Sunday, April 30, 2017

Truth in this Day and Age

Several years ago an otherwise reasonable person I know came running up to me clutching papers that he said, “proved President Obama was Muslim.” I have long since learned that there are people who cannot speak rationally on certain subjects, with this individual being a prime example. So, I did my usual shtick by making some disinterested and noncommittal remark while trying my best to walk away. This person wouldn't have it, not only was he going to prove Obama was a Muslim but that his health care plan was going to enslave us all under some type of Islamic tyranny.

Had conditions been perfect, quite frankly I would have told this person where he could shove the papers he held in his hand that I assumed contained this earth shattering information. But unfortunately, given the circumstances I couldn't, while idiocy has almost a free reign this days rational thought doesn't, much to the detriment to us all. So this guy handed me this printout from a website, which will go unnamed, and I read the article that claimed that some diligent guardian of Christian American liberty had read the entire Obamacare bill and found that an Arabic word for “slave” or “infidel” or a combination of both had been inserted into the complex legislation.

On the face of it, the claim that an Arabic word for some type of slave being in a bill whose sole purpose was to provide healthcare to millions who otherwise couldn't afford it was lunacy. That its insertion meant a vast conspiracy was being perpetrated on an unsuspecting public which would result in some sort of horrendous overthrow of the American Republic was so bizarre that it was beyond sad and starting delving into the realm of the darkly humorous. Sort of like the idea of having a delusional and narcissistic real estate developer/reality television star successfully run for the presidency of the United States.

Long story short, the article about the Arabic word was fake news. I'll give the obviously radical partisan who created this fiction credit, if I remember correctly he listed a page number, paragraph, and section where this word was suppose to reside with such other insidious things like Sarah Palin's government death panels and the eventual socialistic takeover of the entire American medical infrastructure.

What really troubled me most of all was the near rapturous look on the individual's face who was presenting me with this blatant propaganda. Given that I had already known this person for a couple of years, I easily understood his worldview was so askew that God himself could come down to Earth and personally tell him the article was bullshit and I know he would have rejected that holy information. Since that time things have only degraded further, a terrifying thought given that the foundations of democracy rest on certain items that are beyond debate. Words like “Truthiness” and “alternate facts” are now a mainstay of discourse in the United States, abstract terms that either describe the muddied state of affairs in both the media and politics or outright lies told to hide the truth.

For reasons I can't quite understand the American Press has taken the brunt of the blame for the Truth becoming so difficult to discern from the massive amounts of crap daily uploaded on the internet and broadcast on television. Absolutely, they bare a share of the blame for this situation, mainly because understanding and debate has taken a backseat to ratings and commercial profitability. The Corporate suits sitting up in their plush offices have long since figured out that they make more money by broadcasting and publishing stories involving celebrities than producing hard hitting documentaries that expose uncomfortable aspects of our society.

All that being said though, from my observations the biggest problem with political propaganda and conspiracies flooding the country comes from a public that simply doesn't want to hear anything that violates the way they look on the world. Adding to this problem is that the average American attention span is woefully short, and since most of the problems we face are exponentially nuanced to the point many experts find the situation difficult and you have a recipe for disaster on many fronts. The general idea being that as long as the blue collar, Joe Sixpack and the middle class, Sally Suburbanite are fat and happy, they really don't care much about what happens to other less fortunate folks. They have their own struggles and as long as they have ESPN and Real Housewives to watch the rest of the planet can go to hell. Sorry starving kids in Africa or war torn places like Syria, you might get a token donation to a charity but as for really solving the problem most Americans don't give a rip about our own people in Flint, Michigan who had massive amounts of lead contaminate their drinking water.

The final assault on Truth and rational discourse comes from those who purposely use disinformation to advance their own agenda. This ranges from governments to politicians, to individuals who just want a few sick kicks despite the fact it harms the institutions they supposedly love. This also goes for people who lean towards news outlets that broadcast stories that fit their already preconceived notions. No, I'm not talking about right-wing nuts on this one, I stopped listening to a very progressive podcast because one of the hosts, a male blowhard that would shame the average Fox News announcer because he loves the sound of his own voice that much draws his information from RT, a Russian government-owned propaganda site. Yes dear folks, there is nearly as much liberal-based fake news as there is radical right-wing nut stuff. The right-wingers just have a more active base since most liberals will not even find time to vote much less take time away from their personal pursuits like finding the best latte and standing in line to buy the newest iPhone.

A free and open society is a tough thing to maintain. It takes active participation by everyone from across the entire political spectrum. More importantly, all these people need to be open and honest with themselves about the drawbacks of their personal political beliefs. Yes, I am a liberal but that means my own views are not the alpha and omega on how the world should run. Government is not the answer to all problems, that being said while capitalism is better economic system it readily eats the poor and inconvenient. This covers everything from how a capitalistic-dominated view of government is unable to maintain basic infrastructure like roads since that requires taxes, which might have to be raised occasionally. To the blatant and shortsighted ignoring of science which clearly spells out humans are causing climate change because of our burning of fossil fuels.

This requires that we get our information from an unfettered Free Press that will do their best to provide the uncolored facts. No reporters are not perfect, they make terrible mistakes at times but reality is like that. Little note to those who scoff, everyone makes mistakes, and the press has a much higher rate of catching these mistakes as compared to business type and certainly government officials. Last night the White House Corespondents dinner was held, absent Trump who has the ability to dish out unfounded and bizarre criticism to others but reacts like a petulant little bitch when it is given to him. The following video is of Hasan Minhaj, a correspondent for the Daily Show. His speech is both funny and strikingly pertinent given the current situation we find ourselves. 


Jimmy said...

If it's on the internet then it must be true, what is just as scary is the number of people who believe this, and the number of those who twist a bunch of garbage into a story to be passed off as true.

Nobody can disagree anymore, if you don't listen to them and agree 100% then you can no longer be a friend.....

Interesting points that I will have to agree with my friend.

Harry Hamid said...

I agree that there are a lot of people on the LEft who are just as bad, although the Right seems to have made a real art of it, as though outrage is the whole point of keeping up with national news.

My mother gets a lot of forwarded emails from members of our family and now that she's retired, feels the need to debunk the stories. But what she's discovered is this: Most of the people who forward false stories never read beyond the headlines, and certainly never research to see if the story is true. In addition, most don't follow the stories that ARE true later on to see that the few initial headlines with some merit turned out not to be as bad or as explosive as it first appeared.

I'd like to believe that if people started trying to convince me that Laura Bush or Melania Trump was transgender or something along those lines, my bs detector would go off.

The Bug said...

I agree that a free press is our only hope. I saw a great piece today with Allison Janney (in her CJ Cregg role) about just this issue.

Pixel Peeper said...

I've pointed out (on Facebook) that an article someone shared was not true, and linked to Snopes. Then I was told that Snopes was nothing but a liberal "rag."

I gave up after that.

MigratingSpirit said...

The amount of bulimic political brutes has left me feeling unusually genius.

sage said...

A good rant and you're right about both sides and especially the extremes of both sides using fake news.

Beach Bum said...

Jimmy: The sad thing is that I really like talking to people. The problems come when they bring up that kind of stuff.

Harry: One of the few things I can't forgive is the assaults the Obamas had to live through. Yes, politics is a dirty business but to have their existence questioned to that degree is simply racist.

The Bug: Hopefully we'll weather this storm.

Pixel: And to show people can be so bias, I know a liberal that thinks Snopes is a conservative rag. Leading me to think our species is doomed.

MigratingSpirit: You and me both!

Sage: The sad thing is that such fake news lessens the impact when either side truly screws the pooch.