This Is a Work of Fiction
"Really? I thought water-walking, bisexual, bullet dodging vampires were a regular occurrence these days."Some form of this disclaimer can be found at the front of nearly every novel out there as well as in the credits of most films and TV episodes. It's an attempt to stave off libel suits; it seems to have been originated as a response to a suit against the makers of the 1932 film Rasputin and the Empress by a Russian princess who believed one of the characters to have been modeled on her.note Think of it as the more professional equivalent of I Do Not Own, though with more legal force.note Sometimes this disclaimer is the only part of the movie that's fiction, especially when the real people in question lived long enough ago that they're not going to sue anybody. (And sometimes publishers make the mistake of putting it in books openly Based on a True Story; e.g., the first printing of the Touchstone paperback edition of Schindler's List.) Works Based on a True Story may use a modified disclaimer, acknowledging the historical basis for the work but stating that it doesn't necessarily conform 100% to history. Although not a Dead Unicorn Trope, this can easily be mistaken for one by the unobservant. When played straight, the disclaimer is generally buried amid a bunch of similar legalese (at the end of the credits or on the copyright page of the book, for example) where it might be easily missed. More playful versions are generally given much more prominent placement, so everyone can recognize how clever the creators are being, though subtle modifications of the phrase "persons living or dead" may be easily missed by less alert viewers. If a work uses Write Who You Know, the issue will probably be avoided. A Sub-Trope of Our Lawyers Advised This Trope. Compare No Celebrities Were Harmed, No Communities Were Harmed. Contrast Dan Browned, where you have a work of fiction that the author tries to pass off as true or accurate. Compare and contrast "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer which often includes a list of which parts the author is making up.
(As the disclaimer itself is ubiquitous, only parodies, inversions, In-Universe examples and the like should be listed)
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- Used as Weasel Words (Implying it is a fiction when it is actually a fact) with sex toys and the like, which often have "for entertainment only" or "for novelty use", in the advertisement despite being obviously for and functional as what it looks like they are for. This is to cover the company legally. Some places in the United States and elsewhere have laws against the sale of these products, but this gives the company the legal standing of saying "It's all for fun. What the customer actually does with it is their own business."
- It's repurposed in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; the SOS movie includes a version of it so that Haruhi won't make everything in the movie real.
Haruhi: This story is a work of fiction. All character names, organizations, incidents and any other names, phenomena and such, are fictional as well. It's all made up. Even if it resembles someone, it's probably just a coincidence. Oh, except for the commercials! Shop at Omori Electronics and Yamatsuchi Model Shop for great deals. Stop by and buy! Huh? I gotta say it again? This story is a work of fiction. All character names, organizations, incidents and any other names... Hey Kyon! Why do I have to say all this stuff anyway? I mean, it's totally obvious.
- Occult Academy ends with this: (translated to English) This program is a work of fiction. Departed Spirits, Psychic Abilities, Aliens, UMA's, etc., do not exist.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has a different disclaimer at the end of each episode, always related to the plot of the episode and always a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
"This programme is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the real Plan to Turn Humanity Into Livestock, Ozeki or Che Guevara is purely coincidental."
- In the last episode they go so far as to claim that any similarity with their own show is purely coincidental. Given the type of show this is, they're not far off.
- Senkou No Night Raid, which is set in China in 1931 and deals in a great part with the events leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War, has one such disclaimer at the end of every episode. Unlike most anime that use this trope, this one is deadly serious, considering that historical revisionism of World War II is a very touchy subject in East Asia.
"This is a work of fiction. Although it is based on real historical events, the characters have been created for the sake of this story. We are not trying to present a new interpretation of the era and its events."
- This is pretty gutsy from a series that in fact goes against the popular (in Japan) interpretation by not ignoring Japan's role in what happened and presenting it as a bad thing.
- Samurai Champloo: "This work of fiction is not intended as an accurate historical portrayal... LIKE YOU GIVE A %#@&!"
- Pani Poni Dash!. After Himeko presses a button on Ichijou's back at the end of an episode set entirely in the Edo period and blows up a building labelled "Squ Eni": "This program is pure fiction. Resemblances to people that existed, organizations, the Edo period, Pani Poni, Pani Poni Dash!, etc... are all coincidental"
- In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem starts watching porn based around his persona, preceded by this disclaimer: "This is a work of fiction not intended to represent anyone living, dead or writing a weekly column for a newspaper."
- The Books of Magic III has: "This is a work of fiction. All the characters in it, human and otherwise, are imaginary, excepting only certain of the fairy folk, whom it might be unwise to offend by casting doubts on their existence. Or lack thereof."
- Neil Gaiman is fond of doing this. The collected edition of The Books of Magic has this:
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real people (living, dead, or stolen by fairies), or to any real animals, gods, witches, countries and events (magical or otherwise), is just blind luck, or so we hope.
- Neil Gaiman is fond of doing this. The collected edition of The Books of Magic has this:
- Marvel UK's The Real Ghostbusters and Count Duckula comics disclaim any resemblance to persons "living, dead, or undead".
- As does Eric Powell's The Goon, published by Dark Horse.
- Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel has the usual kind of disclaimer but with more colorful wording:
The following legends of princes and prophets, gardens and graves, water and fire, will not be found in books of history. Any resemblances to real people, places, or events may be blamed on the vivid imagination of the reader.
- In Chuck Versus the CGI, Chuck encounters the Roarkbot, an AI modeled after Season 2 villain Ted Roark, at a computer animation studio. When the Roarkbot reveals the 4,000 identical female AIs he's going to send out to wreak havoc on the Internet, one guy asks if they all look like Beverly D'Angelo. The Roarkbot replies, "If you say so. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."
Film – Live-Action
- Airplane! has a standard disclaimer, but ends it with "...so there!"
- The 1969 film Z, which satirizes the military dictatorship ruling Greece at that time, has this notice: "Any resemblance to actual events, to persons living or dead, is not the result of chance. It is DELIBERATE."
- The Three Stooges short "You Nazty Spy" claims that "Any resemblance between the characters in this picture and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle."
- The sequel, "I'll Never Heil Again," has a similar intro: "The characters in this picture are fictitious. Anyone resembling them is better off dead."
- The disclaimer in An American Werewolf in London notes the fictional status of all characters "living, dead, or undead". The remake of Dawn of the Dead did the same thing.
- (500) Days of Summer begins with the standard disclaimer, and then appends, "Especially you, Jenny Beckman. Bitch."
- The Great Dictator begins with the notice: "Any resemblance between Hynkel the dictator and the Jewish barber is purely co-incidental". (They are played by the same actor.) The movie is very clearly and emphatically a parody and satire of Nazi Germany, and the subverted disclaimer only underlines how it's completely unapologetic and unsubtle about it.
- Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie combines this with No Animals Were Harmed to get "The story, names, characters and incidents portrayed in this production are real. Some goats, pigs, and sheep were nuked during the original photography of some operations."
- Subverted in an epilogue to the 1931 Dracula. Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing in the film) speaks directly to the audience, giving them what sounds like a reassuring message about the fictitious nature of the preceding film... until he gets to the kicker: "There are such things as vampires!" Sadly, this epilogue was cut from the film's 1936 re-release (for fear of offending religious groups), and is now lost.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail has the regular "accidental and unintentional" message... but follows it up with "Signed Richard M. Nixon".
- In the low-budged LDS film Sons of Provo (a ripoff of This Is Spinal Tap), the film ends with the disclaimer "Everyone in this film is based on someone the creators know, so if you know the filmmakers at all, you're probably in this film. So sue us." It's probably the only genuinely funny moment in the film.
- The Hunt for Red October has an interesting variation: The film specifically states that according to the US and Soviet governments, nothing that you are about to see in the film ever happened.
- The Laurel and Hardy feature Block-Heads has a message from Stan and Ollie reading "The events and character depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. And similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not our fault!"
- Disclaimer after the open credits of Fury (1936), stating that characters and events are fictional.
- The infamous /b/ board on 4chan has one of these:
The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood.Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact.
- The German Krautchan includes a bilingual disclaimer after the site was featured in the news.
- No More Dead Dogs has a disclaimer that goes (something like), "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons or dogs proves you have some strange friends."
- American Gods has a long version of the disclaimer, including discussion of precisely how real certain locations discussed in the book are, and ending "Furthermore, it goes without saying that all the people, living, dead and otherwise in this story are fictional or used in a fictional context. Only the gods are real."
- Carl Hiaasen has a tendency to start his books this way.
- Sick Puppy has:
This is a work of fiction. All names and characters are either invented or used fictitiously. To the best of the author's knowledge, there is no such licensed product as a Double-Jointed Vampire Barbie, nor is there a cinematic portrayal thereof.
However, while most events described in this book are imaginary, the dining habits of the common bovine dung beetle are authentically represented.
- The disclaimer in Skinny Dip explains: "The events described are mostly imaginary, except for the destruction of the Florida Everglades and the $8 billion effort to save what remains."
- Sick Puppy has:
- Kurt Vonnegut had a standard parody of this, as exemplified in Bagombo Snuff Box:
As in my other works of fiction: All persons living and dead are purely coincidental, and should not be construed. No names have been changed in order to protect the innocent. Angels protect the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine.
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers has the anti-disclaimer:
"Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them, especially if the author has been kind enough to have provided their real names and, in some cases, their phone numbers. All events described herein actually happened, though on occasion the author has taken certain, very small, liberties with chronology, because that is his right as an American."
- Edgar Pangborn's post-apocalyptic novel Davy has a disclaimer by the author to the effect that:
The characters in this book are fictional in a limited sense, i.e. they haven't been born yet.
- Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency claims that it bears no resemblance to any people "...living, dead, or wandering the night in ghostly torment."
- Each book in the 87th Precinct series features the following disclaimer (which is partly a shout-out to Dragnet):
The city in these pages is imaginary. The people, the places are all fictitious. Only the police routine is based on established investigatory technique.
- Subverted in Michael Crichton's Next, an Author Tract about the dangers of genetic engineering loosely based on some real events.
"This novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren't."
- A novel involving, among other things, the author having the Virgin Mary as a house guest has - in small print, on the looseleaf - "this novel is a work of fiction". Except that Mary and the author explicitly discuss the fact that the author would never be able to publish it as truth.
Mary (paraphrasing): You could publish it as fact, of course. But where would that lead? ...they would dig up your tulip bulbs and sell water from your garden hose as holy. They would flock to your house and turn it into a shrine. The prayers would drive you mad.
- The late '80s teen novel A Royal Pain, about an American girl who discovers she's the Switched at Birth princess of a fictional foreign country, includes the standard disclaimer. Underneath is a second disclaimer by the main character urging the reader to ignore the first one, because "it really happened. I know. I was there."
- Go, Mutants!:
This book is a work of fiction. The public figures, historical events, and popular entertainments referred to in the text are from a different universe, one with no libel or copyright laws.
- The Star*Drive novels subtly parody this with the disclaimer "All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons or aliens, living or dead, is purely coincidental."
- In The Pale King, David Foster Wallace points out the paradox of the book being both a memoir and literary fiction in The Author's Foreword, first saying that everything in the book is true, and then pointing out that the sentence in which he says that is itself covered by the disclaimer at the beginning of the book.
- In You Have to Stop This, the final book of the Secret Series, the disclaimer reads "The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. Of course, you know what they say about good intentions...."
- Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, a latter book by Bosch, has a normal version of the disclaimer. There is, however, a label before it reading "Traditional (and absolutely completely totally sincere) disclaimer."
- The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog (by Dave Barry) has this: "Any resemblance to people and circumstances from my childhood in Armonk, NY are, frankly, a baffling coincidence."
- Captain Underpants, in The Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, had a comic with this disclaimer on the back, "Any simalarities to real people (living or dead) is very, very unforchenate."
- The book Simply Weird: The (fake) History of Weird Comics Incorporated, A (fake) Comic Book Company starts this way. It's more or less a joke when the title already says the history present in the book is fake.
- RobertRankin's Raiders of the Lost Car Park has such a disclaimer. One of the characters is Prince Charles Windsor. With a train fixation. Complete with him using a train-into-tunnel euphemism with shagging his PA.
- In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash (the book that served as the basis for A Christmas Story) has this— "The characters, places, and events described herein are entirely fictional, and any resemblance to individuals living or dead is purely coincidental, accidental, or the result of faulty imagination."
- Say, Darling by Richard Bissell:
As anyone on Broadway can tell you, none of the fictional characters in this novel resembles anybody living or dead on the main stem. They are all too lovable. At any rate, the only place they have ever lived is in the author's imagination.
- Barefoot Boy with Cheek by Max Shulman has an author's note explaining that "the University of Minnesota is, of course, wholly imaginary," and that "Minnesota" is a combination of two Indian words that has little if any meaning.
- Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card begins with the traditional "any resemblance to real people or events is entirely co-incidental" despite Tecumseh and Tenskatawa being major characters who do essentially the same things as they did in real life. The book then has a more detailed disclaimer, explaining "This story takes place in an America whose history is often similar to, but often quite different from our own ... In particular, you should be aware that William Henry Harrison ... was a somewhat nicer person than his counterpart in this book."
- All of Mercedes Lackey's Doubled Edge books contain the standard disclaimer, despite most of the human characters and many of the events being straight out of history. Naturally, the scenes that are copied straight from life (such as the scenes of young Elizabeth I being sexually abused) are the most bizarre and troubling to the modern reader.
- Go Ask Alice is marketed as being the real-life diary of a girl who died due to drug abuse, but was actually a fictional story either written or edited by Beatrice sparks. According to Snopes, however, it plays this trope entirely straight by having this on its copyright page: "This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental."
- In the Author's Note for The Fault in Our Stars:
"This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up."
Live Action TV
- Red Dwarf has an episode in which an ancient scroll containing this disclaimer for The Bible is unearthed.
- The video case for Blackadder's Christmas Carol states that all characters are fictional and any resemblence to any real person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Except the Awful Screeching Woman, who knows exactly who she is.
- Dragnet and Adam-12 also did this with the revelation that the events were based on real cases since Jack Webb had a good relationship with the LAPD. It might have been the first, or one of the first, police procedurals to use Ripped from the Headlines stories.
- Square One TV: The opening spiel of Dragnet parody Mathnet:
The story you are about to see is a fib, but it's short. The names are made up, but the problems are real.
- Many episodes of shows from the Law & Order franchise begin with the caption "The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event." Some have a modified version: "Although inspired by true events, the following story is fictional." Experienced viewers know that either means "Okay, this story's been Ripped from the Headlines. Please don't sue us."
- The first-season L&O episode "Indifference" ended with a caption and voice-over pointing out the differences between its storyline and the real-life child-killing of Lisa Steinberg. This remains the only explicit disavowal of a real case in the franchise's history.
- In episodes that aren't Ripped from the Headlines but show parts of the legal system as corrupt, a modified version specifically stating that the episode is fictional and doesn't actually represent the department and is not meant to imply anything.
- The Good Wife had an interesting take on this where a film studio made a movie about a Mark Zuckerberg substitute internet billionaire and got sued for defamation. If they admit that they intentionally made the guy look bad they are guilty of defamation. If they publicly say that the movie was a work of fiction then the movie loses a lot of its appeal since they based their advertising and Product Placement on the fact that it is an accurate depiction of actual events.
- The "Spam" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus begins with Fake-Out Opening credits for an epic adventure, mangling the disclaimer to "Any similarity between persons living or dead is coincidental."
- Every episode of Unsolved Mysteries started out with a warning in (first) an ominous male voice, and on the Lifetime broadcasts, an equally ominous female voice:
This program is about unsolved mysteries. Whenever possible, the actual family members and police officials have participated in recreating the events. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast.
- This disclaimer was suggested on Mock the Week while discussing "Unlikely lines to read in The Bible".
- The AC/DC song "Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)" starts with Bon Scott declaring "The following is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty."
- The phrase "...any persons living, dead or undead" is also used by the music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller (which, like An American Werewolf in London, was directed by John Landis).
- Parodied with the disclaimer seen at the beginning of Crank Yankers, which gleefully informs viewers that "The calls you are about to hear are real. The names have not been changed. Screw the innocent."
- Stan Freberg's "St. George And The Dragonet" starts with "the story you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record."
- The roleplaying game Nephilim has an interesting disclaimer. One page reads, in all caps, "THIS GAME IS NOT REAL." The next page reads, again in all caps, "YOU ARE."
- Knickerbocker Holiday, Epilogue for Stuyvesant:
What more remains is but to say
All characters and all events
Incorporated in our play
Are fictional in every way,
Nor does one actor here portray
The person that he represents.
- Louisiana Purchase devotes an entire Opening Chorus to a disclaimer explaining that everything in the show is "mythical," including the state of Louisiana.
- Used at the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 2 (and that game alone), because it was written in 1999, depicted terrorist attacks in New York and was completed in September 2001.
- Now incorporated into Peace Walker as well, mainly to tell audiences that Militaire Sans Frontières (Soldiers without Borders) has exactly zero relationship to the real life charity Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).
- Can be seen at the beginning of both the English and Japanese versions of the Raidou Kuzunoha games, perhaps due to the historical(ish) setting and the use of a few Historical Domain Characters.
- Almost all the Shin Megami Tensei games have this disclaimer at the beginning in some form, though they don't use nearly as many historical settings and characters as the Devil Summoner games do.
- Because of the historical and religious implications of the plot of the Assassin's Creed series, every game takes care to point out that it "was designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs".
- Due to the crazy and unfair court system used in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the Western version of the game manual contains a disclaimer to the effect of "This game's court system was invented for entertainment purposes and is not intended to resemble any real court system." Despite this, it is, in fact, based on the former Japanese court system — the disclaimer in that region reads more like "This game's court system is based on reality, but is exaggerated for entertainment purposes and not intended to be a perfect recreation".
- Played with in Touhou: Ten Desires — "This game is a work of fiction. All characters and organizations that appear have entered Gensokyo." Gensokyo, the setting, is composed of things that people have stopped believing in. And the plot of this game involves this happening a major Japanese historical figure...
- Played straight in the legal screen of Mafia II. As the game was set in a historical era and involved or mentioned organizations such as the Mafia, it would make sense for the developers to say that this isn't a true account of what happened in the mob underworld.
- Subverted in July Anarchy: Prologue, which manual opens with the following text:
[DISCLAIMER]: THE VIEWS AND ACTIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS SERIES OF MODULES ARE SOLELY FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES. THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS A REPRESENTATION OF THE AUTHOR'S POLITICAL VIEWS. THE MODULE AUTHOR DOES NOT ADVOCATE VIOLENCE AGAINST POLITICIANS, POLICE OFFICERS OR OTHER AUTHORITY FIGURES.SUCH WOULD BE A DEATHBLOW TO TO THE SPOKEN TRUTH, WHICH CAN ONLY BE EXPRESSED THROUGH THE VOICE OF AN OPPRESSED SPECIES AND NOT THROUGH THE BARREL OF A GUN. DO YOU NOT REALIZE YOU ARE BEING WATCHED THIS VERY MOMENT AS YOU READ EACH PIXEL OF THIS FILE THEY SUSPECT YOU NOW THERE IS NO LONGERANYPLACEOFREFUGEYOUMUSTAWAKENTOTHETRUTHTHEYCONTROLYOUWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUpwakeupwakeup]]]]#————
- Inverted with the "Twilight Syndrome Murder Mystery" in Super Dangan Ronpa 2, as Monokuma points out that it is entirely non-fictional, and, in fact, it apparently involves some of the actual characters, indicating that Koizumi destroyed evidence that would have incriminated her friend as the murderer of Kuzuryuu's sister.
- L.A. Noire has the following disclaimer on the back of its box:
This is a fictional story set in 1940s Los Angeles depicting invented and fictionalized historical characters, groups, locations, scenes and events in a manner that is not historically accurate and should not be interpreted to be factual.
- Appears at the end of Normality. The first half is played straight, reading "The characters portrayed in this game are totally fictitious." The latter half is where it gets snarky and self-aware. "Any resemblance to any persons dead or alive is rather unfortunate and disturbing." This either relates to the early 3D modeling causing an Uncanny Valley effect with its often grotesque character models, or the characters themselves exhibiting unpleasant behavior.
- A message like this, laced with some subtle Nightmare Fuel, can pop up at one point in the Silent Hills Playable Teaser.
- El Goonish Shive: Any similarities to any real people living, dead, and/or the opposite gender are entirely coincidental. [see commentary]
- Gunnerkrigg Court: Tom Siddell says this, almost word for word, in the annotation for this page and the one following. However, the the message here is not "Although this looks like it could have really happened, it didn't.", but rather "I KNOW this is impossible! It's a fantasy story, OK?"
- In Cartoon Drive Thru's Deadly Space Action season two, at the end of each episode:
Any similarity to future historical events is entirely intentional, because we totally called it.
- South Park displays this at the beginning of each episode:
"All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated ... poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone."
- The opening caption in the Futurama episode "The Route of All Evil" is "DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance to actual robots would be really cool."
- Beavis and Butt-Head had two notable disclaimers at different periods of its series run, the latter essentially a slightly slimmed down version of the former, accompanied by jaunty banjo music:
"Beavis and Butt-Head are not real. They are stupid cartoon people completely made up by this Texas guy whom we hardly even know. Beavis and Butt-Head are dumb, crude, thoughtless, ugly, sexist, self-destructive fools. But for some reason, the little weinerheads make us laugh."
"Beavis and Butt-Head are not role models. They're not even human, they're cartoons. Some of the things they do would cause a person to get hurt, expelled, arrested, and possibly deported. To put it another way, Don't Try This at Home."
- Wartime Cartoon Blitz Wolf: "The Wolf in this photoplay is NOT fictitious. Any similarity between this Wolf and that (*!!*%) jerk Hitler is purely intentional!" A postscript adds a rationing joke: "P.S. The tires in this photoplay are fictitious (and we ain't kidding, brother!)"
- The Looney Tunes cartoon "Rocket Squad," a homage to Dragnet, had the following disclaimer: The story you are about to see is true. The drawings have been changed to protect the innocent.
- "Daffy Duck and Egghead" opens with a foreword stating that the ducks depicted are fictitious, and any ducks seen in the picture, "living or roasted, are purely coincidental."
- "Porky Pig's Feat" has "Any resemblance between this hotel and real hotels, living or dead, is coincidental."
- Celebrity Deathmatch has the standard disclaimer, but ends it with "Anyway, IT'S JUST CLAY!!!!"
- The Woody Woodpecker short "Under the Counter Spy" opens with the card "The story you're about to see is a big fat lie. No names have been changed to protect anybody."