I swear to God, I’m going to hell. Why? I can’t stop flogging this damn dead horse either. The Jonah Lehrer Situation, that’s the dead horse about which I speak.
First of all, I’ve just been mulling the situation over and over again in my mind. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. Then, Lehrer’s publisher announces they are going to look at all of his books and see if they could determine whether or not he’s a serial liar. I hope not, but, you know, stranger things have happened.
The next thing I read on L’Affaire Lehrer is this piece by Seth Mnookin (http://blogs.plos.org/thepanicvirus/2012/08/03/jonah-lehrers-missing-compass/) which just excoriates Lehrer. Says Mnookin:
But the simultaneously pervasive and picayune journalistic misconduct cited above — and remember, that’s all in a single blog post that’s roughly half as long as the one you’re reading — doesn’t illustrate sloppiness or corner-cutting. It illustrates a writer with a remarkable arrogance: The arrogance to believe that he has the right to rejigger reality to make things a little punchier, or a little neater, or a little easier for himself. This is not the work of someone who lost his way; it’s the work of someone who didn’t have a compass to begin with.
But, of course, I can’t leave THAT alone. Who is this guy, I wonder? Not hard to find out. (God bless the Interwebs.) He’s been called out plenty (http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/03/seth-mnookin-and-the-error-virus.html) And it’s not hard to determine that Mnookin is no literary angel either.
Listen, we all make mistakes. Some larger than others. Some worse than others. Sometimes we have to eat humble pie and move on and sometimes we never recover. Mnookin may be right: Lehrer may be too arrogant for his own good. But, you know what? Mnookin seems plenty arrogant himself.
At the end of the day, I hope we find that Lehrer is NOT a serial liar. Maybe what he needs is someone to explain how to “write around” the facts and not change them to fit a thesis and how to say “I’m sorry” and mean it. If we DO find out he’s a serial liar, well then, good riddance.
What we don’t need is Seth Mnookin — obviously not above reproach — playing what seems to me to be “literary playground bully” and picking on Lehrer because he’s a vulnerable target. Too many pots calling kettles black.
Here’s a link to my previous long-winded post on the subject.