Monday, 29 May 2006

Leonardo Inc.

NO doubt, one of the biggest moneymaking schemes of recent years has been the success of the novel The Da Vinci Code. Written by American novelist Dan Brown, the book has sold millions of copies worldwide, and has been made into an action movie boasting a cast and crew of Hollywood’s elite.

I will not attempt a theological or even historical critique of the book here, for so much academic material has been written about it by experts and scholars who were not amused by the many liberties that the author took in embellishing his story to assure its bankability (in the literal sense). More importantly, I am an expert in neither field.

I would rather like to see the book as a symptom of what now seems to be an enduring sign of our times—the money syndrome. In the name of making money and amassing a lot of it, we are allowed to do whatever it takes.

Even amateur writers like ourselves are always observant of the cardinal tenet of our craft—intellectual honesty. We do not knowingly write with intent to deceive, and if inadvertently we have declared something to be true and later discover it not to be so, we immediately and unconditionally apologize for our mistake.

The now millionaire author of the best selling book, unfortunately, can hardly be described as being intellectually honest.

Writers are allowed to express their opinion, in whatever fashion they choose to, without having to be censured or censored for their views. Free speech is a sacred right, and should be enjoyed by everyone, without exception. But no one has the privilege to willingly distort facts and established knowledge, and pass it off as “the truth.” Anyone who does so is not being honest to one’s readers, and especially to one’s self.

I am not a conservative Christian by any means, but as a writer, I find Brown’s arrogance in appropriating historical fact, erroneously twisting them to suit his agenda, and passing them off as “truths” to be indefensible.

Many people have come to the writer’s defense, saying that what he has written is fiction, but Brown himself has lost his own case. In a brazen declaration of either intellectual bankruptcy, hubris, or both he claims as fact (in the opening pages of his book) many historical events that even amateur historians can readily see as being inaccurately portrayed.

But not to worry, he is simply writing fiction.

It is easy to dismiss the furor as much ado about nothing. However, it is a sad social commentary of the times we live in—when morality and truth have become relative instead of being absolute standards, and when we are forced to respect each individual’s interpretation of the truth and their own version of reality. Welcome to The Matrix.

The problem with this is that every charlatan with a sensational idea now feels it is within his right to spin it into millions of dollars in book rights and movie royalties. No matter if the materials on which the fortune is made distorts historical facts and misrepresents established institutions.

What riles me most with the book and the author is not that it attacks religion and religious institutions. For me everything is open to criticism, without exception. What I cannot forgive, however, is the author’s blatant intellectual dishonesty and his arrogant attempts to defend his “facts” on their own merit.

Dan Brown, in writing about something he considers so sacred, has, in fact, committed the biggest sacrilege against his own profession.

Published in Sun Star Daily, Monday, May 29, 2006 (

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