It’s astounding given today’s technology, people seeking high office still distort the truth about their past. Anyone can find out just about anything right now. It doesn’t even have to be a seasoned investigative reporter to verify the veracity of statements made by public officials or persons seeking public office. With people willing to spill any secret for the right price and seeking publicity at the same time, the jobs of ‘investigative’ reporters are easier than ever. Silence is no longer golden. Silence is no longer honorable. Silence used to be the norm, especially when someone’s career or reputation is at stake. For better or for worse, this is no longer the case.
Anyone is willing to spill secrets for the right price; mistresses or lovers of important people who appear ‘very married’ to the public will talk, illegitimate children sworn to secrecy since birth (and paid handsomely for the silence) will talk, former staffers, friends, colleagues, classmates of people seeking public office will talk; all claiming to talk for the same reason, ‘to tell their truth’, ‘to set the record straight’ – as if anyone really gave a damn about their ‘personal’ truth.
Of course there are exceptions such as the Brian Williams ‘mis-recalled’ news reports of his helicopter being shot down in Iraq and the soldiers involved came forward to say nothing of the sort happened. Or the author of ‘Three Cups of Tea’, Greg Mortensen, basically fabricating and taking artistic license with most parts of his book and getting huge publicity and prestige for events that never took place. President Obama even donated a portion of Nobel Peace Prize money to his charity. People as remote and as far away as Afghanistan were able to verify whether the events described in his book ever took place or not. It begs the question, why? Especially for someone like Brian Williams, who didn’t need the money or fame, choose to smash his credibility to bits, for what? He was a well respected news reader and reporter and now he’s reading cable news on MSNBC.
Republican presidential frontrunner Dr. Ben Carson is now accused of distorting the facts of his life and upbringing to make his biography more compelling. The stories of his purported youthful ‘violent‘ streak is inconsequential whether if they were really true or not. He could have easily made that up to add embroidery to his rags to riches story, godless to godly story, to emphasize the point, which, a young ‘violent’ boy such as himself, with the right discipline and attitude can grow up to be a world class surgeon. It’s kind of pathetic, but I get it. I get how it might be necessary to his narrative. Again, unfortunately, when nosy reporters with nothing better to do at CNN go around digging for facts or simply verifying what he wrote in his memoir ‘Gifted Hands’, no one could back up the incidents of violence he wrote in his book. Reporters couldn’t find people with the names Carson used in his book, Carson’s response is he changed people’s names and identities to protect them. For example, the person he stabbed wasn’t a friend but a close relative.
The more serious misrepresentation or fib is when he says he got a full scholarship to West Point Military Academy offered by General William Westmoreland. There are several problems with this inaccurate recollection. First, West Point Military Academy does not offer scholarships to anyone. Tuition of all West Point students are paid for by the United States Army, and upon graduation, the West Point cadet will serve in the army for a definite period of time to repay the gratitude of the United States Army. Secondly, General Westmoreland is in no position to offer Dr. Carson anything but fatherly advice.
According the reporting by Politico:
Carson would have needed to seek admission in order to receive an offer of free education from West Point. Also, according to West Point, there is no such thing as a “full scholarship” to the military academy, as Carson represented in his book.
An application to West Point begins with a nomination by a member of Congress or another prominent government or military official. After that, a rigorous vetting process begins. If offered admission, all costs are covered for all students; indeed there are no “full scholarships,” per se.
Dr. Carson’s campaign conceded no offers of scholarship ever took place and he never applied to attend West Point Academy.
This begs the question, a clinical one, why do people, famous people, prominent people, people who are not short on receiving attention, adulation or prestige, feel the need to fabricate, exaggerate, distort certain events of their lives to make themselves appear more important or special. Why isn’t the truth as it happened, however boring or conventional, good enough? Prior to Dr. Carson running for president, how many people did he think was going to buy and read his book for him to feel the need to fabricate certain events? What is the psychology behind this? Gen. X and Millennials are often accused of being narcissistic, self-important and self-centered, isn’t this kind of misrepresentation a form of narcissism? Especially if the aim of the lies is to make one appear more important, relevant, interesting or dynamic?
Dr. Carson, on the campaign trail right now, is known as a screaming bore. He is mild manner and speaks in soft even tones sometimes monotone. He’s no fun to watch like some of the other candidates and it’s by design. He wants to be known for his policies (which I am still unsure what they are) and not a personality type.
Dr. Carson blames all of this on the media conducting a witch hunt on him because he’s a conservative black candidate running for president and the treatment of liberal candidates in the media is more forgiving or lenient. He does have a point, however, it doesn’t change the fact he fabricated certain events in his book. Dr. Carson is not a politician by trade, he’s a doctor, a highly qualified doctor, choosing to run for the highest office in the nation, he’s got no political record to run on, which in some circles is a great thing. But on the other side of that coin, the only thing voters can judge by are Dr. Carson’s own words and if those aren’t truthful, what does that say about his credibility? As a leading presidential candidate, does Dr. Carson not expect people to vet him? Especially when he has mentioned the West Point scholarship claim in all three of his books.
More importantly, as readers, are we to believe anyone writing their own biography and memoirs anymore? Since so many people have taken great liberties with the truth, their own truth, no less. Can anyone’s account of their life ever be taken at face value again? Any reasonable person knows any given person’s life is punctuated with highs and lows, intervals of exciting events and intervals of lulls where nothing much happens. Very few people have something exciting happening every minute of every day, so why do so many people feel the need to embellish their own stories?
This phenomenon is not new, the most notorious being James Frey’s book ‘A Million Little Pieces’, an Oprah Book Club selection, and it turns out, many of the most harrowing and compelling accounts of his addictions were lies. Oprah, with her credibility on the line, ordered Frey to return to the Oprah studios and forced him to give a groveling apology which lasted an hour. Joe Biden, our vice president was accused of plagiarism during his first year in law school. One hopes people who earn a living as writers or career politicians should be able to come up with an original idea when called upon to do so. Especially a writer who’s flogging their book as a ‘memoir’ or ‘biography’, the content in the said book ought to truthful. Granted, no one can correctly recall every single detail on events which happened decades ago, no one can remember exactly what they thought, what clothes they wore on a particular event, but material facts, such as who, when and where should not differ from the truth. It’s not too much to ask, especially if it’s an event that stands out in your mind.
To expect anyone to give full honesty at all times is an impossible task, least of all a politician. But if one feels the need to lie for whatever reason, the lies should be reserved for big important things which concern the welfare and safety of others.