Most people have heard about the disappearance of Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old Birmingham woman who was gone for 49 hours, then returned home claiming she was kidnapped. The story is a head-scratcher, to be sure, as parts of it have all the red flags of the sex-trafficking industry (including her claim to have been abducted by a man with orange hair), even though, at least at this point, police don’t seem to be buying it.

"We have no reason to believe there is a threat to public safety," Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said during a press conference yesterday. He went on to say that, in the days leading up to her disappearance, Russell conducted internet searches for the phrase, “Do you have to pay for an amber alert,” as well as “Taken (movie about abduction)” “Birmingham bus station” and “maximum age for an Amber Alert.”

All this prompts the question, why?

The act seems in keeping with an overall devaluing of truth in our culture. Does anyone remember President Bill Clinton claiming he “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” or President George W. Bush promising that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? More recently, the media feeds us the following steady diet: Donald Trump might be an agent of the Russian government, and the Hunter Biden laptop was “Russian disinformation” former Justice Department officials tell us. All lies.

My thesis is that, just as children learn from their elders, the lies promulgated by our leaders also have a trickle-down effect on our citizenry. Our forefathers had people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to look up to, while we have, well, the people mentioned above.

I say this because Russell isn’t the first faker to drive media headlines in this country. There was the Duke Lacrosse scandal, as well as the Christine Blasey Ford accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, but also the Jussie Smollett case, all of which involved accusations ranging from unsubstantiated to flat out fabricated. And one thing they all have in common is that, somewhere in the accusations, there always seems to be a nod to the prevailing cultural values of the day.

For Duke Lacrosse it was that of course these guys are guilty – they’re white lacrosse players at Duke University for crying out loud! Blasey Ford’s claims came when the “Me Too” movement was arguably coming into its own, while, according to Smollett, his attackers yelled, “This is MAGA Country!” It’s almost as though the accusers are saying, “I know I’m lying, but my politics are in the right place, so please, believe me!”

These tactics aren’t absent in our current case. Even though the Hoover Police have found no evidence of an attacker, Russell says her abductor had orange hair, a claim that cannot help but evoke comparisons to the horrible “Orange Man” who, according to most of our media, is the biggest threat of our time. In this way, the whole sad story given every night by the modern media just seems to perpetuate itself.  

The question of why these desperate people resort to public falsehood is, in the end, a question for psychologists, though one thing is certain: if my thesis is right – that they are acting and reacting in accordance with our own elected leaders as well as the media that serves as their PR extension – the cases aren’t likely to end anytime soon.     

Along with his father, Allen Keller runs a lumber business in Stevenson, Alabama. He has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He can be reached for comment at

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.

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