Article Overview:   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?


Monday--May 12, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 607
The Terror Of Truth
Cliff McKenzie
   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.

After four 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

       In politics, 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.

What is TRUTH??

       For eons, 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 Islam.
       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?

NYTimes audit dog

        If the 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?

Sniffing out the truth

        How 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 earth.
        Part of our chemistry is the presence of the Beast of Terror.

Reverend Billy Graham puts up the Shield of Vigilance to guard against his Beast of Terror

      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. 

Blair manufactured stories about  Lance Corporal James Klingel's recuperation after he was wounded in Iraq

       Jayson Blair 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 Children's Children?"
        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 resolve.
        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 Vigilance.   

A Sentinel never sleeps

        A 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 everything.
          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 clothes.
         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 Truth.
          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 must 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.

May 11--Battle Hymn Of The Republic Anti-Terrorism Song

©2001 - 2004,, All rights reserved -  a ((HYYPE)) design