HETRICK: The slings and arrows of making things up

June 11, 2011

A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended some business meetings in New York City. We decided to make a weekend of it, and included a Broadway show.

On the recommendation of friends, we tracked down two tickets to one of the hottest shows in town: “The Book of Mormon.”

This irreverent new musical comedy, from the creators of the animated sitcom “South Park” and the composer of “Avenue Q,” tells the tale of two Mormon missionaries hoping to convert the natives in a remote Ugandan village.

Elder Price is a model missionary: handsome, gung-ho, devout—but a bit overconfident and egotistical. (He sings the song “You and Me (But Mostly Me).”

Elder Cunningham is overweight, under-confident, and has a nasty habit of fabrication. (OK, he lies. Or, as a song in the show chides him, he’s always “Making Things Up Again.”)

One problem for Elder Cunningham: He hasn’t even read the Book of Mormon. “It’s so boring,” he says. So, needing to convert some natives, he makes things up: A little Jesus, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young here. A little “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings” there.

The result: The natives fall for Cunningham’s twisted “Mormonism” hook, line and sinker. Then, in a riotous and sometimes lewd presentation of their newfound faith, the natives shock church officials who travel to Uganda to check up on their missionaries’ progress.

This week, as we dealt with the trial of alleged child-murderer Casey Anthony, the tribulations of congressman-cum-confessor Anthony Weiner, the revisionist American history of professor Palin, and assorted other tales, I had to laugh all over again at Elder Cunningham and the power of making things up.

The Anthony trial is a maze of lies. From the testimony, we’ve learned about the defendant’s intricate tales of imaginary friends, an imaginary job at Universal Studios and her imaginary nanny. The only thing not made up seems to be little Caylee Anthony, whose remains were finally found long after her death.

Making things up.

On a lighter note, there was former-Alaska governor and perhaps-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, traveling America to allegedly enlighten us about our own history, but struggling with the small stuff.

Asked, in Boston, what she’d seen so far that day and what she’d take away from her visit, Palin cited Paul Revere: “He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.”

The real story: Revere rode quietly, under the cover of darkness, to warn revolutionaries that the British planned to march to Lexington and arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. No bell ringing, no warning shots, and no warning the enemies—just the revolutionaries.

Given a chance by Chris Wallace on Fox TV to make things right instead of making things up, Palin defended her gaffe. Then, some of her supporters tried to edit the Wikipedia account of Paul Revere’s ride to match Palin’s version.

Making things up.

Then, of course, there’s the much-mocked case of congressman Weiner. When a photo of underwear-clad male anatomy was sent from Weiner’s Twitter account, he initially tried to make light of it.

In a follow-up tweet, he said, “Tivo shot. FB [Facebook] hacked. Is my blender gonna attack me next? #TheToasterIsVeryLoyal.”

For days, he said his Twitter account had been hacked. He said he’d hired a private security firm to investigate.

A few days after that, he was still sticking with the hacking story, but couldn’t say “with certitude” that the photo wasn’t him.

Finally, in a tearful confession last week, he admitted to taking and sending the photo—along with other photos sent to other women for several years.

Making things up.

State legislators make things up, too. Sometimes, that leads to indefensible “science” and tough-to-defend laws.

In court last week, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher was trying to defend a new state law that requires physicians to tell patients seeking abortions that fetuses can feel pain very early on.

According to The Indianapolis Star, when pressed by the judge in the case, “Fisher acknowledged in court he had no evidence fetuses can feel pain at 12 or fewer weeks, when the vast majority of abortions are performed, but said, ‘Who knows where the science will take us?’”

How do people get away with making things up? Sometimes, we like and trust the sources and want to believe them. But all too often, our gullibility is born of ignorance, inattention or apathy. We’re not watching or we don’t know any better.

Sometimes, the consequence is mere silliness. Other times, our failure to observe, to understand and to act can lead to the election of weak leaders, the passage of bad laws or even the death of a loved one.

I’m not making this up.•

__________

Hetrick is chairman and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by Bruce Hetrick

Comments powered by Disqus