Introduction: Fib and Fibbers by Ziauddin Sardar

'This is a true story.' Every episode of FX's black comedy and crime drama Fargo begins with this superimposed text. Gradually the word evaporates and we are left with 'this is a story.' After we are informed of the time and place the alleged true story is set, we are told: 'at the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred'. Of course, it is all fiction. But the deliberate interplay between 'true' and 'story' suggests that we often regard the narratives we imagine and create about ourselves, no matter how preposterous, as true. The delectable dubious villain of season three, V A Varga asks the protagonist Emmit Stussy, 'Do you think that if you believe honestly that a Lie is true, it is true?' 'I don't know', replies Stussy. 'It's your story.'

Fibs projected as true stories. That is what populism is all about. Like all stories it has elements of truth. And like all stories it is fiction in the true sense of the word, involving falsehood, lies, misrepresentation, untruth. But the stories are enticing and emotionally charged. They are held to be totally true by those entranced by populism.

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