My friend Hugh Curtler and others correctly talk about democracy requiring an informed electorate. Our founders saw a key role in the media to keep us more informed and search for the truth. One of challenges today is most of our electorate chooses not to be informed and would rather be entertained. I have written before about the United States of Entertainment.
Of those who do try to be informed, we need to spend time looking for valid sources. And, we need to ask questions when we learn of information from less legitimate sources, such as a Facebook post, Tweet or email. Where did you hear that? That cannot be true, so what is your source?
Even, so-called news outlets often are conflicted or biased, so information has to be taken with a grain of salt, or some cases looked at with a high degree of skepticism. As my boss used to say, “My Daddy told me to believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”
One area that frustrates me is false equivalence. This is when biased news sources try to portray both sides of an issue as 50/50 when the issue is not even weighted in consensus or truth. An easy example is Fox News with its treatment of the issue of climate change has perpetuated a hoax issue for a long time, because of the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industry. It should be noted that Exxon-Mobil is under investigation by three attorney generals for misrepresenting the impact of climate change on its business to its shareholders, which is a crime if true.
The other way false equivalence is used is to say because one politician has made some mistakes, that it negates the mistakes of an opponent who has spent a lifetime of self-interest, not caring much about others. This sentence probably defines our Presidential election as clearly as it can be defined. We have one candidate who has spent a lifetime of service helping people, getting high marks for the jobs she did, but who has made mistakes and is too zealous in protecting her image.
We have another candidate whose lifetime has been one of exploiting others for money and not treating people well along the way, whether it stiffing them, suing them, lying to them, fooling them or just leaving them holding the bag. Getting his share takes precedence over anything and whether others get theirs is less relevant. And, it still does.
The key is to look at people’s real history. What did they do, how did they do it and how did they treat people along the way? That is the best way to judge how they will act in the future.