The Truth Can Hurt; But only if you seek it.

Back in October, 2013, I wrote a column in the Petoskey News-Review which posed the serious question of what a person’s options are when they find out things they have long held as true are proven false beyond any doubt.  I was prompted to write that column after seeing Sean Hannity’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act proven to be fraudulent.  You can read that column here.

Since the time of that column, there have been many more opportunities for people to deal with the truth, and yet most of those folks seem to be unwilling to face it.  As egregious as Hannity was in fabricating couples who were financially ruined by the ACA, he remains on the air.  Those willing to think past their nose have long been aware that Bill O’Reilly is a serial liar.  But despite rock solid evidence of his lies emerging every day, he too remains on the air.  I really don’t blame Fox News.  If millions of people are willing to watch the shows of two of their biggest rock stars, why not cash in?  I realize it’s reaching for low-hanging fruit to say that Fox has the journalistic integrity of Pravda during the Cold War, but simply compare the way Brian Williams was treated by a legitimate news corporation versus how Fox News deals with their liars.

So if we can’t blame O’Reilly, Hannity, and Fox News for their lack of integrity, absence of a moral compass, and willingness to defame the President at every turn, who can we blame? I’d like to blame the average person who watches Fox and believes he or she is ever getting something reliable.  But that just accepts the notion that people consciously ignore evidence in order to avoid change.  If that is true, then what is the point of political discourse at all?  (More on this in a moment.)  That leaves the advertisers on Fox.  Using your financial resources to propagate lies seems to me to be the most morally corrupt action any corporation can take.   Fox, O’Reilly, Hannity, etc., are profiting from their lies while the corporate advertisers are rewarding those crimes against the truth.

But I digress.

Two stories in the news recently have underscored the damage done when people are not willing to think for themselves about issues.  It’s been relatively humorous to watch the right fall all over themselves seeking the opportunity to praise one of the world’s most divisive and untrustworthy leaders in Benjamin Netanyahu.  Tracing this love is not very difficult.  The moment President Obama rightly asserted that our country does not receive foreign dignitaries who are seeking political office in their home countries, the Fox News machine got to work on deifying Netanyahu.   As a consequence, large numbers of folks, who somehow feel comfortable calling one of the more despicable roadblocks to peace in the Middle East “Bibi”, have unwittingly contributed to more death and violence in that troubled region.

Just try asking the typical Fox News watcher something they know for sure about Netanyahu that has earned their respect.  The only honest answer will be “Obama doesn’t like him.”  This tired path to decision making will thankfully soon be over.  In just a couple of years, the right will have to figure out a genuine list of talking points in dealing with crisis besides checking first with how the President feels so that they can take the exact opposite position.   The Netanyahu debacle is just the latest, and most obvious example of the intellectual corruption that grips the right in our country.

The second story comes from my local State Representative, Lee Chatfield.  Now in his first few months in office, Chatfield has been a far worse problem in the legislature than I imagined heading in.  His absurd attacks on women, children, and LGBT folks were expected.  His ill-informed analysis of issues was a certainty.  But I guess we should be comforted to know that he gets his God’s advice each day before heading to work on making life miserable for Michiganders.

The big problem, though, is his seemingly honest belief that things he learned on the campaign trail by walking doors is useful evidence in legislating.   In the course of a wonderfully crafted story on the Common Core, written by Petoskey News-Review reporter Craig Currier, Chatfield is quoted as saying that all along the campaign trail people were very much against the Common Core.  Fair enough.  Get to Lansing, Lee, and go after that Common Core boogie monster.

Wait. What?  Did Mr. Chatfield ask even one of those potential constituents what, if anything, they actually know about the Common Core?  Or were the opinions about the Common Core coming straight from Channel 32, into the sleeping brain, and out the mouth without one moment of reflection?  Based on what people say about the Common Core in letters to the editor, online comments, and personal conversations, it’s very clear almost no one knows anything about the Common Core.  Even nationally famous dunderhead, Rand Paul, spews ignorance every time he opens his mouth on the subject.  He clearly has never read even one line of the document.  At least State Representative Triston Cole was honest about his ignorance in Currier’s piece.  (But then again, ignorance on issues is what Cole does best.)

None of this is going to change until people begin to develop and use the critical thinking skills needed to call bullshit when they discover their news station and/or their politicians are lying. But seeking the truth requires work and sometimes what you find demands you change your opinion on something.  I wonder if the fact that the Common Core calls for developing such skills is behind the right’s furious attack on those standards?

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