The journalist who was a con-man

The journalist who was a con-man
"…there is something repulsive 
about what I am doing."

"I realized that what psychics love about being psychics is the power they have over other people … I am beginning to think that even if I give good advice, there is something repulsive about what I am doing." 

This was a quote from a story where young journalist Stephen Glass pretended to be a psychic. But he was not only pretending to be a psychic, he was also pretending to be a truthful journalist. At first he only embellished his work, but soon he was making up entire stories. Mr. Glass became a fraud and a liar who betrayed the magazines and conned all the people he worked with, most spectacularly The New Republic, where 27 of his 41 stories contained fabrications.

The article Shattered Glass by Buzz Bissinger in Vanity Fair tries to explain Stephen Glass, and documents his downfall. Read it for a master class in deception.

He got away with his mind games because of the remarkable industry he applied to the production of the false backup materials which he methodically used to deceive legions of editors and fact checkers. Glass created fake letterheads, memos, faxes, and phone numbers; he presented fake handwritten notes, fake typed notes from imaginary events written with intentional misspellings, fake diagrams of who sat where at meetings that never transpired, fake voice mails from fake sources. He even inserted fake mistakes into his fake stories so fact checkers would catch them and feel as if they were doing their jobs. He wasn’t, obviously, too lazy to report. He apparently wanted to present something better, more colorful and provocative, than mere truth offered.

It all worked because of his skill at creating incredibly complex scenes and also because of that accommodating personality. Glass was the guy always ready to lend a sympathetic ear to colleagues going through divorces or trying to juggle kids and careers. He was almost brutally self-flagellating about his own work and abilitiesso much so that his co-workers felt protective. But Glass’s seeming insecurity hid guts of steel. He reacted to warning shots from his possible doubters with audacity; he simply enlarged his fictions…

(And what did Mr. Glass do after he was discovered to be a fraud and barred from journalism? In 2003, he wrote a novel based on his experiences, called The Fabulist. In 2007, he had gone to law school and was working as a paralegal, and performing with a comedy troupe in Los Angeles.)

Read the entire article: Shattered Glass, Vanity Fair>>

A critically-admired movie was based on the Vanity Fair article. It starred Hayden Christiansen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny, Melanie Lynskey, Rosario Dawson and Steve Zahn.

Shattered Glass (2003) – the movie trailer

– The movie Shattered Glass>>
– Stephen Glass, Wikipedia>>
– The storyteller, Guardian>>

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