Charles Lewis: If Truth Be Told
Posted by Larry Doyle on June 19, 2014 9:50 AM |
The health of our democracy demands that we pursue and embrace the truth wherever it may take us and whatever we may learn. Regrettably as a nation the truth often largely escapes us due to forces wielded by those who might suffer in the process. We see evidence of this reality almost on a daily basis.
Investigative journalism is critically important to unearthing the truth yet this most noble undertaking remains under serious pressure. Fortunately we have individuals like Charles Lewis, one of the most highly distinguished investigative journalists in our nation’s history, to fight back against the tide.
Lewis provides fabulous context on this topic in a recently penned 3-part series entitled If Truth Be Told. In light of all that is going on in our nation, this series qualifies as an absolute must read and an instant Sense on Cents classic. As a teaser, I welcome providing a few snippets of Lewis’ work. Let’s navigate.
— In my lifetime, independent journalists have fearlessly exposed such abuses of power as the anti-Communist demagoguery of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the institutionalized racism and injustice across the American South, the gross misrepresentations committed by the U.S. government during the Vietnam War, the wholesale illegalities and breaches of faith broadly known as the Watergate scandal, the excesses of corporate power that caused millions of Americans health-related peril from dangerous products or substances and the improper or illegal post-9/11 uses of governmental power.
— . . . it’s no exaggeration to say that the course of U.S. history was altered by investigative journalists’ scrutiny and accountability of those in power.
— Time after time, however, those same tenacious media have been hoodwinked by the powers that be, whether they’ve occupied the highest echelons of government or Fortune 50 boardrooms. After all, there may be immediate electoral rewards for delaying and distorting the truth . . .
— On the heels of the Lehman bankruptcy, the Dow Jones index plunged 504 points, triggering the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. But federal regulators were asleep at the wheel, and the media were not exactly digging deeply into Lehman’s affairs either: As the Columbia Journalism Review noted just four days after the bankruptcy examiner’s revealing March 2010 report: “And just like that, the Lehman Brothers scandal drops off the front pages. And not just the front pages — the section fronts, too.”
— In hindsight, it’s easy to point fingers at the media for not aggressively investigating the potential for such travesties, and then not pressing hard enough to document how these events unfolded, where blame lies, whether cover-ups were ongoing. But there may be another explanation for the presumed editorial negligence: Try as they might to unearth the truth, it’s likely that those investigating such stories were lied to. It’s certainly happened to me.
— Individually, of course, we’ve all been lied to throughout our lives, and collectively, as citizens, we’ve been lied to repeatedly by government officials and corporate bigwigs. Unfortunately, distinguishing fact from fiction has always been a formidable challenge, often with life-and-death consequences.
— Consider, for example, the prescient words of Benjamin C. Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post, who presided over coverage of Watergate and publication of the Pentagon Papers. At the Theodore H. White lecture at Harvard, in 1991, Bradlee said, “It seems to me that lying has reached such epidemic proportions in our culture, and among our institutions in recent years, that we’ve all become immunized to it. What the hell ever happened to righteous indignation, anyway?”
Nearly a quarter-century later, we’re regrettably still asking the same perplexing question.
The truth may liberate us but before we are set free we need to find the truth and expose it. I am confident you will thoroughly appreciate the wisdom provided by Lewis and will want to share it with friends, family, and colleagues. To that end, I welcome spreading Lewis’ great work and immediately inducting him into the Sense on Cents Hall of Fame.
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