Truth

The internet is not the truth, but sometimes it exhibits a common grace. A sampling of websites and forums, for example, will teach a writer the proper form of address for a female superior officer. (If you don’t know, it’s ma’am.) If instead you relied on television writers, you would think sir was proper.

I don’t know the writers of “Castle,” so I won’t ascribe any motive or agenda. Considering only 0.5% (that’s one-half of one percent) of Americans serve in the armed forces, I can safely assume ignorance on their part. But if they didn’t know the proper form of address, why pick the wrong one?

The internet search I just did took less than a minute. Another few minutes allowed me to check multiple sources to verify the first results. The web! It’s fast, easy, and mostly safe.

Anyone who regularly watches television, goes to the movies or reads fiction will encounter an untruth that gets under his skin. My attorney wife’s eyes are permanently rolled to the top of her sockets from the number of legal fallacies she’s seen. Now, sometimes it’s necessary to skirt reality to craft a good yarn. But these small details can and do yank the audience out of the story. They do this because you have established a bond of trust with your audience, and when you proffer a falsehood, you break that bond. It’s the same as when an otherwise reliable witness lies or misremembers a small detail – it impugns the entire testimony.

“Telling the truth” has become such an axiom in the arts – is it possible we’ve become inured to its importance? Is it a sign of our times that telling our truth is more important than the truth? We disagree about the “truths” of existence, God, and our moral place in the world. But when it comes to whether ballistics testing can determine the model of a gun, whether counsel can introduce a surprise witness, or how one addresses a woman officer, the internet will set you – and your audience – free.