Jun 25, 2010

What was revelead?

A hoax is not a lie. While they're both meant to mislead, they're different, even if only subtlety so. The difference is important, though. Or maybe it's not, but it seems so to me, and I find I'm fixed on it, bothered by it, working over exactly what the difference is and what the definitions are.

For one thing they're different because a lie is normally understood as a speech act, as a kind of text that doesn't tell the truth, where a hoax is an act or an action, and broader than just speech. A hoax is a performance. It's the same as street art, politics or terrorism or war - a not-necessarily verbal performance intended for interpretation - and also it doesn't always have the logic that a lie has to have. Consider that a lie or the possibility of a lie is logically necessary in any statement of truth. Truth requires the logical possibility of a lie: to say it one way only makes sense if it could have been said in another, if the predicate could be changed, if the truth content could have been the opposite. An orthodox creed can only be stated if blasphemy is possible, and saying the one means the other is possible, and a lie, even one that's never told, must exist as least as potential in order for the truth to exist as a statement, for every statement, every proposition, is either true or false and so to be true it had to have had the possibility of being false. It works with this binary code. The idea here is not that the situation of the world might have been different (quite possibly it couldn't have), but that the world might have been the same and the speech act different. Even the idea that a statement could in some sense accurately express some situation in the world implies it could have been inaccurate. Lies are logically necessary for truth. Even if Galileo didn't say, under his breath, "and yet it still moves," his orthodox statement about the fixed position of the earth contained within it, as if under the statement's breath, the counter claim, the heretical claim (which was in fact true), for truths and lies both contain within themselves the logic of their opposites.

A lie is a thing of speech -- and necessary, intertwined and tied up with the possibility of speech itself. This is why the idea of truth and lies you get in Gulliver's Travels, for example, with the race of horses who don't lie, can't lie, and don't understand why anyone would, is actually nonsensical. For if lies aren't possible than neither is speech.

A look at lies reveals part of the logic of language, and also any particular lie reveals a lot about the motivations and inclinations of the liar. They exist because they have to exist and also they're told for reasons that are entirely understandable. There's no mystery why people lie. It's often hard to tell that a lie is a lie, but never really, with a few exceptions, why a lie was told. People lie for all the normal reasons, for simple human reasons, because of all the standard human foibles and failings and desires. It's not subtle. You don't have to be Freudian. But hoaxes can be baffling. There is something about hoaxes that they'Re almost always pathological.

Sometimes, sure, they're simple, and you could see why someone did what they did, what benefit they thought they might stand to accrue, but other times hoaxes seem to come from the more mysterious regions of being human. Are they motivated by angst or boredom? Are they jokes -- and if so, why? Why would someone want to tell a joke to those they don't know, and won't see laugh? Sometimes they're simply absurd, and they appear as performance art, without pretensions to the importance of art, or as terrorism without terror or a political end.

Consider: the picture of the UFO hiding in the tail of the hale bop comet was a hoax, and 39 died, and what did we learn? What was revealed? What was the point?

Consider, more recently: a woman who worked for a weather organization hoaxed a video of a UFO, and lost her job, and now she says that it wasn't a hoax, but the hoax was a hoax, a cover-up. That sounds like a lie and makes sense as a lie, but why would she do the hoax in the first place?

There isn't a grand unified theory hoaxes and maybe their couldn't be. They're more mysterious than that -- even classifying them can be confusing, for there are hoaxes about hoaxes (like Michael Jackson isn't really dead), and hoaxes that are intended to entertain, but maybe they're not, and there are those that seem designed to make a point, though what point often isn't clear. And even the simple ones aren't always so simple. Even when we know what the motivation was, like a woman who lost her baby and can't bring herself to say that, why did someone, in that situation, reach for a hoax?

Sometimes, too, they seem like invocations to stand as in wonder before something more, or, exactly the opposite, to reveal that there's nothing more, and life is only like this, games and hoaxes all the down.

They act, actually, as revelations. But revealing what?


Relevant links to recent hoaxes:
Baby kidnapping was a hoax
Man convicted of making hoax mayday calls
Man charged for sending hoax terrorism letters to college
TheWeatherSpace.com's UFO spiral was a hoax
Michael Jackson tribute concert a hoax
iPad hoax snares USA Today
Man confesses murder claim was hoax
"What this country needs is a grand unified theory"
Sometimes people hoax themselves
General Mills investigation is a hoax
Australian cliffs are credited with more than one hoax death
San Diego UFO lights were a hoax