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Lies and consequences

Another memoir hoax packs a punch that hits at more than just the world of letters.

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Truth took a hit in the literary world this week. The author of an acclaimed memoir, "Love and Consequences," about a foster girl who survives gang life in Los Angeles, was forced to admit it was a hoax. But it's not just in the realm of letters where integrity is under siege.

The US Army just confirmed that thousands of soldiers are cheating on online tests for promotions. As a consequence, it will spend millions of dollars to revise the correspondence courses.

The British magazine Nature reports that a new scanning program has identified 76 cases of outright plagiarism among professors (not students) of biomedicine. As a consequence, the study's entire database of articles is on a public website for peer review – and peer pressure.

Meanwhile, public confidence in American journalism has steadily declined, as has the credibility of information on the Internet. In the book publishing world, economics no longer favor fact checking. But if these "never mind" cases continue to crop up, that, too, could have its consequences (hopefully, one of them will be more vigorous checking).

It could be argued that Americans have become too cynical to expect much truth in what they read, hear, or watch. And some may misrepresent themselves on résumés or appropriate the accomplishments of others because they see that as the only way to advance in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

But signs abound that people actually do care about integrity in communication.


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