Rob Rapley On His New PBS Doc and Demystifying The Lie Detector

Source: 1/10/23

As part of their American Experience series, PBS released the documentary, “The Lie Detector: A Truly Unbelievable Story,” last week. The film goes through the history of the lie detector from its conception in 1921 to the present day, and documents how well-meaning intentions to use the lie detector as a crime-fighting tool were twisted into its use as a gauge of morality or loyalty and as a tool of intimidation. 

Writer and director Rob Rapley produced the film with Emily Harrold through Rapley’s production company Apograph Productions. 

Rapley spoke to The Crime Report about the film, the checkered and not-so-distant past of the lie detector and the technology’s historical impact. Rapley has produced multiple episodes of the PBS series American Experience, including a recent documentary called “Voice of Freedom” about singer and civil rights icon Marian Anderson. 

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Can they do one on the Static-99, and similar, next?

Funny, the machine still looks the same as it did back in the 20s. Yah, it can tell lies, just look at it (Sarcasm).

There is a reason why results of a failed polygraph examination (in respect to those under Federal supervised release) cannot ever be considered by a judge as a basis to violate and/or re-incarcerate a subject. That reason is: The courts and the federal government (i.e., prosecutors and federal probation officers) recognize that the polygraph is scientifically unsound (cannot and does not pass Daubert standards) and can never be used as anything more than “an investigative tool” used by probation officers, therapists, etc., to “pressure” the subject to “fess up” to any supsected transgressions.

I am not knowledgable as to whether or not a failed polygraph can be used to violate/incarcerate those on state parole, probation (in California, or any other state). But as far as those under Federal jurisdiction, the above statement is true. You cannot be violated/incarcerated due to a so-called ‘failed polygraph’.

However, the probation officer (with input from the therapist) may “tighten the reins” on the subject (curfews, more frequent drug tests, home visits, etc.)

Last edited 1 year ago by SG

Polygraphs don’t detect lies. They only detect fear.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack

I watched this episode of American Experience recently. Despite the fact that I have been hooked up to one of these machines, or electric Quija Boards I as refer to them, I didn’t connect anything in the episode to PFRdom. Here’s how I recall that experience, perhaps you can conjure up the truth about my feeling on these devices.

One of the questions the woman conducting the electric quija board assisted seance asked me was, “Since you began probation, have you done anything to break the terms of your probation.” This was first asked to me before the official seance began. Establishing my answer I claimed to be truthful, before the electric quija board put that to the test! I rattled off some petty trivialities that were technically probation violations.. things such as, per the terms of my probation I was not to, “Approach within” 1,000 feet…yards…cubits…nautical miles…some distance from Schools, parks, yada yadas, blah blahs and whoseywhatsits. Obvious I had passed by places like this multiple times a day, everyday of my probation. Technically based on the language used in my probation terms…every single instance was a violation.

Madame Prognosticator was not pleased by my various confessions, and shut this down. I hadn’t even gotten to my sick needs, that I habitually indulged in. Yes, I was a unrepentant serial abuser of the laws that prohibit the crossing of streets at any point other than designated crosswalks! Lucky for me, the mighty spirits of charlatans past grew restless and insisted that we begin are mystical journey into peseudoscience!

The all knowing Seer asked her question about having engaged in any probation violations, other than the ones I had mentioned to her before the ritual of revelation had begun. I dutifully replied, “No”.

After our magical voyage through the Astral Plane of Snake Oil had ended, I was told that the Electric Quija Board had received its guidance from the great Flimflam who had proclaimed my answers to be true! The mighty mystic proclaimed them to be, “Textbook passing”. I’m assuming this was in reference to some book of sorcery that came with the Quija board.

Lucky for me, I was the only totally homeless person in the entire history of Los Angeles County to have never broken any law, of any kind. This despite having lived in a tent for months. No, no…not I! Never once did I rifle through the various wallets I found on the street, pocketing the money despite knowing from the ID who it belonged to. Nor did I use up the quite well funded Starbucks gift card I saw Stink Eyed Karen leave behind, for my own selfishness. In no way was I a human vaccum cleaner, sucking up everything of value in my path down Figueroa, and keeping it despite often knowing which spoiled USC brat it belonged to. No, they aren’t all rich, but the ones who live in the $5,000 to + 7,500+ a month 1 bedroom apartments on Fig, 3 blocks from the campus are, or least their parents are.

Technically, that would all be stealing. So lucky for me, I never did anything like that. If asked, or just had I been given a chance to, I would have regaled my Seer or Seers with all the tales of how I never did anything like that.

Who knows what else I could have said to this Sayer of Sooth, had I been given the time. It was not to be, for the mighty magics she beckoned forth from the Diminsion of Swindle with her Laptop of Augury would tarry no longer.

Lucky for everyone living, or visiting, LA during those years, and up until today, I am pretty durn harmless, unless you drop something. Yep, the greatest danger I pose to anyone is the massive threat I pose to all ears in my general area. Yes indeed, ears have been know to fall right off under the tremendous weight of all the words I speak. No ear is safe, especially if I’m all hopped up on my drugs of choice…caffeine and nicotine!

Other than that, harmless as a kitten. Today I’ll even return your wallet, if possible, like I did with the driver’s license I walked 22 blocks to return to the address printed on it last week. Didn’t even mind that I barely got a begrudgingly delivered, “Thanks” before the door was closed in my face, signalling the begining of my 22 block walk home. A journey that started by walking past the car of the man who’s Drivers License I had just returned. Not as bad as the time I was nearly arrested for returning the briefcase I found on the train to it’s rightful owner, but still a little damaging to my general faith in the inherent goodness of people. I sometimes think that…until I spend time interacting with people. However, both instances allow me to speak a truth that even the Electric Quija Board might agree with….

It is true that no good deed goes unpunished. Try one, you’ll see.

Hope you enjoyed reading this at least half as much as enjoyed writing it.

Yet, the USG will use this device in their efforts to find out who is worthy of a certain level security clearance with a passed polygraph. Junk science.