was wearing a yellow jersey, not a red one”.

Or something similar just to contradict the “victim”. You get the picture.

Now what was the reaction of the victim?

Before him was, apparently, someone who had seen it all, the exact fit for the interview. Just had simply to step aside, and say, “Well, it seems got here exactly who you were looking for, so you all have a nice day and hope to watch later tonight, bye”.

But did the “victims” do that? Obviously not.

Confronted by someone who blatantly called the bluff, and also before two people (the reporter and cameraman) who the “victim” knew that what they knew that was all baloney, the natural reaction was to stick to the story.

Firmly. Justifying each and every statement just made, taking offense at the falsehood “innuendo”, and throwing back the accusation of lack of honesty back to the accusing party.

Admit to be lying? Over my dead body, I say.

The whole world knew, except the “victim”, that she was lying.

But what if it didn’t? Once caught in a lie, the natural human reaction is to let it snowball into something where the only facts that matter are those involving one’s honor.

Which, by the way, the harder is the attempt to whitewash it the more tainted it becomes. Horribly stained. And yet, it’s done time and time again.

No lessons learned here, folks.

To step forward and assume a deliberate mistake is almost a physical impossibility.

And the higher the stakes, the higher the conviction with which the falsity is defended. The higher the conviction, the more intense is the fight, the bigger the problem becomes.

Until you reach that point of no return. You’re left between a wall and a hard place, and like a cornered rat, you simply stop fighting for a reason and start fighting to stay alive.

And keep on fighting until your dying days.

 Sounds familiar?

But when one knows one’s lying and one knows that everyone knows that one’s lying, then the weight upon one’s shoulder becomes enormous. Gigantic. From self-consciousness. From imagined mockery, be it real, be it just that, imagined.

And that is the unbearable weight of being a liar.


  1. I agree that is how it goes with the snowball effect and lies, but what I can never fathom out is if they actually start to beleive their own lies or if the moral indignation with which they react to being called a liar is just more bluff or is as I said it becomes genuine because they now actually beleive their own lies?
    Would value your opionion on that.

  2. SYM,

    You can fool a few people the whole time. I even think that you can fool all the people all the time. What you can't do, is fool yourself for a minute. May come up with a thousand excuses and justifications, but they will remain just that, excuses and justifications of something you know you did.

    I tell who I know, that I only want to have a conscience as clear as the one that enables me to look directly into a child's eyes. Especially if they are my offspring. Not because of their innocence, but because they are the most cruel of mirrors. They don't simply reflect your image. They add that little whatever that, when you're guilty, chills your inner bones.

    Nice to know that one's opinion is valued.

    Thank you


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