i went to the post office the other day to mail some christmas packages. in the parking lot there was a truck with a large trump sign in the back window. on the back bumper was a sticker that said, "i don't believe the liberal media." i wondered exactly what the owner of the pickup meant. i was certain he didn't spend a lot of time reading "rightwingwatch.org" or "huffingtonpost.com" did he mean that the "liberal media" is any media other than fox news or the right wing radio talk shows that abound in our area?
this led me to think about the proliferation of "fake news" which was in evidence during the recent election campaign and that so many of our citizens were ready to believe, things like "pizzagate" that claimed hillary clinton and members of her campaign staff were operating a child sexual abuse ring out of a pizza parlor in washington or the story long perpetuated by donald trump and others that claimed president obama was not born in the usa or the claim that secretary clinton's aide, huma abedin, was sympathetic to the muslim brotherhood and that our government had been infiltrated by that organization. one of the most disturbing characteristics of the trump campaign and of our president-elect is the promotion of these far-fetched conspiracy theories. mr trump's embrace of such disproved and fantastic lies gives them a legitimacy that reinforces his followers' insistence on their veracity.
the increasing reliance on social media as a source of information and the denigration of the traditional press is a disturbing trend that came to the fore in this election. both major-party nominees were dismissive of the press, and mr. trump, in particular, frequently attacked the media, egging on those who attended his rallies as they targeted the reporters who were confined to the "press pen." the refusal to distinguish between legitimate reporting of the sort that seeks truth without bias and pretend reporting that dismisses facts that fail to support a preconceived conclusion or that passes on unsubstantiated information as fact is a grave danger in a democracy. the problem is not so much that fact-averse journalism exists, but rather that there are increasing numbers of people who are ready to accept as fact that which is demonstrably false.
i wonder if there is not a relationship between ready acceptance of patently fallacious reporting and unquestioning faith in religion. the religious right's insistence that those who question or refuse to accept supernatural religious belief are undermining the foundations of our country seems to go hand in hand with insistence that fact-free "news" is preferable to conscientious journalism. those who are ready to accept unprovable religious beliefs may be more likely to accept unproven stories that support their own biases. as carl bernstein, the legendary reporter who, with bob woodward, exposed the watergate conspiracy during the nixon admistration, said recently, "what we have seen throughout the [trump] campaign is pathological disdain for the truth, a kind of lie, and ease with lying, that we have not seen before." a democracy that allows this sort of conduct to take place unchallenged cannot continue to exist. the easy acceptance of propaganda that has been proven to be untrue undermines the rational thinking on which our country was founded.
may we counter falsehood with truth. may we seek truth wherever it may lead. may we not succumb to arguments that target our emotions and our own biases rather than our brains. may we defend the press's freedom to say whatever it wants but, at the same time, may we insist on proof of what is being said. shalom.