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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lying for a living

Twice, I was one of the winners of the Liars’ Contest at the Illinois Storytelling Festival, when it was in Spring Grove.  Of course, I might not be telling the truth about that. Winking smile

I used to start off by saying “At first, they wouldn’t let me into this contest because I was in marketing, and this contest is limited to amateur liars.  But they I said I was in statistical marketing research, and they said ‘OK, you can enter, but don’t put everyone to sleep’.”

But now there’s news that there really are firms set up to provide professional lying

“Paladin Deception Services, he will say what clients want him to say to anyone calling on his dedicated phone lines.

He provides cover for cheating husbands, fake references for job-seekers and even "doctors" to confirm that someone needs a sick day.”

There are some interesting details there about the technology setup that enables the firm to accomplish this, but the fundamental question is an ethical one. Paladin defends itself:

Green says he will not deceive police or courts, or verify false information related to loans. He claims he will not tell lies to any organization involved with law enforcement, fire protection, health care or education….Roughly 70 percent of Paladin's business comes from job-seekers.

If people have embarrassing gaps in their work histories, Paladin can fill them. When a prospective employer calls, Paladin's workers will confirm any details that the client wants -- high salary, years of service, job title.

This allows people to compensate for past errors, said Green. "I think many people make mistakes on any job they have," he said. "What matters is what people believe about us."

Cheating spouses are regular customers.

It’s nice that he claims to have some standards, but deceiving spouses and employers is hardly a victimless activity.

It’s not even that clear that it’s helpful to the client. During the housing boom, I ran into the son of a friend who was working to help people expunge information off their credit records so they could qualify for mortgages. In some cases, he was helping them get rid of incorrect information and in other cases he was helping them get rid of correct, but embarrassing information that would lead a lender to question whether they would be able to pay back their loan amount.  In the end, did many of these people qualify for a loan and a house they would not otherwise have gotten? Did that make them, perhaps, worse off after the housing crash than they would have been if they had just been renting? Often, the main victim of our own lies is ourselves.



Cartoon by Doug Savage, www.savagechickens.com

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