In Fact, …

Does your memory run to the following sequence in the film All the President’s Men?

Cerl Bernstein:  “Hi. Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. I was just wondering if you remember the names of any of the books that Howard Hunt checked out on Senator Kennedy.”

White House Librarian:  “I think I do remember, he took out a whole bunch of material. Let me just go see.”

White House Librarian:  “Mr. Bernstein? … What I said before? I was wrong.  The    truth is, I don’t have a card that Mr. Hunt took out any Kennedy material. … I remember getting that material out for somebody, but it wasn’t Mr. Hunt.  The truth is, I’ve never had any requests at all from Mr. Hunt.  The truth is, I don’t know Mr. Hunt.”   <>

I thought of that sequence anew when I contemplated “in fact” and similar constructions such as “the fact of the matter.”  The White House Librarian repeats “The truth is …” while she dissembles, which accentuates her progressively growing denials.  As I contemplate the White House librarian’s fear-filled prevarication, I chuckle at Jose Ferrer’s contempt for Fred MacMurray in The Caine Mutiny: “You should read his testimony.  He never even heard of Queeg.”  <>

The O man has covered how politicos say “frankly” when they are about to misstate or overstate.  Savvy operatives misdirect audiences to attend to a departure from etiquette rather than deviation from truth.

So let us resolve to look for non-facts when anyone says “in fact.”  If someone tells us what “the truth is,” on what hoo-haw does she or he want us to focus?  In fact, what is he or she trying to hide?


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