Just in the last 24 hours, I have had people burden me with a number motivations and ideas -- personal, political, critical -- that they seem to have invented out of whole cloth. An anonymous e-mailer accused me of racism based on a misreading of a piece I wrote a long time ago and which they found, out of context, in a Google search. A guy I know personally claimed a particular critical stance for me which I do not possess, based on my general intellectual interests. Someone I know only online attributed a motivation to my critical position on a particular movie to a critique of the director with which, though it's in common currency, I do not agree. And a political leader in my home state made a comment about people who opposed the Iraq war that could not be more at odds with my own experience.
I'm not really upset about these things; they're no more bullshit than any of a number of other shorthands we use in what passes for everyday thought. And, as I say, I do these things myself to greater or lesser degrees, as I imagine everyone does. Hardly a day passes where I don't analyze my own behavior based on what I think other people might think of it, or make a judgment of someone based on a very imperfect composite of personality traits I think they may possess. But I think it's fascinating, and it really hammers home the idea that what we consider the reality of our social relationships is almost entirely a fiction that we've authored inside our individual heads based on an assumptive reading of other people's fictions.