Lying Embedded in Political Tradition

James Millette, Professor Emeritus, Africana Studies

To the Editor:

Poor Brian Williams! Now that we are all sticklers for truth, we just have no place in our noble profession for those who are fiddling with it. Tut! Tut! Time was when it was a hallmark of our profession to place false stories in random places so that they could be picked up as “sources” for more stories that could be laundered to look like truth, no matter how they smelled.

Does this mean that lying is now extinct in the journalistic profession? That Iraq really was invaded to find WMDs? That the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a job-killer? That the minimum wage should not be raised because it will kill the economy? That billionaires should be paid million-dollar incomes in order to grow the economy? That the 2008 financial crisis did not occur because of what bankers were doing but because of what they were not doing? That an unarmed Black man running away from the police is a threat to law and order and must be killed? That the U.S. invaded Cuba in 1898 because Spain bombed the USS Maine in Havana Harbor? That the small island of Grenada was invaded in 1983 because American students were in danger from the counter-revolutionaries? That the CIA did not lie about “enhanced” techniques of questioning the Guantanamo detainees? That rendition was a fiction and not a reality?

OK. Be sure to remember those truths and never forget them. So lying is now verboten in public life? On whose shoulders, then, does the burden of carrying forward this noble tradition now fall? And I wonder whether we will ever really know the real reason(s) for the public flagellation of Brian Williams?

What a loss! For better or for worse, the survival of the tradition now seems to lie firmly on the shoulders of congressmen, senators … and policemen.

Long live the tradition!

James Millette

Professor Emeritus, Africana Studies