Michael Maiello's picture

    Infinite Winter: The Monsters We Carry

    I have just reached a scene in Infinite Jest where 17-year-old Hal Incandenza reflects, in conversation with his deformed brother Mario, about the monsters he once feared and what he fears now:

    'Boo, I think I no longer believe in monsters as faces in the floor or feral infants or vampires or whatever. I think at seventeen now I believe the only real monsters might be the type of liar where there's simply no well to tell. The ones who give nothing away.'

    'But then how do you know they're monsters then, then?'

    'That's the monstrosity right there, Boo, I'm starting to think.'

    'Golly Ned.'

    'That they walk among us. Teach our children. Inscrutable. Brass-faced.'

    Hal's world is full of effective liars.  Heck, his mother is carrying on, in fantastic sexual fashion, with one of his classmates. The school, and the seemingly unrelated halfway house down the hill, have been infiltrated by spies from the U.S. and Canada.

    I don't think what I've quoted takes a lot of unpacking but I do think it's poignant, especially in an election year.  The perfect liar probably is the biggest monster out there and our election contests, they very often do reward the skill of deception.

    It is ultimately very easy for a skilled liar to get away with the deed. Consider how many people still think it's an open question about whether or not George W. Bush's administration lied to gather support for the Iraq War.  Or, look at the recent privacy blow-up between Apple and the FBI.  Did a neutral third party really step in to hack Apple where the FBI couldn't?  Or is there more to the story that both Apple and the FBI intend to keep from us?

    Of course, this kind of thinking leads to conspiracy theorizing but, as I learned from an earlier long book, "paranoia doesn't mean they're not out to get you."




    If you talk faster and more confidently, people are more likely to believe you. Stand up straight, don't back down, and the first lie imprints in our brains as true over the long run, even if initially discounted. Also the rule of 3"s.saying" We" a lot helps in sales, but in politics "I" is critical along with a lot of "them"s.  People like the rush of being part of an elite movement," outsiders" even if completely mainstream. There"s more of course..."They might be monsters..." what was it that made Dark Shadows so popular in its day?


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