Facts are—and must be—the coin of the realm in a democracy, for a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” demands an informed citizenry. Unfortunately, for citizens in the United States and throughout the world, distinguishing between fact and fiction has always been a formidable challenge, often with life-and-death consequences. Those in power habitually seek to control the flow of information, corrupting its content and using lies, distortions, or simple suppression to cover their crimes.
Today that quest for truth is more difficult and confusing than ever. The cacophony of the internet, the flood of axe-grinding commentary on cable TV, and the growing legions of paid lobbyists and advocates eager to twist the truth all help to erode the sense of authority once granted to responsible journalists. History is sculpted by its absence.
Charles Lewis is a veteran of the battle for public integrity. 935 Lies explores the many ways truth is manipulated by governments and corporations. Through examples ranging from the countless lies administrations of both parties have used to justify needless wars to the successful decades-long corporate suppression of the truth about tobacco and other dangerous products, Lewis shows how the value of truth is diminished by delay. He explains the political, social, and business changes that have increasingly weakened the ability of journalists to play their traditional truth-telling role. And he describes the new trends, from the rise of nonprofit reporters to the growing numbers of “citizen journalists,” that give reason to be hopeful about the future of truth.
A video introduction by author Charles Lewis.
From McCarthyism to the Watergate scandal and pronouncements about weapons of mass destruction, our history is riddled with consequential lies by the powers that be. This demise of truth is detailed Inside the Book.
"Cigarette smoking is no more 'addictive' than coffee, tea or Twinkies."
"If you like the [health care] plan you have, you can keep it."
"We found the weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. We found biological laboratories."
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."
"In spite of the wildly speculative and false stories of arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments, we did not, repeat, did not, trade weapons or anything else for hostages. Nor will we."
"There is no evidence to confirm that [U.S.-supported El Salvador] government forces systematically massacred civilians in the [El Mozote] operations zone."
"I can say categorically that . . . no one in the White House staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident."
"We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."
"I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department."
"For us to have intervened [in Chile] – intervened in a free election and to have turned it around – I think would have had repercussions all over Latin America..."
11th Annual Public Anthropology Conference, “Uncovering Lies: What Anthropologists and Other Academics Can Learn from Investigative Journalism,” Washington, D.C.
School of Journalism and Mass Communication (to deliver the 2014 Nafziger Lecture) and other events.
Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, luncheon speaker, Cambridge, Massachusetts
MacArthur Fellows reunion, Chicago (Fellows Forum talk)
Book Discussion on 935 Lies. Host: Greta Wodele Brawner
"With the founding of the Center for Public Integrity in the 1980s, Charles Lewis probably did more than anyone else to launch institutional nonprofit journalism in America . . . His reflections, especially on network television, point up the inherent limits of our largest legacy news organizations and embody the hope that new entrants will fill the gaps in newsgathering and, thereby, enlarge the public's capacity for democratic governance."Richard J. Tofel, president of ProPublica (in his Wall Street Journal book review, July 15, 2014)
There couldn’t be a more timely book than this one -- "935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity," by Charles Lewis, one of our premier journalists who has inspired many of us in this craft to aim high and dig deep.Bill Moyers, Host, Moyers & Company, PBS
“In an engaging and challenging amalgam of memoir and expose, Charles Lewis, a career-long muckraking crusader for truth, takes no prisoners in a deeply researched exploration of outrageous lying to the public and too-often ineffectual commercial news media by the American government, politicians, and corporations. An energetic journalistic reformer, Lewis nevertheless sees hope for the future of truth in the digital revolution and the rise of public-spirited nonprofit news media, in which he has been a key player.”Leonard Downie, Jr. vice-president-at-large and former executive editor, The Washington Post
“Insightful. Original. Provocative. Charles Lewis at his best!”Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor, Annenberg School for Communication, and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
“If you like straight talk, unvarnished history, and are not interested in being politically correct, this is the book for you.”Seymour M. Hersh
“At a time when truth is under siege, acclaimed investigative reporter Charles Lewis has given us a gripping insider’s guide to a new journalistic ecosystem which is exposing lies, greed, and abuses of power across the globe. For citizens everywhere who care about truth-telling and holding those in power accountable.”Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation
“An amazingly sharp take on why trust in America’s leaders, institutions, and media is at an all-time low. Charles Lewis goes through far more than 935 lies from politicians, government, and corporations. He cuts to the lies we Americans tell ourselves.”Juan Williams, author of Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate, Fox News political analyst, and columnist for The Hill
“Though people in Washington lie all the time, the word ‘lie’ is very rarely used. In 935 Lies, veteran investigative journalist Chuck Lewis reminds us, in vivid detail, of the many times government leaders and corporations have lied to us and sought to muscle the news business to keep it from exposing the truth. Don’t read it and weep…read it and get angry!”Ray Suarez, host, Inside Story, Al Jazeera America
In Chapter 7, "A Watchdog in the Corridors of Power," of 935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity, pp. 191 and 193, I wrote about a 60 Minutes story called “The Czar of Clinton County,” which investigated a notorious school superintendent in the second-poorest county in America."
How does an idea become an institution over time? Because a growing number of multi-talented people with eclectic interests and backgrounds begin to share the vision of “the possible” and the excitement of doing something significant and memorable, together. As one staff person becomes dozens of employees and then, over the years, hundreds of “alumni,” what stands out especially are those who shouldered the heaviest burdens, bore the most responsibility and became the pillars of strength within the organization. Unfortunately, through the difficult, three-manuscript editing process, what I wrote about the importance of these unsung individuals (and my personal gratitude to them) was almost entirely eliminated from the book’s final chapter.
In the Prologue on p. xix, endnote 18 (p. 264), I promised readers: “For a bibliography of some of the most respected books about humanity’s worst atrocities and how the news media was manipulated or worse, shamelessly complicit, see: www.935Lies.com.