We want the truth, we want the truth… but can we handle the truth?

There’s nothing like a good old conspiracy theory. Even 50 years onwards allusions to the grassy knoll and the magic bullet are understood. Even by people whose parents hadn’t met when JFK got shot. As a species, humans have an uncanny appetite for the truth. We want to know what happened, what is happening, what will happen. We make documentaries about the past. We tweet, LinkIn, like and blog. We do previews and use computers to run simulations of sports matches. Still, are we sure knowledge is power?

First of all: what is truth? Truth for one person can be a lie for someone else. Barry Bonds is the all-time homerun champion. According to all the stats sheets, this  statement is true. Still, who can believe the figure of Barry Bonds? Truth and lies have become so muddled, that the only viable option seems to be an asterisk[1].

Secondly truth comes in gradation. The Pittsburgh Steelers  are a great team. This is true. That team has won the most Super Bowls. But this season they are 5 and 7 and underway for a losing record. Robert Horry is a more succesfull basketball player than Micheal Jordan. Horry has 7 rings, MJ only 6. But MJ has MVP accolades, records, trophies, …

Thirdly the truth can be complex. Take the Lance Armstrong case for example. Lance Armstrong cheated! Fact! Harvey Lee Oswald is a killer ! Fact[2]! But are we talking lone gunmen? That theory would be convenient for the people in charge. The police in Dallas don’t have to look much further. The International Cycling Federation (UCI) can bury its head in the sand and keep pretending cycling between 1990 en 2010 wasn’t all a big lie. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. There are too many questions left. Three? Four? Five? How many gun shots? How many cheated Tour de Frances? FBI, CIA, UCI, USADA, … the names by themselves seem to imply they are hiding something? Or is that just paranoid? A lot of vagueness, little fact. Movies give free artistic license to connect dots where in courts no connection can be proven. My money’s on a movie about Lance Armstrong before 2024[3].

Fourthly the truth can be tricky. For example would you want to know the exact date and time of your death? The answer has serious consequences. What if the date comes sooner than you thought? Lee Oswald shouted out he was a patsy. What if he was? That means someone else shot JKF. Someone or some more people who have enough clout to stage the setting at Dealey Plaza. Someone devious enough to use patsies.

Having established a frame work for the concept of ‘truth’, let’s turn our attention to the Richie Incognito case. Before Richie Incognito became a case, I just knew him as the guy with a cool name. But as it turns out nomen est omen*[4]? Did Incognito harass teammate Jonathan Martin? Did the harassment go so far that Jonathan had to fear for his life, let alone his job.

Firstly what is the truth in the case? Well, we don’t rightly know. Not for certain anyway. It’s a positive that both side have had an opportunity the tell their side of the story. But as so often happens, both sides don’t overlap. Mostly there’s quite a discrepancy. So secondly we take a look at gradation. What are we talking about in this case? Banter? Teasing? Some misguided effort to try and rally the troops?  Tough love? … And who decides the different grades? So on to the third key word: complex. Is Incognito a lone gun man? Or was he given orders? Is the NFL’s secret motto: toughen up or chicken out? Which brings me to the question: is Incognito a patsy? Is he being sacrificed? Incognito as a dirty player … when in reality what he has done, he has done in good faith, on orders and as one of many in sports locker rooms. Who will tell? … And more importantly who wants to know?

The title of this entry was taken from the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. The film raises questions about the truth. And how desirable it is to know the truth. When politicians make secret deals and ships goods and funds halfway across the world … in order to prevent a war. Does the public have to know the details? When our boss at work gives us extra chores, … because a colleague has a depression and doesn’t want anyone else to know … must the truth be told? When a first date goes terrible wrong, and you both see: I’ll call you later … is it necessary to point out that he wears the wrong cologne, that he is boring and can only talk about work, that she can’t stop talking about her previous boyfriend and het skanky former BFF he slept around with?

When we see Lance surviving cancer and crossing the alpine finishing line in the yellow jersey, do we want to wait another 8 to 10 years before finally being able to cheer? When we watch NFL do we want to think about bounty-gate? About the Patriots’ spy scandal? About Incognito? We all have to decide for our own.Is knowledge power? Or is ignorance bliss?

The journeyman, who wants to remain incognito.

[1] Okay, so you are the home run king … but … we just want to make sure there’s always a but.
[2] He’s a killer … but … he was never convicted in court, nor was he caught in the act. The same goes for Lance.
[3] Anyone wanna give me the Vegas odds?
[4] Name is omen!