By Sal Bommarito
Brian Williams, the embattled anchorman at NBC, is one in a long line of journalists, actors, sports figures, politicians, academics and business people who have lied and cheated in an attempt to game the system. The list is much greater if you include individuals who cheat on their personal taxes, doctors who submit false medical documents and businesses that cut corners to save money and imperil their employees and customers.
I had a suspicion that the list of liars and cheaters would be a long one. I confirmed my expectations by researching famous “liars.” Many successful people have ruined their careers by doing inane things, lying about errors, exaggerating accomplishments and covering up deceptions. The most outrageous aspect of this topic is that cheaters, adulterers and sinners of every ilk feel the urge to communicate their transgressions on the Internet making their adjudication easy.
The ramifications of lying and cheating fall on an extensive continuum of damage inflicted on society. For instance, Brian Williams was thought to be one of the “most trusted” journalists in the world. He broke that trust, and now some will be skeptical when he speaks, should he ever make it back to broadcast television. The damage done to society is nil; the reputation of his employer is another problem. Calling him an influential journalist is a stretch when all he does is read stories on a teleprompter that were written by other people.
Big issues include ones that involve government officials who lie or embellish the truth about critical events. For instance, many people believe the Internal Revenue Service did irreparable damage to itself when officials lied about targeting conservative political organizations. Further, the IRS is not a political operation authorized to pass along confidential information about taxpayers to any group. What inspired the IRS to become an activist clique? Now the organization is under fire and spending too much time defending itself rather than chasing after tax cheaters.
In the 1960s, our government was playing it fast and loose regarding the Vietnam War and secretly bombing neighboring countries. Efforts by the press to find the truth were stymied. Today, many Americans feel their government is not being totally forthright about the status of the ISIS conflict and its potential as an existential threat to the United States and/or other countries.
In business, the list of wrongdoers is extensive. Some frauds perpetrated are conspiratorial and very secretive, such as insider trading, while some are gigantic and certain to be discovered. Massive defalcations, in which generally accepted accounting standards are ignored, are reminiscent of the Enron scandal. The games executives played with revenues and profits were likely to be exposed at some point. Several people went to jail and millions lost money or were seriously impacted by the demise of such a large corporation.
Business frauds occur every day. Customers are lied to and suppliers pad their costs. The federal government is the largest victim in this regard. Oversight of costs and expenses on large projects is insufficient. We have all heard about $10.00 screws.
Frauds involving corporations are usually much more serious than other types of cheating. In many cases, innocent bystanders are hurt. A renegade trader at a bank, who works in the securities area could exceed his trading limits and create havoc by loosing hundreds of millions of dollars. Several similar incidents have greatly impacted major institutions and their employees.
Individual Americans perpetrate frauds every day. It is staggering how many dollars are lost to tax evaders. These misdirected revenues directly impact all Americans. Some might not receive aid that they are entitled to, while others will need to pay higher taxes to offset losses.
Some individuals cheat when applying for health care reimbursement. A few dollars here and a few dollars there add up. Soon, billions of dollars are being absconded from insurance companies that, in turn, increase premiums to offset their losses.
Our electoral process has been damaged severely over the years. As politicians have become more dependent upon media advertising, the lies and distortions have increased exponentially. Good, capable and honest candidates lose elections because there are no restrictions when it comes slinging mud in election campaigns. Once a negative and untrue stigma is attached to a candidate, it is next to impossible to repudiate.
Celebrities and actors and those in sports are notorious for unduly bolstering their reputations. An entire cottage industry that revels in scandal has developed based upon innuendo, rumors and denials. Of note, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has attempted to deceive major league baseball, his employer and baseball fans about his use of steroids. Once reporters latch onto a story like A-Rod’s, it is too late. It would be better to admit one’s blunder, accept punishment and move on. It is entirely possible that Rodriguez will never be voted into the Hall of Fame, even though he is arguably one of the best players to step on to a baseball diamond.
A universal subterfuge is lying on one’s resume. Individuals in many lines of work have lost their jobs and reputations for saying that they have a degree they don’t have, or did something that they didn’t do. Included in this group are university professors, sports coaches, TV chefs, security analysts, marathon racers and Lotharios.
One of the two greatest deceptions that ultimately worked out for the perpetrator was Bill Clinton’s denial that he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Nobody really cared about Clinton’s dalliances, but when he lied under oath and on TV, he stepped over the line.
The other event was Watergate and the Richard Nixon cover-up. Nixon was not so fortunate and lost his presidency when he tried to hide his involvement with aides who broke the law.
America is the greatest country in the world. Unfortunately, too many of its citizens lie and cheat. Their nefarious deeds hurt others and our society in general. They should all be exposed for their misbehavior.