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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Sunday, February 15

Brian Williams & Hillary Clinton

I’m still saddened by Brian Williams’ departure from NBC. Things being said about him and his story have gone back and forth, some excusing him, some blaming him for his apparent lie, blame him for betraying his viewers’ trust in him. I’m just sad. I loved him and his anchoring. He was a man I admired. Will he or won’t he be back? Time will tell. Meanwhile, in an article by Morgan Housel for The Motley Fool (2/12/2015), I found an explanation that seems valid. Here’s a part of it. See what you think.

“Was Williams lying? Maybe. Although it's hard to think how someone as high-profile as Williams thought he could get away with fabricating a story that is so easy to verify.

Could it have been an innocent error? I think so.

False memories are more common than you might think, particularly when they involve emotional events, like reporting from a war zone. Understanding how your mind can fool you is key to knowing how seriously to take yourself, even in something like investing.

For decades, psychologists have interviewed people about an emotional topic, added some fake details and watched their subjects' memories trick them.

Psychologist Lawrence Patihis of the University of California, Irvine, discussed the Sept. 11 attacks with a group of research subjects and found that, when prompted, several could vividly describe seeing video of Flight 93 crashing into a field in Pennsylvania (this video, of course, doesn't exist). ‘It just seemed like something was falling out of the sky,’ one participant said. ‘I was just, you know, kind of stunned by watching it go down.’

Hillary Clinton had a similar flub a few years ago, recalling coming under sniper fire after her plane landed during a 1996 trip to Bosnia, running from the plane toward cover ‘with our heads down.’ In reality, video showed, Clinton walked calmly off the plane where she was presented with a poem from an 8-year-old girl.

‘Memory is man's greatest friend and worst enemy,’ said novelist Gilbert Parker. That's because memory is just a series of woven-together stories we tell ourselves. And we can be such good storytellers — and such elaborate weavers — that what we recall as fact can be bits and pieces of truth spun into something that never happened.

Clinton, for example, was traveling to a war-torn country. As a high-profile target, that was surely a scary trip. There might have been legitimate threats from snipers. Or snipers later that day, a few weeks later or the month before. She may have been rushed off a plane during a different trip, or heard the Secret Service discussing plans in case of an ambush. All that fear put together could result in Clinton's mind filling in the gaps of what actually happened with vivid, emotional thoughts of what could have happened.

Williams reported a story on the helicopter that came under actual fire. Replaying ‘what-if’ thoughts in his head about a helicopter an hour in front of his own—which surely terrified him and his family — could have caused him to weave the two stories together.
‘I don't know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another,’ Williams said after admitting his mistake.

But psychologists might.

False memories ‘are much more common that people intuitively think’ and ‘should be considered as a possible explanation in cases like this,’ psychologist Christopher Chabris tweeted recently.

It all comes down to taking an event that actually happened and pushing it against one that could have happened, should have happened or almost happened. Our storytelling mind takes it from there, filling the gaps of actual memories with the visions of false ones.
‘Memories create our stories, but our stories also create our memories,’ wrote psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson in their book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). ‘Once we have a narrative, we shape our memories to fit into it.’

It's entirely possible Williams, Clinton and everyone else in this story is an attention-seeking liar.”

I hope that last statement isn’t true. I really want to vote for Hillary next year. I want to be able to trust her. I want to think she was simply the victim of false memories just as Brian Williams was.

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