David Manning Trivial Liars of the Month for June 2004

The Late John Lennon

Bulletin! Paul McCartney admits that some Beatles songs were about drugs!!!

As news, this recent headline rates somewhere between shocking revelations that Richard Simmons is gay and earth-shattering proof that O.J. wasn't innocent after all. So why did John Lennon earnestly urge us to believe, all those years ago, that his son Julian had drawn a picture that he said was called "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," and that John was just flabbergasted when people thought it was about LSD? Sir Paul, in his interview, discussed his own use of cocaine and marijuana, and while running down a list of Beatles songs that he said were explicit drug references ("Day Tripper;" "Got to Get You into My Life"), noted that "'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' is pretty obvious." It sure was, unless you also believed that when Ringo sang that he "got high with a little help from his friends" he was talking about parasailing.

Lying about something when it is dead certain that absolutely nobody will believe you is arguably even worse ethically than lying when it might work. It trivializes the truth, and makes the implicit statement that making false statements is nothing to worry about. Lennon's fable was especially pointless: those who condemned the Beatles for drug references were incredulous, and those who approved of the drug references didn't care. Who was the lie intended to convince? Lennon knew he was a role model and hero to millions, and his decision to throw away his reputation for honesty so recklessly was strangely irresponsible. As a John Lennon admirer, I didn't understand it then, and as an ethicist, I understand it less now.

At least Paul finally settled the issue. So when are Peter, Paul and Mary going to finally come clean about "Puff the Magic Dragon?"

View the definition of Trivial Liars and a list of "winners" from previous months.



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