17 March 2012 | You Can Make This Stuff Up

If you accuse someone of being a pedophile, but later take that claim back because you fabricated parts of your accusation, can you defend  yourself by stating that "pedophilia is still a big problem, and I was just bringing attention to it"?

Wicked example, I know, but lately it seems that big media stories about the dastardly deeds of Apple or the Lord's Resistance Army in Africa are galvanizing people with certain claims that don't seem to hold up. But here's the kicker: a little lying doesn't seem to bother people who prefer to stick to their idealogical (and heartstrung) beliefs about things.

I can't say I am defending the Lord's Resistance Army, what with child abductions, forced militarism and rapes in Uganda, but the viral video of "Koney 2012" seems to have run into cooler heads who are not as swayed by the video's emotional appeals as some Western (read white) audiences are. In fact, the veracity of the claims have been called into dispute, mainly by Ugandans themselves who acknowledge the LRA's loathsome past behavior, but are resisting the notion that Western powers need to intervene and take on a group described as a "spent force." Shades of imperialism, go some of the criticisms: the need for the West to go in and save the poor Africans.

Additionally, the group responsible for the video, Invisible Children, now has to contend with its co-founder Jason Russell's bizarre behavior recently of vandalizing cars and allegedly masturbating in his underwear on a public street. Not the kind of thing you want to include in a press junket, especially when you have a horror story to tell everyone while asking for donations or what not to combat the Lord's Resistance Army. I don't know for a fact what is true and not true about the "Koney 2012" video, but that doesn't seem to matter and that's what is bothering me.

Which brings me to the story of Apple and its production lines in China. The company has been under relentless assault with horror stories of a different nature: protecting the Chinese natives against the rapacious nature of an American company to produce luxury items for a faraway population. Talk about colonialism and exploitation! In fact, the stories that ran in the New York Times galvanized (that word again) protestors to shine a light about where our products actually come from and the wretched conditions and lives of workers.

Except that parts of this story are fabricated out of whole cloth. And one of the sources of these stories, Mike Daisey, is using the defense that he's "a performance artist and not a journalist so therefore, don't criticize me" that assures press and possible ticket sales. But in both these cases, it seems unsavory to lie or exaggerate certain things under the guise of there being a "higher truth." Usually, this is called  "propaganda."

Like I said, I am not defending the Lord's Resistance Army or Apple, but it's disturbing that people aren't really interested in facts but rather embellishments that trick other people into thinking otherwise. Like I wrote at the beginning, you can't accuse someone of being a pedophile and then admit you made it up but since pedophilia really exists, where's the harm?

Good intentions are not a license to lie.