Follies, Foibles and Falsehoods

Some liars make themselves famous for the wrong reasons, and all of the exposed liars make 2022 an annus mirabilis. Sunny Balwani is getting thirteen years in federal prison for misleading investors out of millions of dollars. Elizabeth Holmes who partnered with Balwani, was sentenced to eleven years for claiming her biotech firm Theranos could do things it, in fact, could not do. Sam Bankman-Fried faces a potential one-hundred fifteen year sentence in the federal slammer if he is convicted in federal court of bilking crypto investors out of billions of dollars. According to one of my law professors, going up against the Feds is almost always a losing proposition.

Freshly-elected New-York Republican congressman George Santos “embellished” (to use an innocent description) his  resume by claiming a degree from a prestigious college as well as listing former positions with important and influential financial firms Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, when, in fact, he neither graduated nor was employed by those institutions named. I predict a special vote in Santos’ district now that the truth has been revealed.  Vladimir Putin invaded the Ukraine claiming that it was being taken over by Nazis. Is it possible that an invasion based upon a lie is doomed to fail? Check with Corporal Hitler, I think I’m right on that.

Theranos - Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes backstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2014

Let’s not forget consummate liar Alex Jones, who was put on trial, proven a liar and ruled to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. Maybe there are still some shards of justice in this lugubrious world.

All of the aforementioned, (I will allow that Sam Bankman-Fried has not been convicted, but two of his associates have already owned-up to misleading investors) are, to put it bluntly, liars. Lots of people lie, and some get caught. Bankman-Fried, Balwani and Holmes lied to get money, Putin and Santos lied to get power; of course, money is inherently powerful.  Lies are often propounded to escape responsibility for illegal behavior, while others, as in Putin and Santos, to gain some responsibility and power. Lying to get there rarely turns out well.

Then we have the tectonic problem of an internet rife with false information,

Then we have the tectonic problem of an internet rife with false information, as well as people who propagate sophism with ulterior motives too multifarious to compile. Because of prior misinformation and spurious reports, many governments have lost all credibility, and in some cases that dubiousness is well placed, as in Putin’s propaganda telling the Russian citizens that he is helping the Ukraine. The same can be said for Iran, China and North Korea, where internet sources are either heavily censored or blocked out as much as possible. In the aforementioned cases, it is a truthful internet that makes the governments so afraid. 

The internet has become a great source of information, so much that many young people (as well as the willfully ignorant) see no need to study, master and know anything anymore, when the answer is only a search away. The quagmire is that, while the internet certainly has sources that are unchallengeable, there are too many specious websites that are insisting that they are offering the truth. Social media is offering “challenges” that are causing the deaths of young people. The only solution that seems available is legal liability. From the very beginning of the internet the providers have had to deal with (in the U.S.) the FCC, known as the Federal Communications Commission.

Free speech has always been sacred in the U.S., and rightly so, legally protected by our constitution. But as in many cases, certainly not restricted to just communication, the authors of our constitution could not see where technological development would lead. The answer, of course, comes back to personal responsibility. In the case of corporations, they are considered legal entities in and of themselves, but there are people who make the decisions that guide corporations. We can no longer grant immunity to the decision makers, nor to the individuals who influence citizens to make lethal decisions. The suggestion here is that those entities responsible for fatal challenges initiated on the internet be charged as coconspirators and prosecuted as the same. Freedom of speech is limited to when it doesn’t endanger citizens, but when it poses a danger, then said speech is not protected, the classic example of exception being shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater.  

The obvious lack of critical-thinking skills of Americans reflects a conspicuous deficit of education or training, along with misplaced respect and admiration for unqualified agent provocateurs. But then, liars make the best promises, as evidenced by nothing more than the number of followers who embrace the duplicity. The truth is often brutal, and deceptive explanations are often adopted by those who feel they got the short end of the deal. Unfortunately, there are the willfully ignorant who refuse to accept the inequities of life, as well as the consequences of their poor decisions, and they will seek out anyone who will offer them an alternative. The truth will make you free, but only if you can accept it.

Jeffrey Neil Jackson

Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary

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