Beats and Rhymes: Nobody Knows What's True Anymore

Cover of James Frey's controversial "A Million Little Pieces" | Photo by lissalou66 used under a Creative Commons license

This is a poem that's especially appropriate for the week before the election. Between fibbing politicians, fake memoirs, reality TV, cosmetic surgery, photoshop and botox, the truth can be elusive. The first two stanzas speak for themselves.

Nobody knows what's true anymore
Put in your tell all memoir
Throw in some guns, sex & drugs
You just might get an agent
Identity theft & false representation
Fantasy or fiction
Postmodern visions blur boundaries
Like digital graffiti
Put it in photoshop
Add a filter
Inject some botox & silicone
Pay to play, shag the producer..
Nobody knows what's true anymore
Check your horoscope
Are you sexual soulmates
Or post party playmates?
Get your word of the day
Blog on the news for a couple of hours
Nobody knows what's true anymore
Not even the newspaper
Check the Los Angeles Times
Dropping Fake Tupac facts
From FOX 1999
New York Times running
Fabricated story lines...
Margaret B. Jones & JT Leroy
Pseudonyms for pseudo fiction
Pseudo stories for pseudo livin
Nobody knows what's true anymore!


The seeds of the poem came from just over three years ago while I was teaching high school journalism at View Park Prep. There was a group of very talented writers in my class and they were writing their hearts out; much of their work was about growing up in South L.A. Attending school near Crenshaw and Slauson, they knew the real scoop on the city, whether it was Nipsey Hussle, Jerk dancing, or Tyler the Creator. They taught me a lot and we talked a lot about L.A. issues in class. Around that time a new memoir was published called "Love and Consequences" by Margaret B. Jones, about a half Native American, half White foster child who grew up in South Central and joined the Bloods and so forth. The book received rave reviews on NPR and in the New York Times. Shortly after the book came out it was exposed the writer wasn't named Margaret B. Jones and she was really from Sherman Oaks and a graduate of a private school. Her publisher pulled the book after she was exposed.

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The irony was not lost on my students. They were appalled that an outsider could come into their neighborhood, write about it falsely, and then pull the wool over a major publisher. Similar fabrications have happened with JT Leroy, Oprah's Book Club, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and recently best-selling author Jonah Lehrer.

Plagiarism and ethics of journalism called into question. Sex outsells substance, then there's photoshop and ethics of the art world. The blurring of boundaries extends on multiple levels. We need the truth now more than ever before.

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