Thursday, April 11, 2013

Champion liars

For celebrities who happen to be stupendous liars, the prestigious Pinnochio Award—which I'm thinking of organizing—will be a kind of annual Nobel prize.

Several brilliant candidates have already appeared on the scene. Ever since the interview of 17 January 2013 with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong has been a n° 1 contender for the award.

Between now and the end of the year, however, many things can happen. Many monstrous untruths can be propagated. And it's quite possible that various excellent liars will be making an effort to overtake the Texan... which has become a perfectly feasible task now that Armstrong has stopped absorbing his customary cocktails.

In France, for example, the politician Jérôme Cahuzac provided us with a spectacular performance of blatant lying, not so long ago, when he swore to his comrades, in an eye-to-eye declaration, that he had never had a bank account in a foreign tax haven.

                                       — photo AFP/Jean-Pierre Muller

His claim to the Pinnochio Award must be taken seriously, since this was the first known case of a French minister telling lies to the president himself, then being revealed as a liar and obliged to resign. There are rumors, too, that Cahuzac has amassed vast financial funds, from mysterious donors, enabling him to envisage lobbying operations on a grand scale for the greatly-desired Pinnochio Award.

This morning, we heard of a humble but determined Pinnochio candidate from an unexpected domain: the Jewish religious hierarchy in France.

Gilles Bernheim, the 60-year-old chief rabbi of France, had admitted that his book Quarante méditations juives [Stock, 2011], created with the assistance of a ghostwriter, contained plagiarized excerpts. Prior to resigning, the distinguished rabbi also pointed out that he had falsified his curriculum vitae. Contrary to what has been declared in Who's Who and other places, Bernheim has never obtained an agrégation (high-level French academic distinction) in philosophy. Definitely not nice...

I would be a liar if I did not admit that, personally, I've been wondering whether I myself could maybe be considered as a serious candidate for the much-coveted Pinnochio Award. In that sense, let me start the ball rolling by revealing a well-kept secret. Up until now, I happened to be one of the rare individuals who knew that the French rabbi seen dancing in the following famous video was in fact Gilles Bernheim, disguised by means of a false beard, when he was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris (where he picked up doctorates in molecular biology and cosmology).

I swear to God—cross my heart and hope to die—that the secret I've just revealed is absolutely true and easily provable.

POST SCRIPTUM: In the Jewish folklore arena, I must include this hilarious image, for those who haven't seen it yet elsewhere on the web:

Apparently the passenger in a bag is an ultra-orthodox Jew who is using transparent plastic in an attempt to protect himself, during a flight to the Holy Land, from unspecified obnoxious emanations. Since the gentleman appears to be calm (sleeping?), we might suppose that this interesting method does in fact work. On the other hand, I must point out that I've been unable to find any factual evidence concerning the physical state of this pious passenger when he reached his destination. Was he still alive? Indeed, there's a credible rumor going around that the individual in the plastic bag was already dead when the photo was taken. Other passengers (well and truly alive) were simply taking their deceased relative back to Israel for burial on the slopes across from Jerusalem. It's surprising however (to say the least) that the corpse would have been accepted by the airline as cabin luggage.

Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins has dragged out a spectacular video:

When you look at things objectively, compared with all these crazy cries and gesticulations (which might disturb, not only other passengers, but the flight crew), a few tiny lies in a curriculum vitæ or a few borrowed paragraphs in a book are neither here nor there. I can comprehend, in a way, why a distinguished religious leader might find it worthwhile to employ dubious methods in order to enhance his intellectual reputation. But I remain totally totally incapable of understanding what might be going on in the heads of those guys in the airplane.

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