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From Pilate to the Colleges: “What is Truth?”


The line came at the end of that classic movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” (1962). An editor was mulling over the difference between the legend of that shooting and the deflating truth of the matter. And he said, “Print the legend.” It would be a far more interesting story than the truth, and for some people, then, it might have been better than the truth.

What brings this all back is a set of stories and happenings, coming quickly on one another. Each one is a bit odd, but when they’re taken together, they reveal something running beneath the surface of the dramatic changes we’ve had to absorb now in what used to be called “our culture.”

One event is the release of a movie called “Truth.” This movie returns to the scandal that unseated Dan Rather at CBS: his willingness to pass off, without much care, certain forged documents claiming that George W. Bush had used special connections to arrange a place for himself in the Texas Air National Guard. The move was designed to deliver a blow to the reelection of Bush in 2004. Apart from the forged papers, the story itself was false.

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