The Pathology of Lying

The Pathology of Lying

Dr. Marc Siegel calls for truth-telling.

Facebook
Twitter
Email
Flipboard
Pocket

Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair I’m not, but recently I made a journalistic and perhaps ethical error in my Ask Dr. Marc column. An editor friend and patient of mine wrote a medical question to my personal e-mail address. Since the problem was minor and the question ironic–addressed to “Dear Dr. Marc” and signed “A faithful reader,” I assumed it was intended for my column, and I sent it on to my Nation editor. It was subsequently published along with my answer.

All reader questions for Ask Dr. Marc are submitted via an e-mail form whereby anyone who writes must check a box agreeing that they’re allowing The Nation to publish the letter. But since this letter came to me via my personal e-mail, the writer never encountered that form or permission box.

For some reason, I was also under the impression that my friend who wrote the question would be contacted prior to publication of her letter, but I soon found that this wasn’t the case when she wrote me angrily that my using her letter without her explicit permission was a violation and a reason to fire me as her physician.

Initially, no amount of apologizing was sufficient to assuage her feelings, but over time, she decided to overlook my error. I believe that because my actions weren’t intended, and were followed by sincere remorse, that this somehow ameliorated the offense. Do readers agree?

Wouldn’t the public feel better if President Bush announced that he made a mistake tying the war in Iraq to his certainty of discovering Weapons of Mass Destruction that now can’t be located? I think many people would be reassured at least as much by humility as by the continuing cowboy routine.

I must confess that I had problems with the term WMD from the outset, since anthrax, sarin, and other chemical and biological weapons are difficult to deliver on a grand scale, and are hardly comparable in scope to the potential devastation of a nuclear bomb. But is the fact that the weapons weren’t found the major issue, or is it the Administration’s inability to come clean with an apology and a sincere attempt to make amends? And how about, “We’re sorry, but we grossly underestimated what it would take to rebuild Iraq?” Needless to say, deceit has always been an integral part of politics. But it seems the mendacity is growing.

A wise head once advised me that it was always better to tell the truth than to have to try to remember the latest story you made up to convince people that you were honorable. Truth-telling, the saying goes, enables one to sleep well at night. Hopefully, it’ll also become more important in winning elections.

Thank you for reading The Nation

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply-reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Throughout this critical election year and a time of media austerity and renewed campus activism and rising labor organizing, independent journalism that gets to the heart of the matter is more critical than ever before. Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to properly investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories into the hands of readers.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Ad Policy
x