Would it be immoral?

Fred Cole

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I'm a skeptic, a bad one.

But I listen to a lot of skeptic podcasts. Stuff like Skeptoid. Skeptoid looks at pop cultural phenomenon with a Skeptical eye. He debunks conspiracy theories, etc. My newest one is Monster Talk, which is put out by the Skeptic Society. They discuss crypto zoology, monsters, etc, and usually talk to scientists.

This got me thinking.

My question is

Would it be immoral of me to create a conspiracy theory, invent facts, etc., promote that fictional conspiracy theory, and sell books based on it?

Along those lines, same question:

Would it be immoral of me to write a book about Champy, the Lake Champlain lake monster (alleged to exist, not my invention), invent facts, and write and sell a book about it?

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Didn't you already start a thread asking this question? It feels like deja vu. Anyway, it sounds like The Da Vinci Code. Why not? Why do you think there's something wrong with it?

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Why do I think there's anything wrong with it?

Because there's a line in the money speech:

Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find.

Which is why I'd consider it immoral, knowing its all bullshit, to be a fortune teller despite how profitable and easy it would be.

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Yes, it is obviously immoral to lie in order to obtain a value. It is called faking reality. Lying is only warranted in certain very limited contexts—e.g., where others have no right to know something or where telling the truth might enable an act of coercion. It is not immoral to lie to a man with a gun about the direction in which his victim ran.

If actual fraud is involved, it would also be illegal, but this is very difficult to prove where books are concerned. Few literary scams result in prosecution. Clifford Irving, who wrote a bogus biography of Howard Hughes and went to jail for it, is a notable exception.

But then there are numerous writers like novelist Whitley Streiber, who achieved considerable fame with his supposedly nonfictional account of alien abduction (Communion). I consider him a contemptible fraud and quite immoral. The odd thing is that, prior to his alien abduction claims, he seems to have been fairly successful as a writer of fiction. Who knows why he chose to achieve notoriety by means of such treachery. Maybe because he thought it would be okay as long as only he knew he was lying, which is the bizarre way many people think.

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Thank you.

I was thinking something more like David Ickes, but less subtle. (That's a joke. I was about to write more subtle, when I realized how much funnier less would be.)

So, if it's "obviously immoral to lie in order to obtain a value,"

What if I wrote it in the style of non fiction, but made no claims that it actually was?

Probably the same answer, right? Its essentially a form of deception for anyone without the sense to apply skepticism to my claims.

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Exactly. The intent to deceive is clear, since you aren’t explicitly denying an obvious conclusion on the part of the reader.

Streiber apparently did something similar with Communion. I understand that he wrote it in such a way that he could later claim that he may have been hallucinating the whole thing, but did not explicitly state that anywhere in the book because it would have hurt sales.

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I read into your question that you were looking to write a work of fiction. As in, fiction labeled as such. However, I still wouldn’t rule out what you’re talking about. This isn’t Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion you have in mind, but something like a UFO book that no one reasonably will take seriously, right? A stunt. I think it could be the basis for a good piece of satire.

This makes me think of Phil Hendrie, and (in a very different way) the Taxil hoax. Hilarious stuff once you’re in on the joke.


On the other end of the spectrum, there’s of course the Protocols, but also the Million Little Pieces guy, things didn’t work out so well for him (or at least for his publisher).

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If you want to entertain, I say go for it.

If you want to deceive people just to get their money, there are plenty of names for that I think you already know.

If that's what you want to be, do it. But like the saying goes, you can take what you want in life, but then you gotta pay for it.

I've had a serious moral issue with this in Internet marketing. If there's a niche that is buying something kookie, are you wrong to supply that market?

I say if you are a book seller, fill it. The biggest book sellers are always topic neutral.

If you are an author, you risk becoming famous as a kook and ultimately lose your credibility.

If you want to find a halfway point that is morally neutral, one where you can fill the demand, write and not lie, set up a blog and do content curation. This means you put up excerpts from works by others, link to the full works, and make your own comments on them (which can be as simple as giving summaries without opinions).

If you know how to use Google Alerts, you can always get current works, so you stay up to date in your niche and never run out of material. You monetize this by putting pay-per-click ads or CPA offers on your site, or even offer some products to readers as an affiliate.


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