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"But know this -- he will lie -- a long time. He will lie." --Danielle Rousseau
In a show that seems to pride itself on slow, elaborate exposition, perhaps no single statement has been proven true as many times (or as stunningly) as this one. Benjamin Linus lies, and he does it a lot. Some have said that he lies every time he opens his mouth. I wouldn't go that far, but it's pretty close, as I found out when I started calculating exactly how many times the Others' leader is less than truthful. I call this measure the Linus Veracity Index.
"Less than truthful" is the key here. Not every statement he makes is a cut-and-dried lie, and he's also been known to make lies of omission. Sometimes, he asks questions that can't have a truth value by strict semantic definitions, but they're obviously intended to suggest something that is false. Every time Ben opens his mouth, I assigned the outburst a category-- Truth, Lie, Null, or Undetermined.
- Truths are any statement that can be confirmed true, or any statement that can reasonably be assumed to be true. Thus, when Ben tells us how long he's been in Rousseau's net, that's marked as a truth. We don't have any reason to suspect he's lying about that-- well, except for the fact that Ben is a notorious liar, but we didn't know that at the time. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
- Lies are all statements that are known to be false or later proven to be false. When Ben says he's Henry Gale, we know that's a lie now.
- Also considered lies for our purposes are 'statements or questions intended to mislead.' When Ben asks, for instance, "Why would I lie?" (as he does in 2x15), this is a lie, because he's still trying to trick the Losties into thinking he's Henry Gale. (I know; I'm getting so 'meta', right?)
- Nulls are neither truths nor lies. If Ben says "Hey!" or "Help", makes a witty rejoinder or asks an actual not-misleading question, these are counted as nulls for Linus Veracity Index purposes.
- Undetermined is for statements or questions that are tough to categorize. When Ben asks "Where am I?" in the Swan station, he already knows that the survivors are there from his visit to the Pearl in Exposé. He probably knows damn well where he is, but there are several possible interpretations of the question.
I also had to determine what would count as a "line" for calculation purposes. I could use lines as they're given in the transcript, but sometimes he lies and tells the truth in the same breath. To avoid this problem, I decided to call each sentence a line, though a string of short nulls ("Hey! Hey, over here! Please help me!") also counts as just one.
I'm probably being way too generous to Ben in my definitions.
Anyway, the Linus Veracity Index is the percentage of lies Ben tells in a given period of time-- here, I've calculated by episode. I've also calculated an Adjusted LVI which ignores the nulls and undetermined utterances and gives the ratio or lies to all truths and lies together.
Below are my calculations for Ben's first appearance, where he's turned over to Sayid and maintains that he's Henry Gale from Minnesota. Since he's trying to avoid getting the crap beaten out of him, the lies are fast and furious.
|Name||Number||Lines||Truths||Lies||Nulls||Und.||%Truths||%Lies (LVI)||%Nulls||Adjusted LVI|
|One of Them||2x14||84||4||47||31||2||4.8||56.0||36.9||92.2|
Of everything he says, more than half of his statements are lies. If you take out the whimpers and begging for help, that number rises to more than nine out of ten. This is something we should keep in mind while assessing Mrs. Hawking's advice to Jack this season in 316:
JACK: Is he telling the truth?
ELOISE: [Chuckling] Probably not.
Eventually, I hope to have LVI's for every episode and season, but I've got a real life that needs attention, too. Anyway, enjoy, discuss and check back later!