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Performance of false truths

FatCatRex's picture

After reading through Sagan's chapter, "Obsessed with Reality," which spends many pages discussing the sudden fame of Carlos / Jose Alvarez, I can't help but think of an experiment (ha, what a charged word 'experiment' is to me after reading Sagan...) by two anthropologists. A man and woman each dressed as "exotic" indigenous individuals, claiming to be from a ridiculously remote place that had never been discovered. They were put on display, and made themselves a traveling show about 10 or 12 years ago. We watched a documentary (mocumentary? I can't even remember now, interestingly enough) about their show, which featured these two actor/anthropologists dressed in fur and loincloths, parading around a CAGE putting on a show of being non-western foreigners. There was even a box in front of the cage where museum-goers could put in a quarter for a tribal dance or three dollars to see the male's genitalia. (!!!!) We are so quick to believe that different and odd is real--just because we can't disprove it, or because the different must be taken seriously enough such that we can distance ourselves??

I'm curious about the way that a forged truth can teach us something about our beliefs. That is to say, what we understand as truth is sometimes as valuable as the proven truth. Perhaps I'm just reiterating something we already feel like we've talked about at length but I continue to be interested in the role of a false truths in our lives. From the unlikelihood of the truth's presence in our courts (mentioned in Sagan and as the subject of my first webpaper) to the restorative power of anonymous, and thus unproven, truths (like PostSecret). The difference with the example of Carlos and these social scientists on display is that to learn from our own assumptions, we must first be 'bamboozled' as Sagan would say. It makes me wonder what the value of a falsified truth is, and how the revelation of such can be perhaps more powerful than the presentation of an original truth (we learn through our embarrassment and mistakes it many of us reported during our discussion of beliefs on Tuesday). In addition to questions around the value of a lie (or false truth) I'm also left thinking about the agency it takes to do so. This gets me back to issues of authenticity...some about US has to be authentic or proven or TRUE enough for folks to believe us, true or false.

Hope this wasn't too confusing, but I have to say I'm still muddling through it myself.


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