Recently, as I have read numerous posts, Tweets, and commentary on Elvis written by his friends, associates, family, et al., I am reminded that we here in Elvis World have a very tricky problem when it comes to dealing in facts, and thus truth. Obviously most fans were not around to witness the incidents, events, and personal interactions that we are told about in books and interviews, so we must rely on past accounts from people like Joe Esposito, the Stanley brothers, Lamar Fike, Larry Geller, Priscilla Presley, and the list goes on and on. One of the main problems we deal with on a regular basis, and one that I have been working on for 25 years or so, is where we see a person in the position to know something tell us that, for example, Elvis ate eggs and bacon for breakfast on January 15, 1976, while another person who was also there tells us that Elvis ate sausage and toast. Many of these contradictions are simply mistakes and most of them don’t matter too much. After all, what Elvis ate for breakfast on any given day is probably not very important. But what happens when we are told, year after year after year, that Person A is right, and Person B is wrong, when according to some other reliable source it’s actually Person B who is right and Person A who is wrong? Why is the Elvis fan community (and media in general) left to sort all this out? What has happened to the facts and to truth? Is everything these people claim as fact now open to interpretation, or subject to opinion to the point that a personal viewpoint (or bias) clouds the way the facts are perceived?
When someone writes that Elvis did something, and another source says he didn’t do that something, who is right? And, more importantly, who is lying? But, here is where Elvis World has trouble: a misstated piece of information, or an incorrect date or location, is *not* a lie, it is simply an error. This type of error becomes a lie when the person broadcasting the claim *knows* that it is incorrect, but for some reason…some intentional reason…the person does not make the necessary correction. At that point, the incorrect claim is no longer an error, it has turned into a lie. It’s the *intent to deceive* that changes it.
Stated simply, “misinformation” is an error; “disinformation” is incorrect (or even correct) information that is meant to mislead or deceive. Saying Elvis ate eggs and bacon when he really ate sausage and toast is a mistake, it is misinformation, and should be corrected. Saying Elvis ate sausage and toast in an attempt to mislead, or to purposefully cloud the issue, is disinformation. In Elvis World, we run into both misinformation and disinformation. Often.
With the passing of so many of Elvis’s friends and associates over recent years, I believe that those people who are left behind bear some burden of responsibility for helping to clarify and/or correct faulty information, because as the only people left with a direct connection to Elvis, it is incumbent upon them to right these wrongs. This is especially true if they are *informed* that certain information requires a correction. This is also true when the context of a claim is manipulated to mislead. For example, this statement is true:
“Ginger Alden found Elvis’s body on the floor of the bathroom around 2:20pm.”
But look how the meaning changes with this slight but purposeful manipulation:
“Ginger Alden didn’t check on Elvis then she later found Elvis’s body on the floor of the bathroom around 2:20pm.”
Both statements are true, but the second statement has been given a sinister meaning because of the inclusion of the fact that Ginger did not check on Elvis during a certain stretch of time late that morning and early afternoon. This kind of statement, and this statement specifically, leads people to come to conclusions that are not true, namely that Ginger was somehow lax in her care for Elvis, and thus she was not present to assist him when he collapsed. To the layperson, this sounds like a rather serious charge against Ginger. But wait a minute…was it Ginger’s responsibility to check on Elvis? No, it was not. Was it Ginger’s responsibility to stay awake as long as Elvis was awake? No, it was not. Were Rick and David Stanley, on their respective shifts, responsible for checking on Elvis and assisting him with whatever attention he required that day? Yes, they were. I am not pointing fingers here, I am just saying that context is critical, and charging that “Ginger didn’t check on Elvis” presupposes that it was her duty to do so and she failed in that duty. The truth, however, is much different: Ginger had no responsibility to check on Elvis. Elvis’s various aides were paid a salary for this duty, Ginger was not. The addition of, “Ginger Alden didn’t check on Elvis,” is *intended* to deceive and to lead to a negative inference regarding Ginger Alden.
Here is another example of deception, this time showing a lie of omission:
Statement 1: “Dr. Nichopoulos gave Elvis some Dilaudid that morning.”
Statement 2: “Dr. Nichopooulos gave Elvis some Dilaudid knowing full well that Elvis was also receiving his medication packets throughout the early morning.”
Both of these statements are true, but the first statement leaves out a critical piece of information, that Dr. Nichopoulos knew Elvis was taking other medication in addition to the Dilaudid he had prescribed around 3:30 that morning. To the layperson, this first statement simply says that Elvis was prescribed some Dilaudid, and presumably *only* Dilaudid was available to him. Someone reading this first statement would not know about the drug packets.
Over the years, I have contacted a number of people who have made claims like this…information that changes due to lack of context or due to missing facts…and I am typically met with one of two responses: Go F yourself, or thanks, I’ll take care of it. To this day, though, I have yet to see *anyone* change his information to correct something that is false, misleading, out of context, or an outright lie. Not one person. And I know the difference between a mistake and a lie, and I hope that Elvis fans can make the distinction, as well. This is a skill you obviously must have now.
I started my work trying to sort out Elvis World information many years ago, and at this late stage I believe the principals who provide information have a unique responsibility to provide accurate and truthful information, and to correct (or to help people understand) information that presents the challenges outlined above. With respect, I will point out that Elvis fans have given these folks decades to sort out their stories and get things straight, so when a researcher or a fan says, “Hey, that claim is not right,” these people should welcome the alert and make the correction (or explain why a correction is not needed). It’s not the fans who created this informational mess. And if any of these folks feels there is a lack of trust in their claims and stories, let’s just say it, they have no one to blame but themselves.