Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Do you want to know a secret? Promise not to tell?

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Want to know a secret?

Everyone does and everyone has them to share, ranging from benign white lies to the I-slept-with-your-husband types of lies.

The subway commuters in Toronto are willing to give more than an earful, with an art installation piece titled Confessions Underground. The idea invited passersby to record their embarrassing moment and guilty deeds in a street-level confessional booth.

The artists behind the project put videos of those confessions up on the 300 screens in every subway system throughout the city.

Interestingly, it wasn't a difficult task getting people to divulge their skeletons, from spending $15,000 on plastic surgery to their life ambitions.

"We wanted to create something that's emotional, something they can connect with," said John Loerchner, one of the artists involved.

But don't some secrets deserve to be locked away forever? With the arrival of websites such as postsecret.com and online blogs that give people some level of anonymity, people can unburden themselves much more readily.

But again, do we deserve or need to know everything?

Was it important the public get access to 1.2 million documents, because some guy named Julian Assange decided so?

Has anything changed from average Canadians since we had access to the million-plus cables? The reaction to the cables being released was mixed.

American journalists wrote the material published, especially the diplomatic cables, was a catalyst for the Arab Spring and that Bradley Manning was a 21st century Benedict Arnold, but that's debatable. Perhaps, if the exposure of Wikileaks caused a country such as Switzerland to have its own Alps Spring, but to attribute the uprising in the Middle East to the documents is a stretch.

The documentary The Imposter, is opening in limited release this week (although it probably won't come to Prince George, because Spiderman apparently needs three theatres). The film is about Frederic Bourdin, or as he is known by his nickname, The Chameleon. So far, he has assumed at least 39 false identities.

In 1997, Bourdin took the identity of Nicholas Barklay, a lost son of a family in San Antonio, Texas. Even though Bourdin had brown eyes and a French accent, he managed to convince this heartbroken family he was their missing child. He moved into their house, gained American citizenship and convinced the desperate family he had been sold into sexual slavery, accounting for his absence. The charade went on for three months before a small-town private investigator exposed his secret. Talk about abusing the power of secrets and lies.

Some secrets hold more weight than others.

If a person wants to spend thousands of dollars on getting a nose job, have at it, but when it comes to withholding a secret that could even indirectly put someone at risk -- that's when it's time to bare all.

The trick is knowing the difference.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2012 A10

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