Could it be Anyone but Fox?

For years now, viewers have known that for the absolute trashiest, most demeaning, horrible, bottom-of-the-barrel reality shows, Fox is the go-to network. You've got your "Temptation Island," your "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire," your "Simple Life," and on and on. So it's hard to say that their latest offering represents a new low, exactly, but it certainly meets the high standards set by the Fox Reality Programming Department. "The Moment of Truth" is apparently getting big ratings...but then, millions tune in to watch the horrifying warbling of "American Idol" contestants, so it's safe to say that lots of viewers ≠ high-quality television.

In case you're not familiar with "The Moment of Truth," here's what the Fox website has to say about their latest debasement of humanity: "THE MOMENT OF TRUTH will put participants to the test -- the lie detector test -- to reveal whether or not they are telling the truth for a chance to win half a million dollars. The challenge is simple: answer 21 increasingly personal questions honestly, as determined by a polygraph, and win up to $500,000. This is the only game show where participants know both the questions and the answers before they begin to play. What deep dark secret will someone divulge for hundreds of thousands of dollars?"

So basically, they hook you up to a polygraph machine, ask you "Have you shit your pants in the last six months?" and if you the machine says you've answered honestly, they give you some money for it. The "lie detector" has been a staple of daytime talk shows for years - Maury and Montel love strapping people into those things and asking whether they were cheating on their wives or whatever, but with "The Moment of Truth," the polygraph has hit prime-time.

The thing about the "lie detector," though, is that it's pseudoscience at best. They might as well be airing reality shows based around phrenology, palmistry and astrology. The results of polygraph testing are (generally speaking) inadmissible in courts of law. In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences released a study that showed polygraph testing to be essentially useless, generally about 50% accurate at best. The fact is that I could be strapped into a polygraph machine and claim to be an 87-year-old Chinese woman, that I traveled to Mars in a rowboat and that I invented the steam engine and it's just as likely the polygraph could show a passing result as a failing one.

Here's the best example of what I mean: Aldrich Ames - perhaps the most infamous American traitor this side of Benedict Arnold - spent nearly ten years selling out the CIA to the Soviet Union, from 1985 to his arrest in 1994. During that time, he passed "lie detector" tests not once, but twice. A brilliant Wikipedia author speculates that, "Explanations for this include the possibility that Ames was in fact a sociopath and consequently immune to the polygraph test, or had learned or been trained how to defeat the 'lie detector'." The even more likely explanation for this is that the "lie detector" is utter bullshit and the fact that the CIA even uses polygraphy as any kind of tool is both baffling and horrifying.

But somehow, the idea of the "lie detector" as a machine that will accurately reveal the truth of a subject's statements has caught the public imagination. It's not really that surprising, I guess. Millions of people believe in ESP and UFOs, too.

I guess it's what passes for entertainment when the networks don't have any writers to provide content. They have to fill those empty blocks of time somehow now that they're out of new episodes of "House." But still, one does wish that they wouldn't pander quite so obviously to the slack-jawed morons of the world.