where the writers are
Truth & Fiction

Now I write novels.  Before that, I produced and wrote television drama, which means that I've spent a considerable part of my adult life making stuff up. It's been my job.  I like to think I'm good at it, a real professional.  And one of the things that makes me so good is that I spend hours, days, years sometimes, doing research, all in an effort to make what I write seem true.  Yet, I would be horified if anyone seeing or reading my work were to believe it to be anything but fiction. 

Such considerations don't appear to trouble the minds of the people who write a great many of the emails I receive, or the minds of the people who forward them to me.   

Some of these come from friends on the Left, outraged (for example) by the report that Holocaust Studies are being dropped from the curriculum of schools in England, or that NPR is under attack again (they're not).  Most, however, seem to arrive by way of family and friends on the Right. One recent one purported to be a letter from a traveler, complaining about the dirt in Egypt, and the noise (all those calls to Prayer - my heavens, what a din!), praising the cleanliness and quiet of Israel, asserting that people he encountered in both countries assured him that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  (Oh those passers-by, with their secret stores or knowledge! How can we doubt them?)

Last week's outrage was introduced as an "editorial"  by Maureen Dowd, published in the The New York Times on June 29th, 2008.  I was away at the time, so I thought I might have missed the column, and so read on.  At the start, there are some words of praise for the Times so we'll know to take what follows seriously, a brief bio of Ms. Dowd for the same reason, I suppose, and then the article itself, "Where Does Obama's Money Come From?"   (In case you're wondering, China and Saudi Arabia are two of the countries mentioned).  I read the first sentence and doubted the source. The second convinced me that Maureen Dowd had had nothing to do with it.  I read through to the end, and then went to the Times site, searched for the column, and wasn't in the least surprised not to find it, though there was an op-ed piece by her with that date.  It was about Hillary Clinton.  I Googled the title and, sure enough, it was at www.snopes.com with a rating of False.

My mind boggles at the thought of the time and energy that go into creating these lies.  It also boggles at the time and energy I spend trying to refute them.  A few weeks ago, all my work went on hold as I wrote a seven page letter in reply to an email I'd received from a cousin.  I can't seem to resist checking the facts, or returning what I've discovered to the sender (and anyone else on the list I can access), at least not now, not when the election is so near and so crucial.  I know,  it's sticking my finger into the dyke trying to hold back the flood, but it seems the least I can do.  But I am hoping that on the 5th of Novembe I'll finally be able to stop.