PuSh International Performing Arts Festival & Cap Speaker Series
David Carr: Truth and Lies in Life and Art

Date and Venue 3 February 2013, 7.30pm | NSCU Centre for the Performing Arts, Capilano University

Reviewer Sharon Cairney

When David Carr, the Media Equation columnist for The New York Times, came onto the stage, he told the audience that he is a ferocious NFL fan and that he hadn’t realized when he accepted this lecture date that it would be on Super Bowl Sunday. There was sympathetic laughter in the sold-out theatre.

Carr is something of a celebrity, that is, as much as it is possible for a journalist to achieve popularity in North America. He has been writing for the last twenty-five years and on staff with The New York Times since 2002. As well, he also regularly blogs in The Times’ Media Decoder and over 400,000 Twitter followers keep up with his Tweets. His style of writing is highly readable, personal and often witty. Carr states that “we live in an age where there is a fire hose of information and there is no hierarchy of what is important and what is not.” It seems that he is able to provide this “hierarchy of what is important” for his readers.

It might come as a surprise to learn that Carr is also a reformed crack addict. His years as a drug addict are vividly described in his 2008 memoir, “The Night of the Gun”. He readily admitted to us that the initial motivation for writing his memoir was to make money. It is a painful story to hear because at one point he actually locked his twin daughters, two toddlers wearing snowsuits, in the car while he ran inside his drug dealers’ house to score some dope. When he got back to his car in his befuddled state, he was very much concerned as to how much time had actually elapsed. As he opened the door, he was completely relieved when he could see the girls’ breath in the freezing car.

Carr’s lecture “Truth and Lies in Life and Art” had interesting examples from recent media stories, including the public deceptions by Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o. In “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Mike Daisey gave a theatrical performance about Chinese workers in an Apple factory. Although Daisey’s monologue was proven to have unsubstantiated anecdotes about the Chinese workers, Carr said it was an example of someone “telling the truth with lies”. In the end, Carr assured us, “The Internet is a self-cleaning oven. It both manufactures lies and helps correct them.”

Over the evening, Carr was both entertaining and thought-provoking with the topics he presented to us. We left the theatre with much to ponder.

© 2013 Sharon Cairney