“This appears to have been a hoax, Glenn. You retweeted it 3 times to 779K people. Got anything to say?”—Sam Harris
So, let me get this straight, an internet troll named “Godfrey Elfwick” pulls off a hoax of Sokal-level proportions on The Guardian, one of the most well-respected newspapers in the world. This fake-news story, which includes a nasty denunciation of Sam Harris, goes viral. Glenn Greenwald retweets said fake-news story. Sam Harris and others let him know that it’s a fake. Does Greenwald apologize? Nope. He doubles down. Says the story speaks to a deeper truth about Sam Harris even if it’s not factually true. If we were talking about something like Game of Thrones or The Hunger Games, this might fly. But we’re not. We’re talking about a story in a serious newspaper, which was enthusiastically retweeted by one of the most well-respected journalists in the world. What does it say about the state of journalism when one of its leading lights publicly declares that the truth doesn’t really matter?
Glenn Greenwald reminds me of this crazy woman I met at a wedding in the early 2000s. It was a beautiful ceremony but a terrible reception. I was stuck at the worst table in the room, sitting across from the worst couple in the world. A real match made in Hell. They were in the middle of some sort of fight. She was mad at him. Really mad. Furious actually. But he didn’t know why. Poor guy kept sheepishly asking her what was wrong. Eventually she told him. Apparently she was mad at him because he’d said something horribly hurtful the night before. At dinner. He stared at her with the doe eyes of an innocent man. He really didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about. Seriously, if you looked up “WTF?” in the dictionary, there’d be a picture of this dude’s face. Didn’t last though. Second or two later, color in the dude’s face went from Scared-Rabbit White to Righteously-Indignant Red. Faster than you can say “Johnnie Cochran”. Guy was so mad he was shaking. Could barely speak.
He reminded her that he was on a plane last night. That they didn’t talk last night. That he’d been back home for a funeral. His grandmother’s funeral. Took awhile, but eventually she realized that she wasn’t remembering something that actually happened, something he actually said; she was remembering something he’d said to her last night in a dream. Did she apologize? Nope. She doubled down like Glenn Greenwald. Said the dream spoke to a deeper truth about their relationship even if it wasn’t factually true.
If you’re writing historical fiction, you can tell the truth whilst fudging the facts. The same cannot be said of journalism. Different rules apply. A journalist who thinks the truth doesn’t matter is like a comedian who thinks being funny doesn’t matter.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)