How the Kanamits Passed the Lie-Detector Test
When the Kanamits landed in the legendary Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” people were suspicious. And not simply because these alleged benefactors were nine feet tall and could talk without moving their lips. (Any market for basketball-playing ventriloquists, you suppose?)
No, they wondered: Could these visitors from outer space really have no ulterior motives? Did they truly want nothing more than to help us, as they claimed?
So the people of Earth fell back on a tried-and-true method — at least, to anyone who’s ever watched a police show. They had the head Kanamit take a lie-detector test.
As TZ fans know, the Kanamit passed it. But the ending makes it clear that he had to be lying. Which raises the question: How did he “beat the box”?
It wasn’t that their physiology differed from ours. The questioner began, after all, with a few test questions that showed that the Kanamit would set off a reaction on the machine if he lied, just as a human being would.
And it couldn’t be that the Kanamit believed his claim about helping the people of Earth. The Kanamits may have been ruthless, but they weren’t crazy. They knew what they were really here for. So how did he do it?
I think I know. Let’s review the dialogue and see if you can spot it as well:
Kanamit: “I hope that the people of Earth will understand and believe when I tell you that our mission upon this planet is simply this: to bring to you the peace and plenty which we ourselves enjoy, and which we have in the past brought to other races throughout the galaxy. When your world has no more hunger, no more war, no more needless suffering, that will be our reward.”
Narrator: “And the machine showed no deviation. According to it, the Kanamit was telling the truth.”
Of course it did, and for a simple reason: the Kanamit wasn’t lying. Look at the first part of his answer: “I hope that the people of Earth will understand and believe when I tell you that our mission,” etc. He did hope that we would believe him when he said that. It was a lie, but he was being honest when he said he hoped we would believe it.
Tricky devils. I hope we tasted bad.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!