Recently news personalities Brian Williams and Bill O’Reilly, and VA Secretary McDonald, have been assailed for embellishing the truth about some war zone experiences. Now I wish to set my own record straight.
Previously I had submitted poems to a local publication, Up The River. A brief biography was required. Here’s what I sent:
“Frank S. Robinson is a former New York State administrative law judge and author of seven books including Albany’s O’Connell Machine, and The Case for Rational Optimism. He writes the ‘Rational Optimist’ blog and is married to the poet Therese Broderick. In 1969, he was the first man to walk on the Moon.”
That last claim is one I have made from time to time. It is an exaggeration. I have never walked on the Moon, and wish to apologize now for saying so.
People think memory works like a video recorder. It does not, as these cases illustrate. What the brain records is only a general idea of an episode; when called upon to remember, it fills in the details by basically making them up. And with each act of remembrance, it changes a little, so over the years the distortion can become significant. Writing an autobiographical memoir showed me how this had happened to some of my own memories, when I consulted things I had written down closer to the events in question.
So Brian Williams went from remembering being near a helicopter under fire to remembering being in one. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, that’s very understandable and doesn’t make him a bad person.
I might similarly claim that my memory of watching the first Moon walk on TV evolved into a memory of doing it. But frankly that would be disingenuous. The truth – which I must finally reveal – is that the government faked the whole thing. I apologize to anyone who may have been misled.