Web of Lies

Last week wasn't a good one for liars. A mayor, young author, and personnel director for a NFL team were all exposed for dishonesty. The mayor of Eagle Mountain, Utah, Brian Olsen, admitted he lied about having a master's degree in Public Administration. It turns out Olsen had a public manager's certificate from a series of courses he took three years previously. When confronted with the accusation, Olsen told the Daily Herald that he first explained the certification to people by comparing it to a master's degree and then began telling people he had a master's degree because "it was simpler."

Nineteen-year-old author Kaavya Viswanathan had her book pulled from shelves and her six figure book contract canceled after it was revealed that her first novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life contained plagiarized passages of at least three, and possibly four, other novels. When first confronted with the allegations Viswanathan said she had unintentionally "internalized" passages from other works. But as the number of plagiarized passages grew, Viswanathan ran out of explanations and has not been heard from in over a week.

Finally, Fran Foley, personnel director for the Minnesota Vikings, was fired for an inaccurate resume that misstated his early work history and exaggerated his college football career. According to the Associated Press, Foley claimed to have held "coaching positions with the Citadel, Rutgers and Colgate when he was actually a graduate assistant at the three schools. He also said he played four seasons at Framingham State, when he only played two."

These stories illustrate a growing trend of dishonesty. Though there have been deceptions and dishonest tendencies from the beginning of this world, such intents and actions seem to be more acceptable today. We blame the pressures of wanting to succeed in a competitive environment or look to some people such as former President Bill Clinton, whose lies were made out--in the eyes of the media anyway--as no big deal.

Why did Olsen, Viswanathan, and Foley feel they had to lie? Olsen certainly didn't need a master's degree to be elected mayor of Eagle Mountain. Considering her strong writing background, Viswanathan was certainly talented enough to write her own words instead of relying on others. And Foley probably could have succeeded in the NFL without the embellishments in his resume.

Honesty is a matter of personal integrity. If you want to prosper and be successful in this life, honesty is essential. Yet it seems that this virtue is increasingly something that is pushed aside for the honors and praise of the world under the justification that the lie isn't hurting anyone.

Because of her dishonesty, Viswanathna had her book contract canceled. Foley was fired. And Olsen? Olsen told the Daily Herald that the lie was "a terrible falsehood and something I regret" and he hoped to finish out his term and use it as an opportunity to earn back the trust of voters.

If Olsen wants to regain the trust of Eagle Mountain's citizens, he should resign and run again in another election. Trust is something not easily regained once it is lost. The citizens of Eagle Mountain, not Olsen, should decide if he's worthy of their trust.

And for that matter, it rests on each of us to not only conduct ourselves with honesty in all of our dealings, but also to require the same honesty in return. The sad fact is that dishonest words and actions have become more prevalent because more people think they will be able to get away with such things. If we hold ourselves, our entertainers, and our leaders accountable for the actions and thoughts expressed, then perhaps people like Olsen, Viswanathan, and Foley will not be so inclined to deceive.

This article was originally published at FreeCapitalist.com