Some of you just read that and nodded. Others might have sensed the subtle sarcasm in my statement. The sad truth is that most who saw the headline didn’t even open this link to read what I just said. At least you did, so thank you.
In fact, reputable studies show roughly 60% share links without ever reading what they’ve shared. My own unscientific studies show the number is closer to 80% who engage an article with a “like” or comment, but never click on it to know what they liked.
My sarcasm comes from a more cynical place though, if that’s even possible: we aren’t just uninformed… too many of us are so stuck in our mindset that we cannot objectively determine corruption or dishonesty amongst ourselves. We think it’s just “them.” Or more disturbingly simple: if we agree with it, it’s true. If we don’t, it’s a lie, #FakeNews or biased.
As a lifelong conservative, I find this both upsetting and embarrassing. Sadly, Republicans, and conservatives lie too. *shock*
The truth tends to be seen as relative, since each of us comes to a conclusion because we believe it to be true. Therefore, someone who believes differently cannot be truthful.
Furthermore, we’ve become so lackadaisical these days that we both engage the news more than before, but while reading it less. Which means we make quicker judgments, rather than better ones, and we spread those unverified judgments at the speed our thumbs can hit “share” and “post.”
BIAS IS NOT LYING
The traditional press has always had a tinge of “bias,” and in conservative circles we’ve complained for decades. But even that doesn’t mean it’s a “lie.” As more outlets have sprung up online, the competition has forced the press to be more careful, and to include more voices. This is good for everyone. For instance, CNN has large panels on almost every show. Even unbalanced networks like MSNBC have a token conservative or two. Unfortunately, most only hear what they want to, so they judge an entire show, or network on that one person who was in a Facebook video that got shared.
The press has an undeniable, and important role in keeping a check on our government and social institutions. Some would say it’s even the most important, because it provides the power of a few to have an influence over many, just like government provides to the elected. But it’s fallible. It doesn’t mean its inherently false, but it’s human.
A harsh reality we end up missing is that conservatives are just as human as liberals, and conservatives lie too. Not all, but some. We have our bad apples, they have their bad oranges. And our conservative world appears to have become a tree of knowledge that no longer discards those bad apples. We preserve them simply by virtue that they’re not the bad guys. It’s gotten worse lately.
To make matters worse, the line between the press and the media is blurring, as reporters find fewer people interested in what they have to say unless the story is sexy enough to solicit traffic. And the media needs more material than ever to support it’s ad revenue, so when it comes to the news, as the saying goes, “you can’t make this stuff up.” They’ll print it as soon as they see something, just because it is something
One problem: you CAN make stuff up these days, and it’s believable. Mistakes are made every day, but some are on purpose. Unfortunately, the last election cycle was filled with so much of this, it came to be known as “fake news.” Somehow, our conservative friends co-opted the term, and turned it around to describe everyone else who prints information we disagree with.
OPPOSING THOUGHTS ARE NOT LIES
To be honest, I find myself disagreeing with half of the stories that come out of the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, FoxNews, etc. But I find myself agreeing with the other half. And just because I disagree with half, it doesn’t mean it’s a lie, it’s just a false perspective. But does that make the facts in the story false? Not usually. The virtue of the press is they generally have standards for backing up a story – multiple sources, confirmed/corroborated facts, two or three layers of accountability. Something a “rushed” story cannot claim. Something most conservative media cannot claim. It’s sad when conservative bloggers Jay Caruso and Susan Wright do a better job of fact-checking their stories than actual “news” sites like Breitbart or that other big one. Maybe they should swap paychecks.
Bias is an incredibly difficult thing to avoid in reporting – something I learned first hand years ago, as editor of a news site. We can all be guilty of it. But most journalists learn early on that when everyone is irritated with a story you’ve written, it usually means you’re doing something right. The truth rarely matches your beliefs, and almost always challenges it, or at least corrals it. And that’s a good thing. To call it a lie, or reject the inherent goodness of someone simply because they’re liberal, or a Democrat is ridiculous. You realize they say the same things about us, right?
This kind of mentality reduces the truth to the majority holder: whoever has more voters, more websites, more… clicks. And it’s wrong.
A GOOD MAN CAN BE WRONG
Some of the best people I know are liberals. (The BEST man I know is a libertarian judge. 😉 ) It doesn’t mean they’re right because they’re good. I still think liberal arguments are “dishonest,” but not because they intend them to be. The reason I get along with some liberals better than conservatives could be a matter of expectations: I don’t expect them to agree with me, and I’m ok with that. And, I might think they’re wrong, but not evil.
In contrast, many of my conservative friends find me argumentative, because I tend to make an opposing argument to something that’s said. I might agree with them on most things, but not everything. Therefore, I’m wrong. Period. Often, we conservatives may be right about something in general, but wrong about this or that detail. And I think its important to fix that so our argument is above reproach.
It may irritate some, but I find it valuable to question everything that comes our way. With this information highway we have running through our cortex these days, we need curbs to keep it honest, or we’ll end up believing only what we want to hear. And often, what we want to hear is easily influenced by those who want to control us.
That’s also something known in politics as “populism.” And it’s very dangerous.