May 31, 2020

Winnipeg
23° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Lies lead to truly terrific treatise

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/1/2019 (498 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Shakespeare famously remarked on "how this world is given to lying."

To which, in her captivating exploration of liars and those suckered in by them, American journalist and author Abby Ellin says amen.

There’s no condescension on offer here for the gullible and conned — precisely because Ellin counts herself among the victims.

In an astonishingly intimate opening chapter of Duped, she chronicles her courtship by (and engagement to) her very own prince of deceit — a guy she calls the "Commander."

The Commander was a bona fide doctor, but that was about the only bona fide thing about him. He regaled Ellin with tales of espionage missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, a stint as medical director of Guantanamo Bay prison and a 20-minute special audience he enjoyed with Barack Obama.

She believed in him and his cloak-and-dagger escapades, to the point of accepting his marriage proposal.

But the tangled web of lies he wove eventually blew apart, leaving her sorely doubting her own smarts.

She’s plain-spoken about her credulity. And she displays a self-deprecating and ironic wit, even as she re-traces her benighted infatuation with the Commander.

Ultimately, his lies gifted her this book. Her attempt to come to grips with them was the genesis of her investigations here, and led her to research the scientific how and why of duplicity, in part as a self-help remedy.

Along the way she considers who’s most likely to lie, why men and women lie differently, the neuroscience of lying, techniques for successful lying (and successful detection of lying), why polygraphs (a.k.a. "lie detectors") aren’t reliable and whistleblower legislation.

Seemingly, in human relations, others are often never really knowable. And sometimes those others don’t even much know themselves — which is precisely why they make such good liars, often half-believing their own lies... Ellin’s Commander being a case in point.

She views "the discovery that you’ve been exploited" as "so deeply bewildering, unsettling and hurtful that it constitutes real trauma," akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She even comes up with a new clinical term to describe the syndrome of those duped by a loved or trusted one: post-deception stress disorder (PDSD).

Her research is prodigious and impressive, and the writing nicely paced. There’s a lot of pep in her prose, resulting in a book that’s both playful and learned.

But for all her research and reflection, the brutal truth about Ellin is that, after being suckered by the Commander, she was subsequently lured into a similar, albeit briefer, liaison with a married man who was happily cohabiting with his wife (he told Ellin he was separated), and whom she dubs the "Cliché." He also had a mistress on the side (apart from Ellin herself). Even she can’t believe her idiocy.

Still, Ellin remains a gamer. One moment she avows she’s "quite content since opting out of romance; a huge chunk of me isn’t interested in that nonsense." But in the next sentence she backtracks: "And yet — that nonsense makes the world go round."

Apparently common treachery can’t keep an uncommon woman down. Or impair her writing.

Douglas J. Johnston is a Winnipeg lawyer and writer.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us