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The Notorious Stephen Glass

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An exchange of letters in the January 2016 issue of Harper's reminds me that back in the 1990s, when Stephen Glass was notoriously making stuff up for The New Republic, he also made stuff up in other publications as well.

An article of his ran in the Harper's for February 1998, titled "Prophets and Losses." It concerned telephone psychics, portraying a business in which phony psychics try to keep callers on the line as long as possible in order to sock them with astronomical charges. As was often the case with Glass' frauds, it is easy to believe the broad outlines of what he was saying, which is precisely why people weren't necessarily vigilant about the details, which he invented.

In the latest issue, Glass provides a paragraph by paragraph breakdown of what he fabricated for that story, a breakdown that will be unreadable for anyone who doesn't have the actual text of the story n front of them. Fortunately, this is 2016, and you can find that here.

The following is his paragraph five:

I've spent nearly every night of the last few months watching psychic infomercials. Like a lot of the characters in the ads, I'm concerned with my financial future, but unlike them I decide it would be more lucrative to become a psychic than consult with one. I track down the phone numbers of eight networks' corporate offices from ads on TV and the back pages of The Cable Guide. The man who answers the phone at LaToya Jackson's Psychic Network greets me with, "Yeah, and what the fuck do you want?" Before I can finish, he hangs up. At the Kenny Kingston Psychic Hotline a gum-chomping secretary spits, "No, we're not hiring. You should have known that since you're, like, the psychic." Three networks take my name: Psychic Friends Network (PFN), Psychic Encounters, and Psychic Believers Network (PBN).

He now acknowledges having fabricated the passage from "the man" to "the psychic." That is, the stuff I italicized above.  So apparently he did track down corporate numbers and did get three networks to take his name, but he had to enliven that information with a couple of made-up rejections.

Anyway, the editors reply, telling us that Glass has voluntarily returned the $10,000 they paid him for that piece. (When? recently? after keeping it interest free for almost 20 years?).


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