People like stories. We like bedtime stories, scary stories told around a campfire, stories in books, on television, in movie theaters, and on blogs. Every culture has its stories. Every religious holiday we celebrate is based on a story.
What we don’t like are stories that we’re told that we are led to believe are true, but aren’t. It was certainly a believable story when Mike Daisy detailed his experience visiting an industrial complex in China where Apple products were manufactured. There is no shortage of stories about workers who are taken advantage of so it was not a stretch for a major radio broadcaster to believe this one, except they shouldn’t have. That parts of the story could be true, does not change the fact that the story was told unequivocally as the truth, and it wasn’t. When James Frey admitted that his riveting, autobiographical story of drug abuse, was fiction he had to face the wrath of Oprah who had endorsed his book.
Some stories, told as truth, but having no evidence supporting their validity, may be harmless. That George Washington did not actually chop down a cherry tree, does not necessarily lessen the value of the parable for children, future presidents own up to their actions, even when they’re kids. However that this is fiction should matter to us as adults. The poignant words and sentiment of Chief Seattle’s famous speech have moved generations of environmentalists. That he did not actual make the speech does not make it any less stirring, unless you care about historical facts.
One of the best storytellers in the world of dogs is Cesar Millan. He and his whispering proteges have concocted complete works of fiction when it comes to dog behavior and rehabilitation that it’s surprising Oprah hasn’t called him onto the carpet to own up. But even Oprah likes a good story. It’s even more challenging to see through the guise of a piece of fiction being passed along as non-fiction when some parts of the story mesh with our own experience. A good lie always has elements of the truth in it, any teenager or politician knows that.
But lies matter. Some maybe not so much- maybe orange isn’t really your color but no sense making you feel bad about it now that you’re already at the party- but others matter more than you may realize. They may seem innocuous but they gather debris as they roll along, attaching implications that affect the way you think and behave. That growl, a plea for space, becomes tainted with the fiction that it’s a step toward control and domination of the household. Instead of being given information to help a dog learn new skills people are fed the empty calories of “calm assertiveness” and “wolf energy,” leaving them starving as they struggle with creating permanent, positive behavior change in their dogs.