Linebacker Manti Te’o of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish works out at IMG Academy on Jan. 23 in Bradenton, Fla.
Lance Armstrong is a cheater. Manti Te’o is a liar. And Beyoncé, it seems, is a pretender. Heck, even Storage Wars is staged.
Is anything for real these days?
From sports heroes to superstar performers to reality TV, we’re deluged by deception. We’ve become obsessed with who-knew-what-when and did-she-or-didn’t-he debates, passionate about recent pop-culture crimes and insistent about how important each is or isn’t.
“It’s so unexpected,” explains Gabrielle Adams, assistant professor of organizational behavior and an expert in the area of deception at the London Business School. “It takes us by surprise because we want to believe that they are perfect.”
While “who cares?” is a common chorus, and many grump about there being more important issues to cover, the stories are hitting home. They are feeding the national conversation, from the morning TV shows to late-night monologues to round-the-clock social media chatter.
And why not? The stories are resonating because we have an emotional, moral and at times even a financial investment in them. No one likes to be deceived. Fans don’t want to feel hoodwinked by their idols.
On Thursday, Notre Dame Heisman Trophy finalist Te’o told more of his dead-girlfriend-hoax tale to Katie Couric in the first TV interview since the scandal broke. “I wasn’t as forthcoming, but I didn’t lie,” he said.
Except that he did — to his father, as he points out in the same interview: “The biggest lie I’m sorry for is the lie that I told my dad.”
Understandably, fans, viewers — well, all of us — are left scratching our heads.
“What’s happening here is people feel betrayed. They feel foolish,” says James Ratley, president and CEO of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. While many argue that there are varying degrees of deception going on, Ratley contends “there are no small frauds. Only frauds that have not had time to reach the massive stage.”
In some cases, such as Armstrong and Storage Wars, the troubles become legal battles, with money and jobs at stake. For others, like Beyoncé and Manti Te’o, the court of public opinion is doing the judging.
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