And quoting from John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," sometimes translated as, "and the truth shall set you free," is pretty old but potent wisdom. Understandably, people often ask me about what changes I noticed after coming back out into the world after 12 years in prison. One of the things I've noticed is how much more acceptable lying is nowadays. Even by prison standards, it's gotten pretty out of hand. We now expect our leaders to lie, and political candidates, and anyone selling anything--and all of these rarely disappoint us.
Then there are our sources of information. The so-called mainstream media often lies by omission--they don't do the research, the background checking, the vetting of sources that used to be the standard of maintaining journalistic integrity when I was a newsman in the 1970s. Remember Watergate and The Pentagon Papers, and how much work editors and reporters did to check their facts before releasing the information to the public?
And where the mainstream media lies by omission, the Internet often lies by intention. And what has diminished us as a civilization as much as anything is the fact that more people believe what they read and see on the Internet than from any other source. Including voters. I can't tell you how many ridiculous stories people have sent me from websites that they have fallen for lock, stock, and barrel. There are even a number of websites to counter this avalanche of lies and rumors, such as:
It used to be said that Americans were the best-informed people on Earth. We pioneered so many technological breakthroughs in communication, and had a commitment to truth. Remember when President Dwight Eisenhower admitted we had sent the U2 spy plane over Russia despite the damage it would do to our reputation and diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union? Now he would be considered a fool for not taking the easy path and lying about it. One of the most shocking things revealed in the documentary I talked about in my last post, The Most Dangerous Man In America, the story of my friend Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, was that the American people have been lied to by every recent American President, going back at least to Harry Truman on the subject of Vietnam, but probably about a lot more subjects and a lot further back.
One could say that political leaders lie to us for our own good, because the truth would hurt us, demoralize us, give comfort to our enemies. But these disputable noble intentions soon get lost in the layering of lie upon lie, until veracity is seen as a liability, even a bad habit. In some Facebook posts not too long ago, I suggested that all political candidates be given lie detector tests, or be made to swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth," when they take office, or even when they run for office. More and more, I see that this might be a good idea. The truth is we can't be truly free without freeing truth from the dark cave it's now buried in.