Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blogging & Ethics Part II: ELSI--Tall Tales, Truthiness, and Big Hits!

By Chiara

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.

Tall Tales

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.


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.

Big Hits

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.

My Impression

All I can say is: I am Chiara Baschetti!

Here I am in my off hours:

Here I am at work!

Please visit my Homepage! Facebook! See my ImageProfile!
You can contact me through one of my agencies!
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!


angie nader said...

at first i was confused...then i got it..i think,loool

Chiara said...

Angie Nader--good! LOL :) Oh wait, are you suggesting I'm not Chiara Baschetti? LOL :) :P

ellen557 said...

Lol this is still the best post e.v.e.r :D (so good that I felt the need to spell it like that mwahaha ;] )

Chiara said...

Ellen--LOL :) It was one of the most fun and easiest to write e.v.e.r! :)

single4now said...

I remember this! :P Can't fool me twice!

Chiara said...

Single4now--Pardon? Is there a hint of doubt in your comment? No fashion show for you, then! LOL :) :P

Kate said...

You had me until I saw your home in Spain. This one I remember :-) ... but without the recognition I would just have though: What a lucky girl! :-)
October 30, 2009 6:45 PM

Medina said...

You did a great informing post Chiara. I am really impressed by how creative you are. You are not only a blogger but I can nominate you to be a novelist. You took me at first to believe that you are really the model Chiara LOL.

In relation to the theme of the post, I actually did not have such an experience. I think such a story could happen usually in very different contexts. It could happen in long distance love relationships. It could happen to everyone especially in the Saudi society where the society is to a large extent segregating men and women. So, many Saudis, both males and females may fall in love over the internet. And you can imagine that some people could use such techniques that you have mentioned in the post at first for different reasons. The first reason is related to the mutual trust. So he/she chooses to hide his/her real identity to feel more secured and to test how much sincere he/she is about such relation.
October 30, 2009 11:36 PM

Khalid said...

I liked your sense of humor, will you invite me for a cup of royal atay in your palace? I'm waiting to receive the flight ticket in my mail :) You are generous too...

BTW, I think frauds exist everywhere... What do others think?

This is interesting; Please let us know when the short story is published in the media; we look forward to watching/hearing it --is it going to be this year?

True madina. Thus I ask her,, have you thought before of writing a novel? Do you prefer Jostein Gaarder's or J K Rowling's style? ah, I know it, Agatha Christie is an apotheosis :) an ideal candidate hence.

Back to the invitation, the herbs in the tea smell wonderful. May i know how you make it, or are the ingredients secret? I enjoyed the post immensely, and I'm sure I'll enjoy the invitation in your mansion too.
October 31, 2009 3:09 AM

Qusay said...

Oh Dear Chiara, I knew that person was an impostor the moment they commented on the blog, I mean Paulo Coelho and I were once mutual friends on twitter, but the spammers had him delete everyone and start from the beginning... he has not gotten to me yet :(

Anyhow, you did get me with the first two pictures of yourself... good one, but why is your summer house in such a mess? I know someone who can renovate it for your for a very good price, I bet it was a bargain in the first place, and if you need any ghost busters let me know also.

Good posting as usual Chiara, have a good day :)
October 31, 2009 3:18 AM

Save the Women said...

That is a very weird thing to have happened.
I'm sorry now I missed those posts. Sounds like a detective story!
October 31, 2009 4:32 AM

Chiara said...

Kate--Welcome and thank you for the comment. The Al-hambra is splendid isn't it! Would I have kept you going longer with a picture of the Escorial? LOL :) Such a woman would be lucky indeed--except for being a second wife to King Mohamed VI's first wife, Princess Lalla Salma!

Medina--Thank you for your kind words. I certainly do wish I worked the runway in Milan! A novel, what a great idea! I'll keep you posted! LOL :)

It is true that such deceptions can be perpetrated for a number of reasons, including the love scenarios you describe--with people both trying to be self-protective and yet worried about being duped too. Others are more sinister, as in online pedophilia rings, and some start out as nasty high school "pranks" that seriously undermine someone's self-esteem to the point of suicide as has happened a number of times in the US. As for the purpose of this tall tale, it may well have been multi-fold.

Khalid--Of course you are invited for a cup of atay at the palace of your choice! I shall have Royal Air Maroc issue you an open ticket immediately, just fill in the destination and date yourself. I will prepare the secret royal blend of herbs myself, but you will forgive me if I have the servants prepare the actual tea. Based on a misadventure I had last night at about midnight, it seems I cannot boil water without scalding my hand both palm and back. Oh, the pain! From now on I accept that such high level culinary skills are best left to the professionals.

Jostein Gaardner is definitely more my style, though JK and I take tea regularly at Harrods--where we have had nary a spill! LOL :)
Thanks for your comment, and I agree, unfortunately fraud can happen anywhere there are people. Perhaps others will share their impressions and experiences.

Qusay--are you suggesting that the highest echelons of Saudi are NOT clamouring for me to help them publish their intimate secrets on FHWS? I'm shocked!!! Perhaps you have been living out of Saudi too long to be aware, or you are feeling too rejected by Paulo. He sent me a twitter the other day--I'll remind him to put you back in his twitter list.

As to the summer home, yes it is a bit of a shambles, and please email the info about your restorers and ghost busters. Let's just leave the Alaoui dynasty ghosts to do as they please, I have enough problems with computer jinns already!
Thanks for your comment! LOL :)

I'm looking forward to other reactions!
October 31, 2009 4:34 AM

NidalM said...

And I am Rafael Nidal

Here is me flashing my biceps for the benefit of my female fans

And here is me doing something very unhygienic with my racket

And check out the fish I caught!

(You had me going until the fish ;P)
October 31, 2009 9:25 AM

Ellen said...

I honestly just commented so I could say a big LOL hahahhaha! Seriously this was one of the funniest posts ever. I'm also very proud of your fishing skills!
October 31, 2009 9:34 AM

Chiara said...

Nidal/Rafael--More female fans? After the hearts that throbbed at your Desis, Multiculturalism, Saudization, and Marriage Part I and II posts (Sept 25/27 respectively)? Please, there is only so much the female readers of FHWS can bear. ;) :)

I know that athletes/engineers are not overly respectful of the biological sciences, and always want to prove that theirs is bigger--the fish they caught that is--but, um, that is a mammal you caught! In honour of your orca, I should make a Moby Dick joke, but since I don't remember if an orca (killer whale) can take a great white, I'm just going to leave it alone. LOL :)

Thanks for your lovely linking!

Ellen--thank you for your comment, but do I detect a note of disbelief in your laughter? No, I thought not. LOL :)

The fish made a delicious tagine with lemon and olives, thank you! And it's snout a lovely decoration in our palace on the Atlantic Coast at Skhirat until the summer home is properly restored with Qusay's help.

I gather you haven't had a similar experience on either of your 2 blogs. LOL :) Thanks for commenting!
October 31, 2009 10:40 PM

Chiara said...

STW--Thank you for your comment, which just appeared! You can certainly read the September posts, and put your detective skills to work! LOL :) You are right it is weird, and someone went to a lot of effort to be this weird! :)
October 31, 2009 10:45 PM

Anthrogeek 10 said...

Great post...I can see how this all fits into the blogging world. It's great that you tackled the issue with humor because it was more fun and *intriguing* to read.

I guess the thing about ethics in blogging is that the world wide web has a mass of people who want to give and take different things from it.
November 1, 2009 11:13 AM

Anthrogeek 10 said...

Any other bloggers have a similar experience?

Not really. I don't think I have enough people stopping by my blog these days to have any "yarn spun".

How did you detect the faux behind the faux?

I think it was the phoniness of it all. Gut feeling...?I dont know actually.

Any one else have such a tall tale experience in real life?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions?

No to the first q.
That last part was funny Chiara. I am sorry you were almost taken. :O

November 1, 2009 7:27 PM

Srinivas said...

very very informative post

these are the qualities that should be observed by any blogger / commenter.

@chiara - is it your residence? it looks like a palace, also the garden :o
November 2, 2009 7:29 AM

Chiara said...

Salma--Thank you and thank you for comment!
"I guess the thing about ethics in blogging is that the world wide web has a mass of people who want to give and take different things from it."
Extremely well put!

Anthrogeek--LOL :) about the "yarn spun". As you pointed out, gut instinct and phoniness detector are often reliable. The other thing that made both Tara and I cautious from the beginning is the idea I mentioned in Part I, about the ethical stance that one owes to the topic of the post, in this case the VIP. It would not be ethical to publish such important information about a living public figure without corroboration and proof. In this case, a blog must meet the highest journalistic, or academic standards. So, I can say I was appropriately cautious from the beginning, without wishing to be unfair or unkind to someone who may have been offbalance.
November 3, 2009 2:34 AM

Chiara said...

Srinivas--Thank you for your high praise. Coming from someone as consistently fair and even handed as yourself that is a true compliment. Thank you also for giving me a chance to share the true identities of the photos from the "Moroccan" part of the post:

1 & 2 are palaces of the King of Morocco, currently King Mohamed VI, the 1st in Rabat, and the 2nd near Fes. Each reflects the distinct architecture, history, and climate of each of these Imperial Cities. The other Imperial Cities are Marrakesh, and Meknes (near Fes). I have visited the first 3, but not Meknes--yet! LOL :)

the 3rd photo is of the Al-Hambra in Granada, Andalusia (Al-Andalus), Spain, and is truly stupendous with magnificent gardens and architecture. It was built by the Muslim rulers of Al-Andalus in the mid 14th century, and the part shown here was added during the mid 16th century in the Renaissance style by Carlos V, one of the Catholic Kings of Spain who ruled after the Muslims were driven out. I visited and would love to return there! Meanwhile wiki has a very good article:

The first garden is in a home in Marrakesh; and the second is "le Parc de la Ligue Arabe" (the Arab League Park), a huge park in Casablanca where many people go for an evening stroll, and students go to study and memorize their lessons. Before Moroccan independence in 1956 it was named after the Marchel Lyautey who helped subdue Morocco to become a Protectorate in 1912, and was its first and longest Governor with the greatest impact socially.

The "summer house" is not mine either, alas, but is in a beautiful setting on the Mediterranean.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this information!
November 3, 2009 2:35 AM

Nzingha said...

Funny enough I just read about this research that grumpy people are less likely to believe tales... well I admit it I'm grumpy lol

I've had some reach out to me and I've had to step back because my gut was telling me to leave them alone. The more people talk the more the let little things in that say something different than their words. I've found that questioning it all means I won't stick my neck out to the wrong person.
November 3, 2009 9:03 PM

NidalM said...

It appears I have been thoroughly out-jousted by your bringing out the fact that whales are indeed, mammals.

As for any female fans... speak to my publicist ;P

November 5, 2009 12:18 PM

Mueen said...

I feel chiara is beautiful than the pictures posted and chiara is not married............I just like the picture............
November 5, 2009 8:17 PM

Chiara said...

Nzingha--thanks for your comment. You are grumpy in a nice way, I'm sure! Oh, so true, sticking one's neck out for the wrong person can result in decapitation! LOL :)

NidalM/Rafael--I hope your publicist is prepared for the pressure! :) :P

Mueen--thank you, and I'm glad you like the picture. My husband does too! :)
November 5, 2009 11:45 PM

Srinivras said...

i too knew the writer / commentor's is a nick name - no islamic can survive that of life

immediately after seeing the post, i referred here to confirm.

good to have some spice in the meal

gurudEva dayaa karo deena jane
November 9, 2009 3:59 AM

Single4now said...

lol! You fooled me as well until I saw the home you were supposedly restoring. :D Although, the husband video made me wonder if you are exaggerating.

I seem to trust people a little too easily. I have to try hard to keep my life a secret but since I've started blogging, I've tried to limit the information I give out since I never know who is reading. :)

It's sad that people have so much time on their hands to try and fool people trying to help others make an informed decision about marriage and support those who have problems in their marriage. I guess everyone has a different sense of humour. Some more foul than others.

I'm glad you were able to determine the truth. Don't let it keep you all from continuing the good work. MashaAllah. :D
November 16, 2009 7:20 AM

Chiara said...

Single4now--LOL :) Yes the beach home is going to require a lot of work! :) :P

Nice blog by the way, where I have blurked many a time.

True that some people, even those who pride themselves on their sense of humour, are lacking in true wit, and some use humour to cover malicious intent.

Thank you for your kind words.
November 16, 2009 6:56 PM

Single4now said...

Chiara - inshaAllah, you'll drop by and post more comments. :D
November 17, 2009 1:47 AM

Chiara said...

Single4now--4sure! LOL :)

November 17, 2009 7:58 PM


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