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Play On!

Louis Roney

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In “War and Peace” Leo Tolstoy writes, “The most powerful weapon of ignorance is the diffusion of printed matter.”

Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” successfully urged Americans to get the British off their backs by fighting a costly and bloody Revolutionary War.

“Remember Pearl Harbor” inspired teenagers such as your commentator to spend four years evening the score for a treacherous and murderous Japanese attack.

Just as truth spread far and wide by the printed word can expedite justice, the printed lie has been a vexing problem to confront ever since man learned to write. Differentiating between the truth and a lie is an art that every citizen of a free country should assiduously acquire.

After World War II, I lived in Greenwich Village in New York City. Every morning, I walked up to Sheridan Square and bought The New York Times. In those days, The Times was, I believed, “All the news that’s fit to print.” That venerable newspaper has, in my opinion, lost a good measure of its former credibility re: printing the unvarnished truth.

Music and theater reviews were, perforce, always known to be matters of opinion — but the front page of The Times was almost sacrosanct.

Ownerships of newspapers do not last forever, and “new strokes” may come in with “new folks” who take over a paper and direct its “slant.”

New generations of ownership — even bearing the same family name — may differ as night differs from day. Right-wing can become left-wing without even a title change.

Plato commented, “Truth is the beginning of every good thing, both in heaven and on earth; and he who would be blessed and happy should be from the first a partaker of truth, for then he can be trusted.”

Being trustworthy is my intent, and my printed words are aimed to conform to this ideal.

I have had, perhaps, no more expertise in this area than have you, but I can tell you from my experience that the first product of a printed lie is anger in the person being lied about.

If you are married, be glad that you have a mate to talk things over with before you react overtly on a first foolish impulse.

We all know that things in print have a special clout that the spoken word lacks.

There is this to be said: Consider who the liar is and whether his reputation will not be ignominious when his name stands in public versus your own.

Making too much of a lie increases its inherent importance, yet giving no response has its own private perils.

The more one thinks things over, the less one is impelled to answer at all. “Time heals all wounds” and one can hope, “wounds all heels.”

A pertinent case in point occurred some 25 years ago when a very prominent friend phoned me at 7 a.m. He said, “This morning you are going to read a story about me on the front page of the newspaper. I want to tell you first, that the story is completely untrue — a lie through and through.”

“I’m glad you phoned,” I said, “But you didn’t need to call.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because,” I said, “I know you.”