Truth Matters

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coffee-keyboardThe far right’s continued insistence that we not trust the “main stream media” reminds me of the way in which abused women are manipulated and shielded from the reality of their situation.

In order to keep her in line, the first thing the abuser does is discredit anyone who would tell her the truth, to separate her from those she previously trusted. Once the seeds of distrust are sown, the manipulator becomes the “truth teller”.

And isn’t that the mantra we now hear over and over? “Don’t believe the mainstream media, they lie to you. Believe me instead.”

No media source is entirely honest. But if you are not getting your news from broad and reputable sources where journalistic standards still prevail and if you are not fact checking that info, you are allowing yourself to be manipulated. Your opinions, no matter how closely held, are not based in reality.

The strategy is not confined to the right. There are people on the far left who are just as guilty.

In an age where anyone on the internet can say anything, where spreading gossip, baseless conspiracies and innuendo are rewarded with readership and advertising sales, the truth is harder than ever to discern.

In an information age, there’s simply so much more bullshit to wade through. But if “mainstream media” is discounted, crackpot conspiracy sites, internet memes, chain email and entertainment sites masquerading as journalism become our “truth tellers”.

Many people no longer bother searching for truth. They just want to be comfortable in their opinions.  For those folks the internet becomes an endless supply of validation for their own misguided suspicions. It doesn’t matter how crazy your thoughts, the world wide web will provide you with sources to explain why you are spot on right.

Remember the lone, unwashed nut we once saw on street corners with a sign which read “The World Is Ending”? Well now he can search the internet and BOOM! He can become part of a whole apocalyptic community. He can share tips on sign construction and debate the most likely dates of our demise.

No need to be a lonesome crazy guy now. Once ostracized and dismissed by society, the internet gives him solace, a home and even an audience. He doesn’t need a sign, he can have a FaceBook page, twitter account or blog.

The problem today is many people cannot tell the difference between a website which promotes and nurtures insanity and those which deal in facts. On the internet, what we fear often carries the day over what we know. Even bipartisan fact checking sites whose sole mission is to separate truth from bullshit are summarily dismissed by many simply because their investigation of the facts often disagree with popular opinion.

The profession of journalism has failed us in many ways over the last 30 years, often prioritizing ratings over substance, profits over principals, but even in their present flawed form they remain a vital source of information. Now more than ever we need the mainstream media to help us separate fact from fiction, to verify the sources, to fulfill their mission of informing a free citizenry.

Instead of dismissing the mainstream media, we should, as Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust but verify.” I use this quote with a sense of irony. It was under Reagan the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine which had previously required those awarded a broadcast license to devote time to topics of public interest and to present contrasting opinions, allowing the viewers to parse the info and form their own opinion. Broadcast news has been sliding downhill ever since.

Had that doctrine been left in place, we would not have Fox News, an entertainment/propaganda site pretending to be news, playing on what we fear not what we know. I believe it’s been a huge factor in the polarization of our country.

We are all entitled to differing opinions but they should at least be based on fact and should evolve as additional facts become known. Opinions are not meant to exist in granite. The ability to engage in critical thinking is how we grow intellectually.

Truth is harder than ever to find but it should at least still matter.

Lynn may also be followed via Twitter handle @lynnmcmorris and you are invited to join her on Facebook via the Blue On The Bayou group. 

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