Book Review: Tangled Webs -How False Statements are Undermining America by James B. Stewart

May 18, 2011

“Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff” by James B. Stewart is a nonfiction book about the comfort of our society with lying. The book examines this phenomenon which, to me, seems as if it is a new sport.

  • 496 pages
  • Publisher: The Penguin Press HC
  • ISBN: 1594202699

Book Review: Tangled Webs -How False Statements are Undermining America by James B. StewartMy rating for “Tangled Webs” – 4

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In “Tangled Web” by James B. Stewart makes a passionate and persuasive case that perjury, lying and interfering with investigations are not some minor technicalities in which an overzealous prosecutor can “stick it” to you – but serious crimes which undermine our whole justice system.

Then again, what do you expect when we teach our children that George Washington could “not tell a lie”. What do you tell them when they find out that the story itself is a lie?

In a very descriptive, page-turner narrative, Mr. Stewart illustrate how four people, Martha Stewart, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Barry Bonds and Bernard Madoff, all powerful and successful in their own right, kept lying in direct contrast to recorded evidence pointing otherwise. Using personal interviews, investigation notes and court records Mr. Stewart makes his arguments very powerful, objective yet emotional.

I felt that the section about Madoff was a bit of a departure for the book. While Madoff did lie to the SEC, that was minor compared to the ponzi scheme he was running. Unlike Ms. Stewart, for example, who did nothing wrong trading stocks but got jailed for lying.

This is an informative and fascinating book. It certainly helps make the authors assertion of how lies undermine our country’s judicial system and, shamefully, get endorsed by all levels of government, starting at the upper echelons of power in the White House.

While I get that point of the book, I think another book could be easily written about how lying is not only accepted in our society – but also rewarded. In the corporate world, lying is “business as usual” and is rewarded with record break profits, while in politics lying is rewarded by getting voted into office. Politicians routinely use lies as a mean to boost their own self worth and contributions to society. For example, a former governor boasted that he was the first governor in decades to cut the budget. He did, he cut the budget by $600,000 but conveniently left out the fact that a year before he raised the budget by $3 billion; or the state senator who put aside $60 million as an “ATM fund” for himself and called it the “Property Tax Relief Fund”.

The cure?
According to Mr. Stewart it would take “moral outrage”, which I regret to say the US does not seem to be capable of, or if we are we are not able to hold on to that outrage until it actually matters. By elections day we are bombarded by lie after lie we no longer able to distinguish truth from fiction.

It is difficult, no doubt. The politicians usually promote hot button and divisive issues, which ultimately are meaningless (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) in order to divert our attention from the important albeit boring ones (unemployment, the economy, etc.) for which they have no good solutions (that means they’re going to need to create legislation which will hurt their biggest donors) . The news programs no longer offer news, but instead just commentary pushing one extreme or the other. Finding the truth these days is the equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack – sure it’s there but go dig for it.

There is hope however; is a great place to check if your recent email warning is a lie, as well as other websites which are wonderful resources to check your facts. However, we as a society must create incentives, be they physical or financial, to tell the truth.

So tell me, do you think lying is an American epidemic?

The book is divided into four parts. Each part examines the headline grabbing cases of Martha Stewart, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Barry Bonds and Bernard Madoff. In each case the perpetrator tried to weasel his/her way out of prosecution by lying and/or falsifying evidence. In each case the person, which like Ms. Stewart didn’t actually do anything wrong, got punished for perjury and/or interfering with an investigation.
If you missed the details about any of the cases mentioned above, here is your chance to learn more about them.

Buy & Save on“Tangled Webs” through the ManOfLa­Book affil­i­ate account on:
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TLC Book Tour for “Tangled Webs”:
Tuesday, May 10th: Boarding in My Forties
Wednesday, May 11th: Take Me Away
Thursday, May 12th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, May 17th: Power and Control
Tuesday, May 17th: Marathon Pundit
Wednesday, May 18th: Man of La Book
Monday, May 23rd: Deep Muck Big Rake
Wednesday, May 25th: Stacy’s Books
Wednesday, June 1st: Bibliophiliac
Monday, June 13th: Lisa Graas
Tuesday, June 14th: Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms

Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free as part of the TLC Book Tour pro­mo­tion.

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  • Jessica May 18, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Interesting. I don’t doubt that there’s an epidemic of lying, but I question whether it’s anything new. It’s unfortunate that no tangible solutions are proposed, which would make for a fascinating discussion.

    • zohar May 18, 2011 at 9:43 am

      I don’t think the epidemic of lying is new, I think the lack of shame is though.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    “‘moral out­rage’, which I regret to say the US does not seem to be capa­ble of, or if we are we are not able to hold on to that out­rage until it actu­ally mat­ters” – oh how true this is! The average American has more focus on the latest doings of the celebrities than it does on any form of moral outrage. Sad but true.

    Thanks for this excellent review and for being a part of the book tour.

  • Amy May 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Wow this sounds fantastic. I do think the lying is endemic at least in the higher levels and have no idea how it could be combated. I’ll be looking for this one!

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