A recent New York Times scandal unveils a young journalist who
plagiarized stories and made up facts to enhance his stories.
Was he a victim of Vigilance or the Beast of Terror? How
do we deal with the Terror of the Truth? Do we indict the
criminals of Truth and then go about our own smug lives, or do we
challenge ourselves to not be plagiarists like Jayson Blair?
12, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 607
The Terror Of Truth
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, NEW YORK, NY--If the Truth will set
you free, it will also get you in trouble. At least one New York
Times reporter is feeling the heat of boiling tar and the smell of
fowl wet feathers attack his nostrils as the Truth lowers him into a
cauldron of trouble over his journalistic deceptions.
years with the New York Times, Jason Blair on May 1
It seems 27-year-old
Jayson Blair would rather make up a good story than report it.
The trouble comes when his fiction collides with facts. He
made up stories about false evidence in the Washington case, include
evidence held by prosecutors. Retractions were issued by the New
York Times in a purge of Blair's stories. An "audit team"
of reporters have been scouring his stories for authenticity and the
publisher issued a statement regarding the New York Times position.
Blair was exposed as a plagiarist when his story
about the family of the last man declared missing in action in Iraq
bore numerous similarities to a story in the San Antonio Express-News.
Blair apparently never interviewed the family.
The New York Times has more at stake than mere
credibility. Newspapers around the world purchase and
reprint stories from the august paper. The Times wire service
enjoys 650 customers in more than 50 nations. One errant
young man's pen could be financially critical to the paper that prides
itself as a Spartan of Truth.
Other top papers have similar problems. In
1980 Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke wrote a
Pulitzer-Prize-winning story about an eight-year-old heroine addict
who didn't exist. And Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle was
fired in 1988 for fabrications.
"There is no
U.S. presence in Iraq" claimed Baghdad Bob
the Truth seems as elusive as trying to clutch the underbelly of a
greased pig. And, in diplomacy, who can make up the
greatest lie that others swallow seems to herald the greatest
accolades. Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi Information Minister,
while scoffed at by U.S. and Western viewers, was cheered by his
Middle East viewership.
Truth often is what we want to hear, not
necessarily what is.
The protestors who believe America is a
capitalistic-driven greed machine, bent on taking over the oil fields
at the expense of American and Iraqi lives, believe their Truth just
as vociferously as flocks of hawks who believe America's duty and
mission is to raise the flag of Freedom on all foreign soil where
despotism and tyranny exists.
The child who believes his mother or father
doesn't love him or her because they don't listen to pains and
anguishes inside knows a Truth quite opposite his or her parents who
believe that parenting is all about providing the child with food,
clothing, good schools, nice neighborhoods and a cell phone to call
911 in case of an emergency.
A wife who thinks her husband doesn't love
her because he doesn't do what she expects savors a Truth different
from the husband who believes he loves her in ways she would never
imagine as qualifying for love.
In other words, the Truth ultimately
becomes a matter of discussion, with its judge and jury being the
mindset of those who make up the definitions of Truth.
human beings have manufactured Truths about religion, politics,
children, society, war, peace, right and wrong. In some
cultures, the Truth is that infidels are "bad," and cannot be trusted,
and that Christianity is an effort to undermine the true religion of
In other cultures newborn children's heads
are shaved so evil spirits cannot worm their way into the follicles,
infecting the child's mind.
Russia, France and Germany all consider
America to be untruthful about its goals in Iraq. North
Korea believes its Truth is to lord over its people at their
expense--to protect the state at the expense of the people.
A warrior leader believes the Truth
to be that a number of warriors must die to attain victory,
while trying to limit the deaths of his or her troops and civilians,
that victory in war is measured by the least amount of deaths and most
amount of territory gained. At another pole of Truth, the
Truth is that any death is a waste, and war has no endgame worth the
price of its devastation.
Jayson Blair is symptomatic of
Truth's great dilemma--what is it and for whom?
There can be little doubt that
someone who doesn't lift the rock to look under it before he describes
what he sees has a blindness to the Truth. If a painter is
claiming to brush reality onto the canvass, the least he or she could
do is to glance at it before stroking the canvass.
But what is the Truth?
New York Times set about the audit dogs to sniff and root out every
reporter's stories over the past three years, how many facts and
figures would the teams find manufactured, plucked from the sky in a
headlong rush to meet deadlines, win prizes, or gain the accolades of
editors? How many Americans would survive an IRS field
audit over the past seven years, where every nickel and dime of
expenditures would be challenged for authenticity?
about moral audits? How many good "Christians" or good
"Buddhists" or good "Muslims" would survive a Star Chamber Court
seeking to measure one's standards of behavior against the template of
Truth devised by a committee on Ethics?
That's why I like the world of
Vigilance and Terrorism.
In this world there are some
fundamental Truths that neither man nor Nature can deny.
It makes my playing field far more level than the one of Jayson Blair,
or his accusers who, if eviscerated by the same standards they apply
to the errant young reporter, would probably have committed the same
or more egregious crimes over their journalistic lives at one time or
another. I have found one Truth in life, that nobody's
perfect, especially those who throw the rocks from their glass houses.
And that includes me, as well as the other 6.2 billion people on
Part of our chemistry is the presence
of the Beast of Terror.
Graham puts up the Shield of Vigilance to guard against his Beast
He twists our moral
thinking at every possible corner. That's, in part, why
famed evangelist Billy Graham won't allow himself to be alone in a
room with a woman other than his wife. During the sex
scandal involving former President Bill Clinton, Dr. Graham was
interviewed by Larry King on the morality of sex. In his
blunt but practical way of expressing his own Truths, Doctor Graham
stated he avoided the possibility of impropriety by insuring there
never was the opportunity for human frailty to take root between
himself and another of the opposite sex in a private setting.
While no one can say for sure
that Billy Graham is "pure" in this respect, the awareness of his
Beast of Terror, or that of another, was guarded by his Sentinel of
Vigilance. He was wise enough to put up a Shield of Vigilance
against the Complacency of Morality.
Each of us has a challenging
mission as evolving human beings, and that is what Shakespeare so
deftly noted in Hamlet when he penned the words: "To thine own
self be true."
In the quiet of life, with no
prying eyes but those from within ourselves, we scan our morality to
see where the Beast of Terror's head pokes through, and, if we are
fortunate, we drive it back down into its caves rather than let it
roam free. If we don't, we find ourselves forced to concede to
being powerless over its will, and to justify our actions in the face
of rules and regulations that exist outside ourselves.
manufactured stories about Lance Corporal James Klingel's
recuperation after he was wounded in Iraq
apparently chose to ignore the fences of civilization.
Instead of conforming to the measures of Truth edicts imposed by the
New York Times, he chose instead to ignore them and manufacture news.
His Beast of Terror perhaps convinced him that he was justified in
manufacturing what he did, just as a retail clerk may feel justified
in taking an extra $20 from the cash till because he or she needs it
to give the kids lunch money for tomorrow. After all, the
clerk works hard and thinks that he or she will replace the shortfall
the next day, but never does.
It comes down to self evaluation even
though society holds standards for it that make violators of the Truth
outsiders--if and when they are caught.
Vigilance, however, is rock solid when it
comes to Truth.
Without Vigilance, there is no hope for
Truth to exist.
Few can challenge the Beast of Terror's
hunger to create Fear, Intimidation and Complacency in human beings
results in untruths. All three of the Triads of Terrorism
weaken a person's constitution to stand up and fight forces that
challenge the self.
Perhaps Jayson Blair was Intimidated by
others around him because of their skill, and chose to manipulate his
facts and fictionalize them to rise above his peers. Or,
perhaps he was afraid he would not meet a deadline, and, in a haste to
sate his editor's demands, plugged facts with fiction. Or,
more likely, the Beast of Terror's Complacency told him "It just
doesn't matter," so he lazily and irresponsibly grabbed at straws and
made up facts because he decided he was "above it all."
Had Jayson Blair been a Sentinel of
Vigilance, had he taken the Pledge of Vigilance, had he looked at it
each day and let its power sink into his mind to quell the Beast of
Terror's rage, he just might have asked himself this question prior to
writing a story: "How will what I do today affect the Children's
If Jayson Blair had put the measure
of Truth up against not his editors, or his duty as a journalist, or
to compare himself to other reporters, but instead placed the
yardstick of "morality" against future generations, he just might have
thought twice about deceiving himself and others.
I am convinced the Beast of Terror
operates totally out of selfishness, while the Sentinels of Vigilance
are Warriors of Selflessness.
For one to overcome Fear with
Courage, or shove Intimidation to the side for the solid ground of
Conviction, or to sweep away the quagmire of Complacency to take Right
Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children, takes great
It is not easy for any human being to
constantly question his or her thoughts that ultimately define them
through their actions, but that is what is required of a Sentinel of
Sentinel, by nature, never goes to sleep.
He or she never drops the Shield of
Vigilance, for when the Shield is lowered, Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency march upon the fields where Courage, Conviction and Right
Actions once stood guard.
Human morality, human Truth, is not a
gift. It is earned through countless errors, multitudes of
mistakes made not only by each of us, but also by those millions upon
millions who have walked the path of life before us. If we study
the footsteps of our ancestors, we can see the Truth. If they
deviate from the path of doing what is right for the Children's
Children's Children, they end up in the swamps, sucked down in the
Bogs of the Beast.
Corporate executives who cheat
stockholders, who abuse the equity--monies grown for future
generations--fall hard before our eyes.
Politicians who serve to lace
their pockets with power and rise above the masses in their thinking
teeter and fall.
Tyrants and despots who rule
with iron fists, serving oppression rather than freedom to the
children of their nations topple with a loud thud.
Parents who neglect the
relationship with their children find themselves in combat with them,
claiming to "not understand the mind of a teenager." They laugh
with their Complacent friends about their children's recalcitrant
behaviors and appease their actions with "aw, they're just kids," and
then wonder why they can never communicate with their child, deep,
human communications that pass from soul to soul.
If we do not reinforce and
reinvent our Vigilance daily, then our laxity allows the moat to
drain. The defense against the siege of the Beast of Terror
wanes. We become vulnerable.
Plagiarism is Terrorism.
When we copy another, we elect to accept Truth not challenge it.
We forget that our lives are not copies of other lives, but unique
gifts given to us to evolve above our defects. To copy another
is to assume the worst of ourselves--that we are nothing and they are
It also is an insult to
the future generations. It tells the future that the past
is more important than the present. It suggests to a child that
there is an "easy way" in life, and that is to surrender to the
Complacency of life itself, to not challenge life, but to sit back and
let it roll over you.
When we look
in the mirror we must not resign ourselves to dog days
In many sad ways, we all do this. We look in the mirror at our
fat bellies and instead of dieting or exercising, we buy larger
We watch others pass us by at
work, rising up the ladder, and resign ourselves we are going to be
"stuck" where we are.
We join the gossip or bigotry
or prejudices around us, cackling like hens about this or that, never
seeking to explore change, letting the yokes of our thinking drown out
new ideas, conflicting viewpoints that might spark evolution, might
change our narrow-mindedness.
We start plagiarizing
life itself, falling into the same rut, watching the same television
shows, saying the same words, capitulating our emotions and pretending
to feel when we are numbed, turning ourselves into automatons who
rise, dress, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch television, go
to bed, rise, dress, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch
television, go to bed ad infinitum, with a few variants thrown here
and there as we salt and pepper the same meal over and over.
We lose sight of the
We forget to evolve.
We deny our mission to
serve the future.
We assume society,
school, civilization will care for the emotional needs of our
children, and their Children's Children's Children.
Ultimately, Jayson Blair's
problem with plagiarism runs backwards to his parents, and their
parents. Along the line of evolution, Jayson Blair
was never taught how to be Sentinel of Vigilance. Had he been,
odds are he wouldn't have chosen to pervert the Truth by copying it.
His surrogate parents,
his editors and managers, are equally at fault. They acted in
concert with Jayson, by default or intent. They assumed he
knew the Truth.
The police and military
know different. Regardless of how much time you have on
the force or in the military, you are constantly required to go to the
firing range and shoot to qualify. You are reminded
that your duty is to not become lax with a weapon, to remain Vigilant.
And, if your marksmanship fails, you can lose your job.
The talons of Truth
be sharpened daily
Truth needs to be sharpened daily.
Dull swords become
toothpicks for the Beast of Terror.
That's why the Truth must
be kept keen. Its edge must be able to cut through Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency, or, we all suffer.
Keep the sharp edge of
Truth working for yourself.
Take the Pledge of
Vigilance. It is the whetstone of Truth--to your Truth and
to all our Truths that we are only here on earth to serve the future
of the children, and that cannot be plagiarized.
11--Battle Hymn Of The Republic Anti-Terrorism Song
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