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People Using Pity and Sorrow to Sell

business and finance blog

There was a lot of news today revolving around a particular book that was presented as non-fiction but as it turns out a lot of information presented in it was made up. The book in question is called “A Million Little Pieces” which is written by a man named James Frey. The book is supposed to be a memoir about James Frey’s struggle in life as he is an alcoholic and drug addict. Although I have never read it personally, apparently there are gut-wrenching details in the book such as a loved one committing suicide by hanging herself and having to go through dental surgery without the use of anesthetics.

The main reason for all of the drama is how Oprah Winfrey, a famous talk show host who is considered as one of the most influential people in world, just happened to read the book and was extremely touched by it. Because of this, she recommended the book to everyone which catapulted its popularity and according to news reports it has sold about 3.5 million copies to date. Just recently, a website called “TheSmokingGun.com” did an investigation on the legitimacy of the book and found it to not be entirely true. You can find the report here:
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/0104061jamesfrey1.html

After the story was exposed, James Frey went on public television to defend his book and Oprah Winfrey continued to stand by James Frey and the book. Unfortunately, just recently James Frey has admitted that he did make up a lot of the details in the book. This lead to Oprah dedicating a day on her talk show to hopefully get the truth out of James Frey in regards to the details in his book as she felt disappointed and embarrassed about the whole situation. It was evident that she was taking it very personal as often times James Frey simply had a blank stare on his face as she kept poking him for answers.

Some interesting debates have risen because of this with the one being the most intriguing to me is how it was expressed that if this book was labeled as a work of fiction from the start, not many people would buy it. I don’t know many people that would disagree with that. It was then elaborated that the bottom line is that this is a business and that the goal is to get people to buy your book in this tough business. Some people tried to justify the half truths in the book by saying it is still a good piece of work and that fiction is usually based on reality anyways and so people are being too harsh on the author. In my opinion, that’s a pretty deceptive act as he manipulated people’s sympathy and emotion by portraying it as something real to get support for his book.

This reminds of all the times I have seen where people lie and mislead others into believing their hardships and misfortunes that turn out to not be the truth in order to get ahead in life. I often find that people who create fabricated stories about their situations tend to do it in a way that paints a picture that they are an extremely helpless victim that absolutely cannot do anything to fix it. Unfortunately, this technique often works on most people as I’m sure everyone has been in some type of situation where it seems like you are helpless and so hearing about a similar scenario happening to someone else will naturally cause you to emotionally defend them.

I think the key point in these types of situations to help prevent yourself from being duped by others is to use your analytical skills instead of allowing your emotions to take over. We were all kids once and I’m sure we all did something similar along these lines such as crying like it was the end of the world to try and get your parents to buy you that toy. If someone tries to deceptively use pity or sorrow to sell you on something, try your best to put the pieces together with facts and if it turns out that the story was convincing but not completely true, at least you know some good candidates to star in a TV soap opera or some good recommendations for fiction writers.




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