by George Beres
(Swans - February 13, 2006) I value Oprah Winfrey's image of commitment to truth. But there are limits. She makes too much of it in attacking the author of a book she promoted, A Million Little Pieces. Virginia Heffernan's commentary (January 29, 2006) failed to recognize the self-serving anger behind Oprah's needless tirade about "truth."
We should not forget what Heffernan downplayed -- that Oprah is in the book promotion business. In the context of today, Oprah would serve her audience better by distinguishing between truth as the responsibility of a reporter in the news media and what is perceived as "truth" by authors -- and publishers -- of books. This is important because today's journalists are suspect through failure by many in the United States to separate themselves from government propaganda.
Webster's Dictionary defines memoir as "an account of a personal experience." Such an account can be embellished through intent, or be incomplete because of forgetfulness. Not too long ago, a US president told investigators he "could not remember." That did not discourage people from reading what he subsequently wrote, which they found provided an impression about a time or situation, even if it often was not consistent with the facts.
Instead of trying to absolve herself of some imagined book-writing folly, Oprah should spotlight a public verity vital to all in a democracy: that accurate investigative news reporting -- not bookwriting -- is essential to protect our freedoms. She makes light of "truth" when she says the book's author, James Frey, "betrayed millions of readers," while she ignores the true betrayal by a press complicit in serving up repeated lies of a war-making Administration.
She does the concept of truth wrong with her vengeful attack on the author of a book she happened to misinterpret. She accuses him of what Heffernan calls "grievous sins" of inconsistency with what Oprah perceives as truth in a book his publisher describes as a "memoir." She is irate over what she views as lies Frey told her in a telecast interview, but which may have more to do with her misperceptions.
I am gullible if I assume a memoir is based entirely on fact. Oprah was gullible about Frey's book, but goes an unfortunate step further. She becomes arrogant when she tries to distract us by creating a non-issue to mislead the public, leveling excessive criticism on a writer whose "memoir" she simply misunderstood.
For sure, Oprah does not support Swans.