Warped Speed: The Speed of Lies
I once knew a dude named Hogan. Pat Hogan. I had to introduce him as “Hogan” because Hogan became more than just a name. It became a concept. The concept was falseness. Sometimes we called him Pat, but generally we referred to him as Hogan, and the life lesson that Hogan issued sprang from what became “The Hogan Constant.”
Hogan and I were Freshman together in 1981 in our dorm at The Ohio State University. We weren’t roommates, but we lived on the same wing of the 4th floor. A dozen or so of the other guys on the floor were all at least a year older, but remained in the dorm, and hence knew one another somewhat. Those repeating as roommates knew one another quite well. Hogan and I, being new guys, got to know one another first. I discovered Hogan, so to speak. In discovering Hogan, I discovered his one spectacular characteristic.
Hogan was a fairly intelligent young man, although you’d never know it. I only assume that he was because he was an aeronautical engineering student, and in Air Force ROTC. While it didn’t take a heavy dose of gray matter to be in ROTC, the engineering programs are a very steep climb. Chances are, Hogan was quite intelligent. That was not his spectacular characteristic though. The thing about Hogan, which I noticed in a very short time was that Hogan lied…a lot. He lied all the time. In fact, if you listened to him, he seemed to never stop lying. I had never seen anything like it, and it drove me to distraction.
Two of my good friends from that time were also good friends of Hogan’s, so we were part of a social group. I saw him often, and not just in passing on our floor. We’d usually have dinner together, we hung out for a bit before studying for the night, and we went out in the same group on some weekends. I had ample opportunity to listen to Hogan. Many years later, a guy in my office was hosting his daughter who had been accepted into the Military Academy at West Point. She came in in her uniform, and he brought her into my office to introduce her. His introduction has stuck with me ever since, and that has been over 20 years now. He said to her, “be careful what you say to Bill because he will listen to every word you say, remember it, and then ask you something in detail later.”
Until then, I had never known that I came across that way, and the idea kind of fascinated me. I didn’t know that people generally did not listen when having social conversations. I do have an idea of how I got there though. My dad, though not a man of many words, was definitely a serious detail person. When I was a child, sometimes when he was actually reeling off a soliloquy about something, he definitely intended for me to hear it, and comprehend every detail. Sometimes he would ask me to repeat back what he had told me because it might appear that I was only half-heartedly paying attention. I learned to repeat back lines of dialogue without actually listening, and he pointed that out to me. Dad started blending in bits of information that made no sense, and when I repeated it back to him, he would ask me what that was. One example that I remember was when he mentioned stopping by the bank to get a stack of $25.00 bills. When I successfully repeated that item back to him, he asked me, “Billy, what is a $25.00 bill?”
So, by the time I got to college, I had the habit of thinking about what I was listening to. When I met Hogan, I thought about things that he said. And when I thought about it, they usually struck me as wrong…sometimes impossible. One of my favorites was when Hogan claimed that cigarette smoking was good for you. Mind you, this was 1981. We were not many years from the ever present public service ads about the dangers associated with smoking.
Hogan’s lying was spectacular. It was like nothing I had ever encountered before. His lies didn’t just oppose the fact. Hogan’s lies stood in defiance of reality itself. It is hard to conceive of such a thing until you actually encounter it. Hogan’s smoking assertion went further. When I said to him, “Pat, how can you think that? That’s not true. We are the same age. We have been exposed to the same warnings from the American Cancer Society. We were required to take “Health” in high school. Your health textbook must have said that smoking was deadly.” He said, “in fact, the idea that smoking is good for you comes from my health textbook.” Again, I thought, that can’t be so. I asked, “how could the American Cancer Society say something diametrically opposed to what was taught to us in my textbook?” To that, Hogan answered, “my textbook was written by the tobacco lobby.”
What drove me nuts about Hogan was that every lie led to another. It was like one long thread of lies, and if you pulled on it, it just kept going. There was never any accounting for something that could not be true. There was only the birth of another lie. I saw this as threatening. One of our mutual friends saw this as fascinating, entertaining, and took it as a challenge. That friend was Laszlo.
Laz, as we called him, was a guitar playing, Electrical Engineering Sophomore with the personality of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Picture Leonard Nimoy playing electric guitar, and you have Laz as he most often displayed. And while many of these conversations challenging the nature of reality took place in Laz’s room, Laz began to take my view. I could reel back the conversation and say, “each one of these things is false. Am I crazy…or is it Hogan?” Laz’s roommate was Lance. Lance and Laszlo went to the same high school, and were entering their second year as roommates. Lance, was and is something of an intellectual giant himself, although differently natured. Lance was a Finance major, and taught me a different life lesson about types of people. That one involved two divisions of thinkers, Carbon and Silicon. Laz was Silicon. Lance was Carbon. (That’s another story).
Regarding Hogan, Laz took what he observed as a challenge. How could it be that everything that Hogan said was false? We spent months listening and then thinking about it and it remained consistent. Spectacularly consistent. Then Laszlo went to a place intellectually that the rest of us could not follow and created the “Hogan Constant.” Laz created an equation in mathematical terms that stated the affect of Hogan on the universe. The Hogan Constant stated that everything that Hogan said was false, and further that if Hogan did say anything true, it became false by virtue of the fact that Hogan said it.”
This verbal description of Hogan is pristinely accurate. Hogan was a remarkable creature to behold. I fully accept that hearing this description is like hearing about a mythical creature like the Loch Ness monster or a “compassionate conservative”, but Hogan is real and the Hogan Constant is valid. For the next couple of years, we would observe Hogan together, and comb over every word. Sometimes, when we encountered him individually, we might hear something that appeared to be a challenge to the Constant. We’d talk it over and the Constant never failed. The Constant was powerful.
Just as an aside, here is one example of how challenges to the Constant could go. One day at the end of Fall Quarter, Lance and Laszlo was headed out of the dorm to their ride home. We all lived on the 4th floor of the dorm. As Lance and Laszlo were getting into the elevator, Hogan said to them, “well, this is the last time I’ll see you, so I’ll see you when you get back from break.” They said their goodbyes and Lance and Laszlo got into the elevator. Hogan went back to his room to grab his things.
Sometime later, maybe 30 minutes or so, Hogan returned to the elevator with his bags, but when he got there, the door would not open. The elevator was stuck again. It was an old dorm, and this happened fairly frequently, and since it was only 4 floors tall, Hogan just took the stairs. In a few seconds Hogan was in back of the lobby, headed for the front door. As he passed the elevator, the doors opened. The elevator had been stuck since Hogan went to his room. Out walked Lance and Laszlo. The Hogan Constant lived. The Hogan Constant even had the power to hold Lance and Laszlo hostage. The Hogan Constant had power.
I seemed to notice that Pat lied incessantly. Laszlo discovered that Hogan was ruled by the Hogan constant. It was bigger than lies. It was a force of nature…or something.
Thanks to Lance and Laszlo, that was an amusing part of our friendship, even for Hogan…although he said otherwise (of course). Let’s just say, we remained friends. But, I have never been a fan of lying. And now, many years after the years of the Hogan Constant, and Paterson Hall at OSU, I, we, have encountered a man who lies like a force of nature. Say it with me. That man is the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
I’m not going to recount the more than 20,000 lies uttered by Trump. I’m not even going to try to apply the Hogan Constant to Trump. This is much more serious than that. This is more about encountering Trump, and the manner in which he conducts himself, and the way he is received by so many people. The life lesson here is not complete. I think the way the United States conducted itself during Trump’s awful reign of error will be analyzed for years to come, (and of course, that reign may not yet be over). The life lesson in this decade of life is that people, and the perception of truth extend way beyond a bunch of undergrads in a dormitory. People who claim to be patriots have defended Trump on his betrayal of military. People who claim to want a businessman to run the US like a business have embraced a failed businessman and watched as he shocked the economy into a coma by failing to be responsible and competent in other duties. People who claim to value law and order have watched as one close associate after another is indicted and/or convicted of felonies. How Donald Trump manages to garner the support of more than 7 or 8 lunatics nationwide boggles my mind. It haunts me that the deception, self delusion, lying, and fraud are viral. It has always worried me. I never expected to see a President like Trump, even after knowing Hogan. It isn’t funny anymore.
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