The violence of the lie

Truth, lies, facts and alternatives


Here’s an exercise: imagine what our social lives would be like if we considered lying an act of violence.

Sissela Bok, an ethics scholar, writes that lying is a form of violence.

What would happen if we take this idea to its extreme?

On the political front, consider the following lies as an act of violence:


  • The Winter 2017 inauguration for president drew the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” ~ Sean Spicer
  • “Millions of people have lost their plans or health insurance and their doctors under President Obama.” ~ Kellyanne Conway
  • “Millions of small businesses and the American farmer” will be relieved by the “unfair estate tax.” ~ Donald Trump

And what if we agreed to levy sanctions against people who lie to mislead others intentionally?

America’s political history is chock-full of lies and deception, as indigenous people know well.

Among the most egregious are the promises made to communities that, in exchange for land, Native Americans and their children would receive hunting and fishing rights, and sovereignty over their own people.


During Native American Heritage Month we honor those who survived the lies that resulted in unspeakable violence.

We need to continue to be vigilant about the lies.

Today in North America, land reserved for Native people is being leased to private business for mining and oil exploration.

Thanks to writers like Timothy Egan of The New York Times, the secretive acts are being made public.

What can we do?



Image by Gary Varvel, political cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star







About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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