Here's Franklin Foer, in discussing the reports of Scott Thomas Beauchamp:
I hadn't worked with Stephen Glass, who made up stories out of whole cloth, but I knew the lessons derived from that scandal. Fabulists are often nabbed by the little lies, the asides they assume that no one will check.
Here's Wikipedia, quoting Glass's 1998 article 'Hack Heaven' — the one which it says 'triggered his downfall':
Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. "I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Man comic number one. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy, and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!"...
Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening – and trying ever so delicately to oblige. "Excuse me, sir," one of the suits says, tentatively, to the pimply teenager. "Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you ..."
The little lies? This is bad fiction. You don't, or shouldn't, have to be a hotshot critic to see that.
And here's an excerpt from Beauchamp's first 'Diarist' piece:
[...] a short but unusually healthy-looking Iraqi kid approached out of my periphery wearing an Adidas hat and snowboarding t-shirt, his lower torso swallowed by one of Little Venice's excrement canals.
We are to believe, then, that the Iraqi child has become so debased by the conditions of war that he is willing to wade up to his stomach, or chest, in shit
"Mistah Mistah, give me $50," he demanded, somewhat politely compared with other children. But I was still taken aback by the sum
to obtain money. I don't know if I believe it. 'lower torso' could be the slip of a bad writer, an artefact of bad editing, or one of those 'little lies'.
Or it could be true:
His first piece, a Diarist titled 'War Bonds' published in our February 5 issue, described the woes of an Iraqi boy named Ali who adopted the moniker 'James Bond.' Soon after James Bond chit-chats with American soldiers, Beauchamp learns that thugs—most likely insurgents—cut out his tongue. This first piece didn't receive much attention, but the attention it did receive was positive. Hawks, in particular, liked that it sympathetically described the plight of sensitive young soldiers on the front line.
That it was received positively implies its readers thought it true. That it was received positively, and thought true, implies its readers accepted that a young Iraqi was desperate enough for money, or so used to the indignity, he would walk navel-deep through shit for it. What does this say?