Easton is my grandson, my son’s son.
A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, while sitting in the church building visiting with folks before afternoon worship (after lunch), Easton was struggling to stay awake. I was playing some music on my phone to him.
It’s not even 2 months old yet, but Serial, a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig, has become a big hit. Here’s how their website describes the show…
Serial will follow one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. We’ll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1.
In typical fashion of other extraordinary storytelling podcasts (like my all-time favorite, now retired show, The Story with Dick Gordon), Serial has superior production elements, but mostly a compelling story.
It’s Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he’s innocent – though he can’t exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she’s nowhere to be found.
The case of this first season of Serial focuses on a single accuser named Jay. Jay tells police a story with vivid details about how Adnan murdered his ex-girlfriend, Hae. Without any DNA or other hard evidence, a jury quickly convicts him of first degree murder. Is Jay telling the truth? What about the other testimony that came out during the trial. Sarah, the host of the show, reveals how so-called facts can be used and misused when accusations are made.
Is Jay a false accuser? Adnan is in a Maryland maximum security prison. There’s not much he can do about it other than continue to proclaim his innocence. Well, there’s actually quite a lot more he can do inside his own head. He can grow increasingly angry, bitter, resentful and cynical. Who could blame him?
It’s ancient going back to the beginning. According to the Genesis record of the Old Testament, the first false accusation was the devil, disguised as a serpent, lying about God to Adam and Eve. God warned them to not eat of the tree in the midst of the Garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God pronounced the punishment, “Thou shalt surely die.” With the insertion of one word – “not” – the devil falsely accused God by telling them they would not die. Since then, the number of false accusations is beyond our ability to compute. Christians understand the biblical truth that Christ was crucified on the basis of false accusations. The Bible says it was for envy.
In the Old Testament the 9th commandment of the 10 is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” Then why do people do it?
I don’t claim to be smart enough to know all the reasons, but I think we’ve all got quite a few good ideas based on our own experiences, the experiences of friends or family and all the stories we’ve heard or read.
Judas betrayed Christ for some money. That continues to be a big player for some I think. Greed and covetousness are major drivers for lots of people. It’s manifested in divorce courtrooms all across the world I suppose. And like that sound clip from Serial, people can use kernels of truth mixed in with gobs of deceit to spin an accusation that will play to their favor. In an ugly divorce battle where the husband wants to hang onto more of his wealth and the wife wants to gain more of it…both can amplify the negative behaviors of the other. Dollars drive deceit.
Finger pointing isn’t just child’s play. Grown up’s do it, too. All the stories we’ve seen on TV of the cell mate who enters a courtroom saying he heard a confession that never happened. He testifies against the defendant in exchange for a lighter sentence or some other benefit.
Sometimes finger pointing can be even more sinister when the guilty person deflects their own bad actions by falsely accusing somebody else. It smacks of a bit like what defense attorneys call “plan B” – the practice of giving a judge or jury another plausible scenario involving somebody other than their client.
Hatred and other emotions can drive some to falsely accuse a person. Jealousy, envy, contempt, vengeance and every other negative emotion you can name have been drivers behind false accusations.
But the real reason – the bottom line behind why people falsely accuse others is pretty straightforward…to hurt them. False accusers are determined to inflect hard and pain on the people they accuse. The more specific reasons and motivations aren’t terribly important I don’t suppose because in the end, it’s all about hurting somebody. And it’s made worse because it’s all based on deceit and lies.
Governments exist to maintain order and to punish wrongdoers. Sometimes they get it wrong. The Innocence Project defines itself as a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. According to their website they’ve been able to exonerate 321 people since they began in 1992. Governments sometimes get it wrong.
But they don’t always get it wrong. Guilty criminals are convicted daily for their crimes. If society is dangerous, it’s made much safer because some people suffer rightly. They deserve it.
False accusations disrupt the system of justice. Instead, people suffer wrongly, undeserving of their punishment.
1 Peter 3:17 “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”
As bad as it would be to suffer under false accusation, that’s better than suffering because you’re guilty. If the main character in Serial, Adnan, is innocent and stuck in prison…that’s awful. But if he’s guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend, that’s worse.
This doesn’t make suffering easier. In many ways, it makes it more difficult. When you’re falsely accused you know you’re not guilty, but others may not know it or believe it. Coping with the injustice is hard. I know. It’s happened to me before. And I don’t mean all those idiotic teenage drama sessions or pre-teen versions. Kids aren’t the most perceptive people on the planet. That makes the story of this season’s Serial podcast even more disturbing. The people involved were 17 years old or so when this drama unfolded. We’ve all see it and maybe even been part of it. Thankfully for most of us, those youthful dramas aren’t as serious as a murder charge.
When you’re a kid the stakes seem high ’cause you’re a kid. All you know is what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know. Your view of the world is pretty small really. That makes a false accusation – “Randy likes Sarah” – when Randy doesn’t like Sarah, seems like a devastating thing. In real time, it is. A few years later it’s laughable though.
Kids can be cruel, but adults tend to behave far more sinister when it comes to false accusations. The stakes can be much higher, too. Careers can be ruined. Marriages, too.
A man goes to lunch with a group of women from work. It’s completely innocent. Until a friend of his wife sees them and let’s her imagination run free. At one point during the meal the group is laughing and in a single instance, the man puts his hand on one woman’s forearm. He doesn’t grab it. He just barely touches it. Before he gets home that evening his wife’s friend will have reported the incident to his wife, driving her suspicions to question him when walks in the door. Shocked that anybody would dare think he’s acting inappropriately with a co-worker or that he’s behaving badly toward his wife by flirting with other women, he attempts to convey what properly happened.
A joke was told by the woman seated to his right. As the table was laughing he reacted by what he describes was “pushing her arm” in a gesture used by many people so as to say, “Stop it.” Besides, he argues, how crazy would a man have to be to dine with 3 female co-workers and publicly behave inappropriately with any of them? Well, his wife is overly sensitive and quite paranoid. And depending on how much he loves him or trusts him, this seemingly innocent lunch can quickly spiral out of control. I know because such things have happened to men I’ve known. No, not me. I don’t eat lunch, silly!
Haven’t you seen something or heard something and drawn an incorrect conclusion? Sure. Everybody who is old enough to have any self-awareness at all has done it. We hear a fragment of a conversation and assume people are talking about one thing, only to find out they’re talking about something completely different. It happens. And we feel foolish when we find out we had it all wrong.
Now, think of the times that such things might be happening, but we never find out we have it wrong. We walk away thinking we know exactly what they were talking about. Maybe we repeat it to somebody. Then they tell somebody. All the while, we’re all spreading something that is completely inaccurate.
But sometimes they’re wrong. People have a capacity to convince themselves of many things. Remember, men used to think the world was held by Atlas whilst standing on a turtle. Then sophistication kicked in and they thought it was flat, a much better truth. Okay, don’t hate me for using two more Bible verses, but I must because they fit.
Isaiah 40:22 “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
Job 26:7 “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.”
Oh, if men had only read their Bibles they’d have known. But instead, it seemed wiser to create a truth and wasn’t truth at all. And so it goes with delusions and suppositions. We’re sometimes convinced we absolutely know the truth. Sometimes we’re wrong.
I’ve never been hauled off to jail and been charged with a crime, much less had that happen and been innocent. When you’re falsely accused and arrested, that’s in a category that’s far more serious than anything I’ve endured. But if it happened, I’ve watched enough cop shows to know I would not open my mouth except to say, “I want my lawyer.”
Then I’d do whatever I had to in order to secure the services of the biggest, baddest criminal defense attorney around. I wouldn’t want just anybody. Not if my freedom was at risk. I would not rely on my innocence to bring me a victory. Again, I’ve seen too many cop shows to know that doesn’t always work out. I’d mortgage everything I own to defend myself so I could stay out of prison. And so I could defend myself from a wrongful conviction. Even then, I might find myself behind bars. It happens. But you’ve gotta give it your best shot, right?
Thankfully, most of us don’t have to endure that degree of false accusation. We suffer at much lower levels, involving much less risk.
Somebody at work says something about us. They falsely accuse us. What do we do? What should we do?
Well, it depends on what it is and the context of it. I mean, if I’m accused of stealing somebody’s parking space once and that accusation was made by one co-worker to another in casual conversation…I’m ignoring it. Why respond and pick a fight? It just doesn’t seem worth it.
If I’m accused of stealing office supplies by a co-worker who submits a written report to a supervisor about it, I’m lining up my defenses and going on the attack.
For me, I guess false accusations made against me involve a few factors.
1. How serious is the charge?
I know people get wrapped around the axle of justice and all that, but do you really want to devote your entire life to answering every false accusation? I just don’t think it’s profitable to treat them all equal, so I don’t.
If the charge is serious, then I weigh that. If it’s insignificant, I don’t even bother to weigh it. I just let it go.
2. To whom is the false accusation made?
Is it closely held by one person to another? Is it more widespread? Again, if it’s insignificant I’m likely to not care how widespread. But I’m going to likely consider one more factor first.
3. What are the consequences?
Sometimes molehills turn into mountains because we fail to do what Barney Fife was always urging Andy Griffith to do.
Even innocuous false accusations can mushroom out of control until we extinguish them early. Consequences are mostly determined by the first two factors. A seemingly minor false accusation may require some proactive handling because the scope of people involved. This is where wisdom in judgment helps. Carefully survey the people involved, the magnitude of the accusation and the potential downsides to letting it linger.
A Clear Conscience Laughs At False Accusations”
That’s a popular notion, but I don’t agree with it. There’s nothing funny about false accusations. And many times we’d better do a lot more than laugh at them if we’re going to properly handle them. It’s like so many little ditties that sound smart, but are really stupid. For a long time I’ve thought of doing an entire show on nothing other the things people say that sound smart, but really aren’t. Right off the top of my head I can think of 3 that you hear all the time.
“Life is a journey, not a destination. The journey is the reward.”
Really? I don’t think so.
Counterpoint: Go on vacation and tell the kids to enjoy the trip more than arrival to Disneyland. They know that’s not right. You do, too. That’s why you can’t wait to get there!
“If I can do it, anybody can.”
It depends on who you are. We’re not all created equally. Einstein discovered some things that I couldn’t. I’m betting you couldn’t either.
“It’s always darkest before dawn.”
Here in Texas we get thunderstorms and tornados. It can get dark quickly. Then comes the thunder and lightning. We rank right behind Florida in injuries and death from lightning strikes. But high winds and tornados are more devastating.
It’s dark before the storm. And besides, before dawn the skies always grow lighter…not darker.
Well, that’s how it is with this witty phrase about laughing at false accusations. Adnan of the Serial podcast appears to have a clear conscience, but no amount of laughing is going to get him released from a prison sentence. We’d all be foolish to simply dismiss every false accusation. That doesn’t mean we jump on all of them like a famous brand might defend even the slightest trademark infringement. Some fights just aren’t worth it. But others are! Some false accusations can eat you alive. Others just annoy the snot out of you.
Once I was facing a false accusation from somebody who believed the earth was flat. There was no convincing him otherwise. And the hardest part about it was that it didn’t involve a specific false accusation. In fact the person refused to say what it was he had against me. He simply objected to my being approved for something because he “knew things.” I went to him privately asking him to tell me what I had done so I could make it right. Nope. He refused. I invited somebody to mediate and sit down with both of us. For more than an hour this poor person tried – and I did, too – to facilitate a peaceful remedy. Again, the person refused to budge. He still objected but without any specific accusations. Eventually, I just had to let it go. I didn’t know what else to do.
During this time my son, who was still living at home, was talking with me one day. We were talking about this topic of being falsely accused of things. I told him what I believe is truth and wise.
If you’re going to do anything to make a difference, you’re going to upset people. People are going to aim arrows at you. But the option to do nothing just doesn’t work. So prepare to defend yourself if you must and grow thick skin.
It’s been over a dozen years since my son and I had that conversation, but nothing has changed my mind. I still think it’s the way to go. For me, it’s no longer about justice or injustice. It’s about being able to do the right thing and refusing to let the false accusers get in your way. Sometimes people and things get in your way. You just have to find your way around those hurdles and keep doing what you know is right.
Unless you’re a professional bike rider or skater you probably don’t shoot video of yourself while working. I’ve long believed in the power of show ‘n tell, something I learned in grade school. But you can scan through some YouTube channels and find people vlogging (video blogging) their daily lives. As YouTube partners they earn monthly incomes by living a slightly (or flagrantly) larger life and capturing it all on video.
You think reality TV is a pretty recent invention, but you’re wrong. According this article in Writer’s Guild of America…
Allen Funt, with his 1948 TV series Candid Camera is often credited as reality TV’s first practitioner. In fact, he started a year earlier with Candid Microphone on radio.”
Reality TV shows like Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs and a butt-load of HGTV shows on home improvement have attracted faithful followers. And you can’t think about reality TV without thinking of those contest shows spearheaded by American Idol and The Voice.
Last week nothing trumped the publicity given to Kim Kardashian’s pornographic photos in a magazine in a campaign called “break the Internet.” There is no denying her popularity. According to an article written by Amanda Fortini…
If you know nothing else about Kim Kardashian, you know that she is very, very famous. Some would say that’s all you need to know. At press time, she has 25 million Twitter followers, about a million less than Oprah Winfrey and nearly 5 million more than CNN Breaking News. Her Instagram account, where she is a prolific purveyor of selfies, is the site’s third most popular. You can’t walk through a supermarket without glimpsing her on a multitude of tabloids whose headlines holler about her relationships, her parenting style and the vicissitudes of her ample curves. But she has also graced the covers of highbrow fashion bibles like W and Vogue; with her now-husband, Kanye West, she appeared on the latter above the hashtag #worldsmosttalkedaboutcouple, creating a furor that made it perhaps the #worldsmostcontroversialcover.
Ms. Fortini spent time with Kardashian for the magazine that published the photos. No, I’m not linking to it. It’s easy enough to find without me contributing to the buzz. As Matt Walsh posted something about it on Facebook early last Thursday.
I’d just like to point out that the Europeans landed on a comet yesterday and yet still the only thing I’m seeing on Facebook is Kim Kardashian’s butt.
They landed on a comet, everyone. A COMET. The thing is 300 million miles away, traveling over 40 thousand miles an hour. They put a probe down right on top of it. This is unbelievable. Phenomenal. History making. But our nation is entirely too fascinated with some lady’s backside to even notice. Lord help us. The easy thing here is to call this country stupid, like the Obamacare architect said. That’s too convenient, though. We aren’t stupid. We’re just bored, I think. Immature. We’re like spoiled 12-year-olds in need of constant amusement and stimulation. Too shallow to recognize real beauty, too jaded to be amazed by what is truly amazing.
Let’s take a step back, folks. There’s some really incredibly things happening in the universe and none of it has to do with a reality TV star’s pornographic publicity stunt.
In case you’ve been living under a rock and hadn’t heard, last Wednesday the European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet. That happened on the same day the Kim K photo buzz hit. Matt’s right. Society gave a lot more attention to Kim K than this feat of science. But it only proves how voyeuristic people can be and maybe point us toward some things we can learn about behaving like we’re a reality TV star.
True confession, the Million Dollar Listing series – New York and L.A. – are both favorites of mine. The shows are appropriately titled. They’re about real estate brokers who specialize in ultra high end properties in two of the wealthiest cities on the planet. No, the shows are all that realistic because there’s a lot of waiting around, long hours and rejection in the real estate game. Producers and writers can spice things up nicely. Both shows do give viewers a taste of how many phone calls and how many hours are required for success in real estate, but nobody would watch if we saw all the preparation, chasing and waiting.
There is a genre of reality shows that I’m particularly fond of – the business intervention shows. Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible and The Profit are three that I’ve watched quite a few times.
For me, Marcus Lemonis is top-drawer. He’s the host of CNBC’s The Profit and owner of the national company, Camping World. Marcus is a cut-to-the-chase guy who famously focuses on people, processes and product. As a guy who has run companies since my early 20’s, I completely relate to how Marcus operates. Episodes are always fascinating because business owners are the wild card. I’m mostly shocked that some of these people behave so poorly with sound and cameras rolling. The last episode involved a little coffee company that had two very contentious owners. The normally calm, deliberate Marcus had finally had enough – and I was saying to myself when I watched it, “About time.” Marcus decided to just offer to buy the company because he confessed he really wanted to be in the coffee business.
I haven’t computed it, but anecdotally it appears most of the business owners that Marcus encounters are inept at the basics of business. Quite a few of them are just downright dishonest. Almost all of them are highly emotional, to their own detriment. A woman operating a salon business with 4 locations doing about $4 million annually had been burned by a previous business partner. Even though it had been 2 years she seemed stuck in her pain when Marcus gave her some very sage advice.
Marcus wasn’t telling this business owner that she was in complete control. Rather, he was telling her that she needed to move forward in a positive way where her previous partner didn’t affect her. She needed to make her decisions based on what was best for her and her business. No matter what.
This is where this whole reality TV star business can really hit a wall. We can and often do things that keep up a facade. One of the more common occurrences on The Profit is the business owner who either doesn’t know the vital numbers of their business, or they lie hoping Marcus won’t find out. He always finds out. Eventually.
In our own reality TV series – the one that nobody is filming or broadcasting – we’re either lying to ourselves and others, or we’re being open, honest and transparent. We hear that last term – transparency – a lot these days. What exactly does that mean? It means candid. It means being open.
Jeffrey Pfeffer is Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He’s also the co-author of, The Knowing-Doing Gap (2000). He wrote a piece for Fortune, entitled “Openness and transparency will not solve our problems.” He argues that the Internet hasn’t changed everything like some people say. Instead, in spite of social media and openness, he puts forth the notion that these things won’t keep dishonesty at bay or make sure people are informed. He’s not saying openness and transparency are bad. I understand him to say they’re just not the cure for all that ails us. As with most things, there’s more to it.
Dr. Henry Cloud posted this on Facebook a few days ago, “Over 80% of the leaders I have surveyed have said they have no one they can be totally transparent with. Make sure you are in the other 20%.” Leaders necessarily are unable to reveal everything they know and everything they feel. Hence the cliche, “It’s lonely at the top.”
Yet on these reality TV shows we see people who seem to unbridle the most vile behavior possible. Or producers who foster that behavior, failing to reveal to us the true backstory behind some of what we see. Of course, I could argue that a trailer manufacturer or a coffee company aren’t benefited in the least by openly shouting, cussing and disrespecting their partners with cameras rolling knowing a global audience will have access to see them behaving poorly. It could be that we’re seeing the real people and it’s evident of why the cameras are there in the first place — because these are businesses in trouble. More than that, these are lives in trouble. Dysfunctional daily behaviors playing out on our flat panels.
I don’t suppose this past week was much different than any other week in the online world. We see people living life in their own reality TV show sans the TV. Blog posts written, podcasts recorded, photos shared…giving us insight in the lives of real people. Two videos went viral this week, both of them proving the power of living life as though we’re a reality TV star…because you just never know if it might happen.
One video was a husband and father pulling into the drive through of a Starbucks doing a Slingblade impression. And he did it pretty well, too…completely embarrassing his wife. Kudos to him for sticking with it through the entire thing.
The other video is a major contrast to that though. I’ll let the description posted at YouTube tell you the story…
Chris Picco singing Blackbird to his son, Lennon James Picco, who was delivered by emergency C-section at 24 weeks when Chris’ wife Ashley unexpectedly and tragically passed away in her sleep. Lennon’s lack of movement and brain activity was a constant concern for the doctors and nurses at Loma Linda University Hospital, where he received the absolute best care available. During the pregnancy, Ashley would often feel Lennon moving to music so Chris asked if he could bring his guitar into the NICU and play for Lennon, which he did for several hours during the last days of Lennon’s precious life. One day after filming this, Lennon went to sleep in his daddy’s arms.
For more information please visit: http://www.piccomemorial.com
To donate to a Memorial Fund to help with medical bills and associated expenses, please visit: http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/ashley-picco-memorial-fund/260229#
How open and transparent do YOU want to get? For some it’s very hard. For others, like Kim Kardashian, it’s a career. It’s money. Fame. Fortune. I’ve gone on record saying kudos for her for knowing how to leverage celebrity. That doesn’t mean I respect her, or how she behaves. I simply acknowledge her ability to work the system of celebrity and fame to her highest advantage.
Meanwhile, as of this recording, Chris Picco lost his wife of 7 years and his new born son, all in one fell swoop. With 10 days to go, the memorial fund put in place to help raise money to defray medical bills has raised $76,479 of a $50,000 goal, proving people are touched and willing to help this young man. I admit it. When I first watched Chris play that song to his dying son I thought of my own son’s birth over 34 years ago. I remember how terrified I was at the prospect of something going wrong with my wife. Or with him. And I thought of my wife of almost 37 years…30 more years together with the love of my life than what Chris had with Ashley, he beloved.
This Is Your Life was a radio and TV series on in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It was sorta like reality TV because the stories were biographical and true. Ralph Edwards was the host, not Michael Hyatt, who now has a podcast by that same name. Here’s an episode from 1956 with Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello fame. When I was very young I remember seeing reruns of this show. I know it seems hokey by today’s standards, but as a very little boy I was fascinated to hear the story of these people’s lives and to see people surprise them on the show. Of course, the subjects of the show were celebrities. Life appeared to turn out mostly well for the people on the show, but every episode was filled with stories of early struggles and trials.
If such a show existed today and the host surprised you with the words, “This is your life” what would that show look like?
Sadly, if a TV crew hit Chris Picco right now the story would be tearful and filled with sorrow. He’s not alone. Lots of people are suffering. Many are disappointed with how things are turning out. For some, it’s just a moment in time. For others, it’s a sustained life-long tribulation.
It’s not about insulating yourself from problems. That’s impossible. You’re going to have hardships and disappointments.
It’s not about pretending your something you’re not. Well, not for most of us anyway. Of Kim Kardashian, Ms. Fortini continues in her article…
The rap on Kim Kardashian is that she has done nothing to merit her fame. But the longer I steep myself in the ambience of her pleasantly languid manner and hologram-perfect looks, the more facile this charge begins to seem. Of course, she has cannily leveraged that fame to build, with her sisters, a beauty-industrial complex, which includes a clothing line, a makeup line, a line of tanning products and seven perfumes. (A collection of hair care implements and styling products will debut in the spring.) Her mobile app, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, in which players climb their way to A-List status under Kardashian’s tutelage, has earned over $43 million since its debut in June.
The article ends like this…
We’re accustomed to our performers having onstage and backstage registers, but for her there is no division between the two. This is, indeed, the definition of a reality star. She’s not performing, that is — at least not visibly. She is being, and being is her act. Her appeal derives from her uncanny consistency, as does that of her show. It’s relaxing to watch the sisters sprawl on each other’s beds and talk about nothing, to see them discuss constipation cures or their preferred way to eat Nilla Wafers. Like Warhol’s screen tests, Keeping Up With the Kardashians has a disarming purity. It invites us to glory in its stars’ mundanity, which permits us to enjoy our own.
Are we voyeurs because we want to see how grand it must be to be that person who is having crazy success while we struggle?
Are we voyeurs because we want to see the despair of others so our own is diminished?
Are we sharing too much information?
Am I better for knowing that Chris lost his wife and newborn son this week? And for seeing him sing to his dying son?
Yes to all of the above. Is there any going back? No. Once you squeeze the tube of toothpaste, it’s out. There’s no putting it back. You’d best grab your toothbrush and start brushing.