What to tell the ‘prophet’ who drove car to heaven

Author: Odoobo C. Bichachi is the Nation Media Group (NMG)-Uganda public editor. PHOTO/FILE.

What you need to know:

‘‘ ...some research has shown that many people lie a lot – roughly two to three times during a ten-minute conversation!"

To lie or not to lie is something all humans grapple with from time to time. In everyday life, we often tell little white lies (I wonder why not black?) many times out of politeness or to smooth out our relationships without doing lasting harm.

According to www.scientificamerica.com, “It is not only humans who practice deception. Trickery and deceit of various kinds have also been observed in higher mammals, especially primates. The neocortex—the part of the brain that evolved most recently—is critical to this ability.” The prefrontal cortex, according to the scientists, appears to improve our ability to deceive. This region of the brain may, among other things, be responsible for the decision to lie or tell the truth.

Indeed some research has shown that many (if not most) people lie a lot – roughly two to three times during a ten-minute conversation! However, we hardly catch lies! A 2010 University of California research analysed the results of 253 studies and found that we only spot about half the lies we’re told (53% to be exact).

If you are a journalist, what do you do if an interviewee tells lies on live camera? Do you simply let them get away with the lie, do you interrogate the lie, do you call them out or do you put a disclaimer that you believe the interviewer is not truthful?

Well, this brings me to the NTV-Uganda clip of a recent interview with “Prophet” William Ssozi shared online on June 26 in which he [Ssozi] narrated how his car was lifted off Kampala-Entebbe Expressway straight to heaven where he met Jesus Christ one-on-one and his long dead biological father “in angelic form”!

In the show whose topic was, “Understanding Prophesy”, the self-styled man of God from “Prophet William Ssozi Ministries” claimed that he knelt before Jesus who opened the scalp of his head, took out his brain and replaced it with another brain that he [Jesus] told him was that of a prophet, among other claims. He says he was returned to earth at about 7pm after spending four hours in heaven!

Many comments on social media since the clip was shared were exasperated by what they considered outright lies with many wondering why the interviewer did not call him out, or at least put a disclaimer that the television station does not believe the story.

Others wondered why the interviewer did not probe him further to establish the exact place of “lift off” and date so the story could be corroborated using recordings of the cameras along the expressway! In typical jocular social media style, many shared photos of airborne rally cars in the recently concluded East African Safari Rally in Kenya as those of Mr Ssozi “ascending” to heaven.

Responding to a question on Quora.com as to “Why do media reporters not push harder when people tell outright lies in interviews?” one Dana Daniel opined that “some journalists think the fact that a person tells outrageous lies is the story, without probing the meat of the lies. It still sells papers or gets clicks, without all the work.”

Was this the case? I can’t say. What I can say is that the journalist was clearly overwhelmed by the revelation and was perhaps spoilt for what to say in response beyond the “wow” she muttered.

Was the “man of God” lying? Your guess is as good as mine! Without judging him, one would ask why people tell lies.

According to www.everyday.com article titled “Understanding people who lie”, there are as many reasons for lying as there are lies. Sometimes the reasons are as mundane as protecting the feelings of others, keeping secrets, to look good, or to manipulate others. For many, it is compulsive and pathological lying. A compulsive liar uses lies as a way of life while a pathological liar lies constantly to get what he wants, caring little for who gets hurt along the way.

Back to the clip, just imagine how gullible followers of the “prophet” shall react to a leader fresh from heaven with a new brain fixed by Jesus Christ of Nazareth himself and the story broadcast by a powerful brand such as NTV! Does the motive lie there?

Which brings me to the question of whether this interview could have been broadcast with a disclaimer. Maybe. Yet this is perhaps one of those claims that are best debunked by exposing them raw to the public. What else is he telling his followers to gain credibility in his preaching?

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