About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual book talk with Cass Sunstein, author of Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Friday March 5, at noon, Janice Nimura will discuss her new book, The Doctors Blackwell. In the mid-19th century, it was an unheard of notion for a woman to study medicine, but sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell became path-breaking doctors.

And on Tuesday, March 9, at noon, we will welcome Jayne Zanglein, author of The Girl Explorers, the story of the founding of the Society of Women Geographers and how key members served as early advocates for human rights and paved the way for today's women scientists.

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“In life and in politics, truth matters.” These are the opening words to chapter 9 of Liars, Cass Sunstein’s new book. As custodians of the records of our nation’s history, we at the National Archives know well that truth matters.

Researchers come to us to establish facts, to unearth the true stories of historical events and people. The records preserve what happened at a particular time, but we do not label them “true” or “false.” A letter to an office-holder may contain falsehoods, but the document itself is a “true record” of the writer’s intent.

It is up to the researcher to evaluate the sources, and analyze viewpoints to determine what did, or didn’t, happen.

In Liars, Cass Sunstein looks at contemporary life to examine the role of truth and falsehood, and asks how we can deter lies while also protecting freedom of speech.

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Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University. From 2009 to 2012, he was Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and he joined the Department of Homeland Security last month as senior counselor on immigration policies for President Joe Biden. In 2018, he received the Holberg Prize from the Government of Norway, often described as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for law and humanities. Founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, he has been involved in law reform activities in nations all over the world. He is the author of many articles and books, including Nudge, How Change Happens, and Too Much Information.

Now let’s hear from Cass Sunstein. Thank you for joining us today.