As was discussed in Blogging & Ethics Part I: ELSI, most readers, commentators, contributors, and blog owners are trustworthy and ethical. Human activity being what it is, however, sometimes odd things happen. This is the story of one such oddness happening at another blog with which I was associated.
A tall tale is a story with elements that defy credulity, yet is told is if true, and often as if the narrator is a part of the story or the story happened to the narrator.
Those familiar with American literature will recognize some of
Mark Twain’s oeuvre as excellent examples of the genre, notably his first successful story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” which can be read online free at Project Gutenberg, here. Those familiar with current Saudi news will recognize the tall tales or braggadocio of Mazen Abdul-Jawad and their serious legal repercussions. Fishermen will recognize “big fish” stories.
All good tall tales are told as if true, factual, and in a realistic manner with gradually escalating levels of incredulity. The tall tale told to me was no different.
C O M M E N T S
In September, an Anonymous commentator left a comment on one of my posts addressed directly to me, and offering further information about a polygynous second marriage and 2 more children of one of the highly prominent persons addressed in the post. My welcoming response indicated a failure to have found that information in my research, and requested a reference so that the post could be amended if appropriate. This reply resulted in a comment from the second wife herself. She offered to send pictures of her children with the VIP. She was invited to send the photos by email, and also to look into the possibility of a full post on this aspect of the VIP’s story.
The second wife promised to contact me after Eid Al-Fitr, and true to her word she did, first on the blog in the same comment thread, and then by email. (NB all relevant comments were subsequently deleted and the person informed).
Her initial email was very professional yet friendly, copying her husband the VIP. She gave a brief background of how they met, their marriage years, the birth of their 2 children, their divorce, and recent remarriage, which they had been keeping low profile so as to protect the feelings of the first wife. She sent photos of one of the children, as the other was too shy to wish to have a photo posted. Eventually, after some time, the 2nd child agreed to posting a photo. All photos had been approved by the VIP father for media release.
Later, concerned that I had backed away from a personal story about her children, the second wife volunteered that her own short version of their story would appear in the mass media at some time, and about 2 years hence the full version would appear in print. At my request the VIP sent a confirming email and his consent to a post between their own short and long versions appearing at some indeterminant time.
As tall tales go, this was one of the tallest, reaching the highest echelons of Saudi society. It was hard to imagine that people from that far on high had taken any notice of a blog, let alone would be anxious to entrust their family secrets to me, or to do so when they had access to a media empire of their own.
Indeed, there seemed to be a lot of truthiness to the story. Truthiness—the appearance only of truthfulness--is an expression coined by comedian Stephen Colbert, and first aired on the “Word” segment of his nightly faux news program, The Colbert Report. Truthiness from The Word: video for Americans, here; for Canadians, here. Truthiness as a term has become as much a part of the culture as truthiness the phenomenon, as summarized here. There was a whole lot of truthiness in Colbert’s brilliant White House Correspondents’ Dinner performance in 2006:
Whereas Colbert’s truthiness reveals the truth behind the false political discourse, my correspondents’ truthiness seemed to reveal the faux behind the faux. The richissime VIP and his elegant wife were using free email accounts. The emails did not originate geographically from whence they claimed, but from a different continent. The pictures, when submitted to legal level facial matching analysis with a picture of the VIP father, were proven to be false—absolutely no match. Both members of the couple seemed very enthusiastic, even concerned, to publish online at a blog when they could have had access to any media outlet, or even much more high profile blogs.
With each new email, I had increasing remembrances of Soldatensender Calais, the WWII British-run black (highly secret) propaganda radio station--so successful that by the end of the war captured German officers were reporting its news as true information. Even Goebbels, in his diary for 1943, admired the art of its propaganda:
November 28, 1943
In the evening the so-called “Calais Soldiers Broadcast” which evidently originates in England and uses the same wavelength as Radio Station Deutschland when the latter is cut out during air raids, gave us something to worry about. The station does a very clever job of propaganda and from what is put on the air one can gather that the English know exactly what they have destroyed and what not.
Joseph Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries: 1942-1943. trans. Louis P. Lochner (Garden City: Doubleday, 1948)
I also began remembering fondly the excellent online biography of Soldatensender Calais’ originator, the British journalist with the perfect Berliner Deutsch, Sefton Delmer, Black Boomerang: The World War 2 Top Secret British Black Propaganda Operation.
I kept thinking about the ethics post that I had previously planned and had partially written, which normally would have ended with what is now Part I of this double post. I was starting to feel more like a spy-chiatrist than a psychiatrist. A Freudian psychoanalyst would have kept me in hours of therapy working through these “free associations”. Instead, Part II of the planned Ethics post was born.
Curious about who, singular and plural, might be spinning such a yarn--or web if you will—I had started to look at the traffic to the blog. This was a very pleasant experience: so many people stopping in from all parts of the world; so many universities, medical centres, corporations, and individuals from across the globe; so many people interested in the posts. Truth to tell—not truthiness though—there were some surprises. Some people were checking in a phenomenal number of times. Really looking for Breaking News!
It’s all good news, but could there be any connection? Probably not.
All I can say is: I am Chiara Baschetti!
Here I am in my off hours:
Here I am at work!
Good thing I married this fellow:
Here he is at work:
Here is the entrance to our home in Rabat:
Here is our home in Fes:
This is the mosque his father built in Casablanca:
Here is my garden in Marrakech:
This is the one I keep for the little people in Casablanca:
Here is our home in Spain:
This is a summer home we are restoring:
I caught a fish THIS BIG!:
What do you think?
Any other bloggers have a similar experience?
How did you detect the faux behind the faux?
Any one else have such a tall tale experience in real life?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions?
Oh, and do drop in to visit me in one of my palaces! I’ll even put on a fashion show for you!