Sunday, June 24, 2007

Jon Ronson On... Worst Internet Date

The first episode in the third series of Ronson On is of interest. It had originally supposed to be part of what became the second episode, on waking up from false beliefs, but was so extraordinary in itself that it turned into a programme on its own. It tells the true story of Mary Turner Thomson who met and married a man online that she had convinced her he was an American CIA agent. The CIA lie was backed up by, amongst other things, a watch he alleged was an alert from his superiors and incorporated GPS, and some apparent cracking of US Government systems.

Thomson also swallowed the story of his need for a "wife", another CIA agent who formed a mock marriage with him in a nearby town to provide a cover story for a safehouse. Thomson, who has written a book, The Other Mrs Jordan, about her story comes across as intelligent and articulate. That she was duped at all is testament to the slow gradient of lies fed to her, and the effects of the attendant fatigue and stress of being involved with someone who (apparently) had such a dangerous job.
"For six years, Will kept me pregnant, sleep-deprived and silent, so I could never work through in my own head what was happening or articulate to others around me the insanity in which I was living. He always gave me hope that the situation was just about to change for the better. I do not think he did it for the money, even though he conned me out of £200,000 during the years we were together. I think the money was a measure of the control he had over me, a benchmark."
MTT, Guardian 26/05/2007
I think another factor at play is the size of the lie. When a lie is so great that it makes you doubt the sanity of the person telling it, but the person telling it does indeed appear sane, you are left with something irreconcilable, and one of those two thoughts has to be dismissed.

EDIT: 28/06/07 Your humble servant is currently halfway through the book and will post a more detailed discussion of it in due course.

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