Hyperbole sounds more impressive than litotes, but the latter is less likely to blow up in your face.
In other words, exaggeration garners more attention than understatement, but it can get you in trouble a lot faster.
Read the newspaper accounts of self-proclaimed war heroes whose frauds have been exposed and you’ll understand the hazards of embroidery, embellishment and fabrication.
The problem is once you start lionizing yourself, it’s hard to stop, because the new, improved, imaginary you is so much better than the real thing and the feedback from gullible admirers is so much more pleasant.
Eventually, however, a knowledgeable veteran will come along, recognize the inaccuracies in your fictionalized assertions, and call your bluff.
Few are as nimble as the brave little tailor of Grimm’s fairy tale, who somehow always managed to meet the challenges of skeptics and keep them from learning the truth behind his outrageous boast: that the seven he had killed with one blow were, in fact, only flies.
Mikal Watts is no match for the braggart tailor. His boast – that he represented 44,510 clients in a class action suit against BP for damages incurred as a result of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010 – started unraveling rather quickly, when some of that alleged horde were revealed to have no knowledge of his representation.
They didn’t know they had an attorney? Hmm, that’s a little fishy.
In the meantime, however, Watts had secured a prized position on the plaintiffs’ steering committee in the BP class action.
In 2011, the New York Times reported on this unique extension of lawyer privilege, in which communication between attorney and client is not only confidential but nonexistent.
Last month, the U.S. Secret Service raided Watts’ law offices. Watts has since resigned from the steering committee.
From now on, he may want to take his cue from Sgt. Friday: “Just the facts.”