Webster 8: The Truth is Here

by Daniel Radosh

"The truth is out there."

Of the many truisms I dislike, this "X-Files" staple is especially irksome. As a locale, "out there" is just too non-specific. Where exactly is the truth? A person could spend a lifetime trying to answer that question — through scholarship, meditation, prayer. But I don't feel like spending a lifetime. So, like a good slave of the Zeitgeist, I take my quest for truth to the Web.

A HotBot search confirms that the truth is, indeed, out there — in exactly 444,086 different places. Meditation would be quicker than checking them all. That's the problem with getting information — especially big picture information — from the Web: when the answer is everywhere, it might as well be nowhere.

Besides, just a glance at what passes for "truth" here is disheartening. Do I want The Truth, a publication of the racist millennialist group Christian Identity? Or did I want The Truth About Bad Breath from freshbreath.com? Both stink of propaganda. Or is it halitosis?

I decide to go right to the source, or at least the registered domain-name: the-truth.com. This tract, "Prepared by Editors at Advanced Concepts Research" — well, gosh, that sounds authoritative — argues that "The Universe Is A Growing God." It is a putatively logical argument, beginning with the following statement:

"Because we have learned that since the beginning the universe has steadily become more complex and more conscious, we know the universe is growing."

I know what you're thinking: who is this we? Yes the Universe is expanding, but that doesn't mean it has become more complex (entropy, anyone?). And increased volume certainly doesn't equal increased consciousness. Restating this sentence appropriately we are left with, "Because we have learned that since the beginning the universe has steadily become bigger, we know the universe is growing." The truth remains at large.

Maybe I need to narrow my search. Recalling Keats, I perform a revised search for "truth AND beauty." I am rewarded with the slightly more manageable 49,556 matches. Unfortunately, this being the Internet, after all, most of the references are to a Frank Zappa song, a "Star Trek" episode, and, of course, "A photo gallery dedicated to the inherent sensual beauty of women." There are also several different URLs for a painfully mediocre poem by someone else who has read too much Keats.

I try again. Recalling Madonna, I search for "truth OR dare." Once again I find mainly smut of one form or another . I also find a colleague. Maybe truth has been in my own backyard this whole time.

Or perhaps if I want to know what is true on the Web, I have to seek out who is true on the Web. Barbara True, for instance. In her True identity, I may uncover the truth. "I was born on July 9, 1976," begins Barbara. "[I go] to Pacific Lutheran University, and I am currently studying Business and rowing for the crew team. And I love Hawaiian Legends!" Hmm, have you heard the one about the Tabu that causes surfing and hula mishaps? Shamefully, the crew team in the photo on Barbara's page are wearing jackets that say Princeton, not Pacific Lutheran University. This isn't truthful at all.

I turn next to Sean True, who boasts simply, "I blow goats for fun and profit!! Great for parties!!! Call 1-217-BLO-GOAT" Wonderful — another coxswain. Maybe not more truthful, but at least less Lutheran.

Perhaps truth is most likely to be found in the hallowed halls of academia. At least Trues are likely to be found there. Beyond Barbara at PLU (and ignoring Sean for now, as we should have in the first place) there is Christopher Miles True, a graduate student in physics and astronomy at Appalachian State University, Hans True, "Associate Professor in Department of Mathematical Modelling," at some Scandinavian outfit, and Walter Eddie True, whose Baker High School Class of '65 school photo neatly disproves the notion that the universe is becoming steadily more conscious.

A child shall lead. "My name is Allison M. True and I'm 9 years old. My birthdate is 1/4/86. My life is not that interesting." At last, a breath of truth! "I have a boring younger brother Jonathan." Yes, say more! "I have lots of things to do and have special skills too. Some of those things and skills are sports — I love sports — and more stuff like that." Um, sorry Allison, you lost me there.

Continuing my search, I discover an extensive genealogy of the True family, from young Trues to ancient ones. There is Civil War martyr Nimrod Porter True and over there, the late Ova True. None of that 'Allison' and 'Jonathan' shit for these Trues, boy.

Wait, what's this? Becki True of Las Vegas may at last have the answers I seek. I say this not because of her vague endorsement of Home Automation ("My Hobby, My Business"), but for her commitment to seek the truth herself, in the form of her plainspoken movie reviews. For example, what other critic was so truthful about MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: "I enjoyed this movie. It LOOKED good. By that, I mean the way it was filmed looked good." You see that? When she says a film looked good, that means it looked good. Or take her summary of MURIEL'S WEDDING: "a quirky movie that needs to be seen to be appreciated." Like Becki, I too am sick of people appreciating movies that they have never seen.

And here's the weird part: in addition to film reviews, Becki also recaps each week's episode of … "The X-Files": "Mulder and Mr. Smith and the girl are caught by the bad alien. He tosses Mulder into the closed doors of a van, knocking him unconscience [sic]. We fear that Mr. Smith and the girl are now dead."

With trenchant analysis like this, the truth will surely not elude us forever.   </end>

(Editor's note: Unfortunately, some of the guardians of truth sites moved or shut down their pages before publication. We hate them.)

Daniel Radosh is STIM's very special Webster columnist and a freelance writer. He lives in Manhattan.