Dupery by Design

Prince Henry—These lies are like the father that begets them: gross as a mountain; open, palpable. Why, thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson, obscene, greasy tallow-keech—

Falstaff—What! art thou mad? art thou mad? Is not the truth the truth?

(William Shakespeare, King Henry IV)

Falstaff’s lie that he acted valiantly and bravely when he was set upon by would-be thieves, is easily disproved since it was his friends who, for fun, disguised themselves to rob Falstaff of the loot he has stolen in a highway robbery. Falstaff is corrupt and is easily baited into flagrantly lying for his friends’ entertainment. His lying is so bare-faced (gross as a mountain) that there is no malign intent to dupe anyone into believing that he is actually telling the truth: he is too much of a clown to be believed.

The plain truth has exposed Falstaff as a coward. Prince Henry tells him that he fled from the scene in terrified fear, ‘nimbly’ carrying his away his guts, in ‘quick dexterity’, and roaring for mercy. Falstaff is fool, a whoreson, obscene and greasy (and the insults witty), and his buffoonery is clear. This is a simple lie to expose. When deception is systemic, however, exposing the truth becomes much more difficult. When it is spread by social media platforms that use techniques to hook us in and keep our attention, we have an even more serious problem.

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