Dramatic Question: What if you could tell any lie and get away with it?
Premise: Honesty is always the best policy
Story Message: Sometimes, we're better off not knowing the truth, even if we want to
People like to believe that honesty is the best policy, but they rarely want the truth. "Do I look fat in this dress?" Sound familiar?
The truth is, lying is important to a well-functioning society. Sure, there are different degrees of lying. If push comes to shove, most people would agree that "white lies" are perfectly permissible - but, only if they're the ones telling them. Nobody likes to be lied to and, yet, nobody wants the unadulterated truth, either. Truth hurts.
The fact is, all of us lie - apparently, all throughout the day (if recent studies are to be believed). If we need to lie, then it suggests that we need to be lied to.
Nevertheless, we are taught that lying is bad. We are encouraged to seek the truth at all costs. Journalism is fuelled by this principle. However, we know the pitfalls of only getting half the picture (or, at least, we should do). A half-truth is worse than a lie, because isn't self-aware.
lying is bad, because lies are hard to get away with it. That's the truth. We don't lie as often as we'd like to - not because we value honesty - but, because we don't want to get caught. We know there are consequences, so we take calculated risks. White lies have lesser consequences than big whoppers.
But, what if we could get away with it, every time?
It's not hard to imagine that we'd lie more - and lie bigger. Now, imagine that everyone could do the same. The stakes would get higher. Everybody would be lying to one another all the time and trust would erode. If everyone could lie with impunity then truth would become ever more precious.
But, remember, we don't always want to know the truth. You think you have nothing to hide? Think again.
We all have secrets and we're better off that way. When trust and privacy are gone, they're very hard to reclaim.
The purpose of this story message is to test the premise that, "Honesty is the best policy" and to find that "Good fences make good neighbours". Despite the fact that we'd love to transgress the boundaries and get to know everything about everyone - so long as the same can't be done to us - this isn't a good idea. We don't need to know everything about everyone. Sometimes, we are better off not knowing.
At the end of the day, lies are essential, but they must be kept in proportion. In proportion to what? Well, that's what the story will be about.