TNR IS A LIE: Stephen Glass’s anagramic FU is fronting a story about Stephen Glass, the former reporter editor at The New Republic who was famously exposed in 1998 as a serial fabulist and became the subject of a Hollywood movie.

I had read the article – “Hack Heaven” –  that ultimately got him caught. It told of a teenaged computer whiz kid who was getting big bucks from a computer company whose system he had broken in to to tell them how he did it:

Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. “I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Man comic book number one. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy, and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!”

I’m not sure why, but I have a habit when I’m reading of rearranging names and words in my head to make anagrams. Mostly it’s just a background process, but this time I stopped, noticing that the main character’s name – IAN RESTIL – was an anagram for TNR IS A LIE (TNR is the widely-used acronym for The New Republic).

I bring this up now because I’m still amazed that, in all the press and movies and so forth about Glass, nobody has pointed out that not only was he making up stories out of whole cloth, he was encoding messages confessing his crimes and giving his employers and editors the finger. (I wrote the the editors about this at the time, but I can see why they didn’t want to mention it.)

I’ve passingly looked at other Glass pieces to see if this was a common practice of his, but haven’t found anything else. But I think the more interesting thing is how serial liars often are like this. They initially make up a few things in a story that is mostly true. When they get away with it, they keep upping the ante – eventually making stories up completely. But once you’re completely fabricating things, the only way you can escalate is by taunting the people who you have been fooling all along.

And, while we’re on the topic of Glass, does anyone else find it amusing that he is having so much trouble being allowed to be a lawyer. Seems like the kind of guy you might want to represent you if you were on the wrong side of the law…


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