Growing up in a small country town our way of life reflected much of America. Our teachers were many but our parents were the primary influence. We had rules at home we lived by and each home had unique disciplines. One of the most trying in our household was – You don’t leave the dinner table until everyone is finished! The youngest had bugs to hunt, the middle kids had friends waiting to play baseball or basketball. The older just wanted to hang with friends, dreaming and preparing for tomorrow. All good, but dinner with each other, discussing “life” – that came first.
There were many others who helped with our upbringing. Town leaders, the police, our schools and churches. All, all of those adults and our parents held to one standard. A standard which when violated had consequences. That standard was the 10 Commandments. The ninth – “Thou shalt not bear false witness…” ruled. You DID NOT LIE or for sure, life was going to get very difficult for you.
To this day many of us still hold that commandment to be of the utmost importance in our own lives and we expect it of others. For me – watching our politicians boldly lie with virtually every breath, every word – knowing the power and influence they have and the damage they cause – it gets to you sometimes. Worse than the lying? Letting them get away with it.
Victor Davis Hanson on the subject of lying: Brian Williams’s Truth Problem, and Ours
The NBC anchor’s lies are symptomatic of a culture in which truth has become relativized. NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams frequently fabricated a dramatic story that he was under enemy attack while reporting from Iraq. NBC is now investigating whether Williams also embellished events in New Orleans during his reporting on Hurricane Katrina.Williams always plays the hero in his yarns, braving natural and hostile human enemies to deliver us the truth on the evening news.
Former CBS anchorman Dan Rather tried to pass off fake memos as authentic evidence about former President George W. Bush’s supposedly checkered National Guard record.
CNN news host Fareed Zakaria, who recently interviewed President Obama, was caught using the written work of others as if it were his own. He joins a distinguished array of accused plagiarists, from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to columnist Maureen Dowd.
Usually, plagiarism is excused. Research assistants are blamed or clerical slips are cited — and little happens. In lieu of admitting deliberate dishonesty, our celebrities when caught prefer using the wishy-washy prefix “mis-” to downplay a supposed accident — as in misremembering, misstating, or misconstruing.
Politicians are often the worst offenders. Vice President Joe Biden withdrew from the presidential race of 1988 once it was revealed that he had been caught plagiarizing in law school. In that campaign, he gave a speech lifted from British Labor party candidate Neil Kinnock.
Hillary Clinton fantasized when she melodramatically claimed she had been under sniper fire when landing in Bosnia. Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, was more overt in lying under oath in the Monica Lewinsky debacle. Former senator John Walsh (D., Mont.) was caught plagiarizing elements of his master’s thesis.
President Obama has explained that some of the characters in his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, were “composites” or “compressed,” which suggests that in some instances what he described did not exactly happen.
What are the consequences of lying about or exaggerating one’s past or stealing the written work of others?