Brian Douglas Williams was suspended from his evening news job for six months without pay for lying. Williams, an American journalist, is known mostly for his ten-year tenure with NBC as a managing editor and anchor of the Nightly News. Reportedly, Williams earned more than $10 million a year and had signed a five-year contract in December 2014. In February 2015, Williams was hit with a suspension for not being honest about his experience in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and since that time the investigation has revealed more areas of dishonesty.
Williams is a well-known personality who has earned several awards and honors for his work in journalism. Now, the legacy he worked so hard build is crumbling because of the inability to be honest while reporting newsworthy events. Currently, there are at least 11 instances which have been noted where the anchor either bent the truth to his advantage or embellished facts. NBC’s internal probe of the 55-year-old’s reporting has many believing the journalist will not return to his position within the network.
The anchor’s actions have many questioning what the truth is actually worth. As Williams stands in limbo with his job hanging in the balance, he probably feels like it is worth millions. The sad reality is, in a time where lying has become acceptable communication, the lines between error and truth seem to be blurred. Perhaps Williams felt as if he was in good company because politicians, teachers, parents, children and even religious leaders do it. Where does it end? Friedrich Nietzsche, famous German philosopher, said:
I am not upset that you lied to me, but that from now on I cannot believe you.
Honesty is a strong sign that a person operates with integrity. When people honor themselves and their words, others will as well. Williams has come to understand that the consequence of telling lies has serious repercussions. Perhaps, if he could, he would go back and “undo” his fallacies; but the truth about lying is a lie cannot be untold. When people lie, it is usually the result of a lapse in judgement where they feel defeated and do not have the courage to own the truth. Another truth about telling a lie is, it weakens and erodes foundations.
Cynicism spreads and the overall quality of life corrupts as trust declines. Although some may argue that a lie in pursuit of a greater good is acceptable, it is actually a slippery slope. The line between empty excuses for selfish behavior and cleverly calculated moral justifications has become exceedingly thin. A study was done by psychologist Dan Ariely centered on several liars and their circumstances. What was interesting as the study concluded was the excuses that existed behind the lies they told. The study revealed three major trends:
Liars will do it even if the stakes are small. The study found that people will lie regardless if the monetary amount is low. Study participants lied as if millions of dollars were on the line, proving there is an adrenaline rush associated with telling lies.
Liars often find pleasure when lying to help others. People who want to help others badly enough will often forfeit their reputation for the joy of knowing their lie went to a good cause. They feel acquitted because their lack of honesty was not used for selfish gain.
Liars almost NEVER do it just once. Often when a liar is caught, they will declare it is their first lie. The study revealed that do be untrue; by the time the average liar gets busted they have left a trail of untruths behind.
The “truth” disconnect for many began in their youth when they were told there was a difference between “white” lies and big lies. Since that time, they have sought out ways to manipulate the system. As they grew, the scale they created in their mind became unbalance and so did the importance of their words. Williams proves it is time for people to become lovers of integrity, remembering they are only as good as the weight of their words.
There are many variables which come into play when people decide a lie is better than the truth. Regardless of the circumstance, when trust has been betrayed by the horror of a lie it rarely ends well. The investigation for Williams is ongoing, with a decision on his fate being more than a month away. Should the result of the investigation leave room for the journalist to return to his position, how much weight will the words of his stories hold? More importantly, the hope is that Brian Williams has learned the truth about lying and now feels empowered enough to lead a life of integrity.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Image Courtesy of David Shankbone – Creativecommons Flickr License
Image Courtesy of Bill Brassard – Creativecommons Flickr License