Taking the First Step

Hello. My name is Doug and I’m a liar.

I’m not sure how long it has been since I haven’t lied about something.

I guess I’ve been a liar since I learned to talk.

In fact, it has been a long life of lies. I refined my technique in school, getting childhood friends in trouble and then looking sweet and innocent when they got caught.

At Boy Scout Camp, I lied about completing a course to get a merit badge. It wasn’t my first lie. It would not be my last.

As a young student in racially-torn Prince Edward County, Virginia, I conned my fellow students into talking about their hates and prejudices and then wrote about it in a story for the local newspaper. Several of them cornered me after school and beat the crap out of me but I didn’t care. I got the story.

In high school, with teenage hormones raging fulltime, I refined my techniques of deception to coax unwilling young girls into the back seat of my ’57 Ford and find innovative ways to rid them of both clothing and inhibitions.

After high school, my country came calling, but the service I chose to enter required me to lie to my family and friends about where I was and what I was doing. At the time, I thought lying while serving my country justified the deceit. It didn’t.

Afterwards, I tried to make amends by using journalism to expose the many lies of our government but – ironically – I chose to lie to uncover deception.

As a reporter, I would use any technique available to obtain information. When someone refused to talk with the press, I would wander over to the police station and use a phone booth in the lobby to call them and say something like “This is Thompson at police headquarters.” Not a lie in the strictest sense but deceptive nonetheless.

When I took a sabbatical from journalism in 1981 to work on Capitol Hill, I lied to myself by claiming it was to “learn how government operated.” Two years, I said, and I would return to journalism. I didn’t. The money, the rush that comes with political activity and the lifestyle took over.

Politics exists on lies. It thrives on deception. One cannot be honest and succeed in the political world. Truth quickly becomes a disposable commodity. I lied to win over supporters for my candidate. I lied to win elections. Before long, I was running the largest political action committee in the country and playing the lying game with elected officials who would say anything to get a check for their campaign.

In some professions, lies are punished. Not politics. Liars become superstars. An ability to twist the truth and manufacture justification where none exists is a marketable commodity. Except in politics, we don’t call it lying. It’s “spin.”

Bill Clinton lied about sex with a White House intern and members of his own party dismissed it as “no big deal. It’s just sex.”  George W. Bush lied about the reasons for invading Iraq and his fellow Republicans said “that’s OK because Saddam Hussein was a bad guy and needed to be taken out anyway.”

Martha Stewart lied about making money in a stock deal (money she really didn’t need) and is convicted of a felony.

Somewhere along the line our value system got screwed. A recent Gallup poll shows 57 percent of Americans admit lying on their income tax forms. Another poll says 61 percent of married men and 54 percent of married women admit cheating on their spouses.

Parents lie to their children about whether or not they used drugs when they were younger. Children lie to their parents about sex, drugs and most other things.

I’ve lied to get women into bed and lied to get them out of bed (and my life). I’ve lied to state troopers who come up to my car window and ask: “Do you know how fast you were going?” And I’ve lied to my wife more times than I can count (and gotten caught fewer times than I should).

During a 25-year battle with alcoholism, I lied to family, friends, employers, employees and just about anyone else I came into contact with.

Until a day when it all crashed around me and I realized the lies, the drinking and everything else that goes with it had to stop.

I can’t stop politicians from lying. I can’t stop advertisers from making false claims or your auto mechanic from charging you for work he didn’t do. I can’t stop biased Internet sites from spreading lies about candidates, causes, celebrities or ethnic groups.

What I can do is try and make sure that I’m not part of the pattern of deception that rules society. I can make sure that information published on this web site is accurate and free from lies or propaganda.

I can’t change the past. Maybe, with luck, I can have some small effect on the future.

In the overall scheme of things, it’s a small step but — as any recovering addict will tell you — it all starts with that first step.