Signal Amplification: Don’t settle for one “side” of the news

Right, left, or otherwise, by now we should all be aware that all media frames the discussion

The framing is most apparent in what doesn’t get said. Correctly or otherwise, the left omits what the right thinks is important. Correctly or otherwise, the right omits what the left thinks is important. Correctly or otherwise, the center (read: the vast majority of the mainstream media) omits what everybody else thinks is important.

Truth should matter to us every day of the year. If you were on the stand facing harsh accusations, you would want everything told, not just what the accusers have to say. In a just society, the accusers would equally accept this perspective as just. There is no making a rational decision as to the best argument in the absence of the full argument. So if truth should matter every day, should it not matter perhaps even moreso at this time of year for those who maintain that Jesus is the Reason for the Season? I ask in this context, because, as with the rest of the year, there are political forces at work that would have us believe that conservative politics and Jesus go together like milk and cookies. Without truth, either the milk is sour or the cookies are stale. We can no more stomach lies of omission than we can stomach lies of commission.

On the issue of racial discord and the protests surrounding the deaths of black men who, whatever their sins, did not deserve a death penalty without trial for offenses that were not capital crimes, we must remember something even more important. On the issue of the two slain NYPD police officers who, whatever their sins, did not deserve execution at the hands of a criminal, we must remember something even more important.

This is not a time for grandstanding on pet issues. This is a time to remember that during this holiday season, Christmas for Christians, Hanukkah for Jews, Diwali for Hindus, Solstice for pagans, the families of the slain, whatever their sins, go into the holidays without dear loved ones. Communities are torn apart. This is a time for somber reflection and wishes of good will to all.

We cannot serve that mission of good will in the absence of truth. We won’t find truth in the face of omission. The case in point of the moment is one highlighted by Media Matters: Right-Wing Media Hide Obama And De Blasio Statements To Blame Them For Violence Against Police.

Whatever the policy flaws of one side versus another in pursuit of what each side believes to be the better course for the nation, honest discourse is required. If you’re getting your news solely from one “side,” and that side conveniently omits uncomfortable truths that water down its particular flavor of propaganda, you’re indulging lies. For the sake of whatever you consider sacred, I ask, please stop. When you encounter a claim that incites your passions, especially passions that lead you to feel something less than compassion and love for your neighbor, your fellow human, stop and check other sides. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it merely feels uncomfortable. Sometimes you’ll be faced with sentiments that you find galling. Fine. Be galled. Then use your Creator-endowed reason to discern truth as well as you may.

Lastly, if I have one wish for the year ahead, all years going forward really, it’s that we would all be far more careful in the kinds of statements we share with our audiences in order to influence them. We all have a moral imperative to avoid lying. This most especially goes for those whose holy books especially forbid it. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Sound familiar? So consider, before passing along zingers that abound in what appear to be ridiculous, or at the least unlikely, claims for the sake of scoring points, ask yourself, “if I were on the stand defending myself from unjust accusations, would I want the evidence against me to be this flimsy and still be taken seriously?” I’m not just talking about our conservative fellow Americans who insist on peddling the lie of a Muslim Obama, or the lie of a Kenyan (not American) Obama. I’m talking about our fellow liberal Americans who pass no opportunity to peddle their anti-gun wares on frivolous and deceptive arguments, and who are every bit as motivated as their conservative fellow citizens by honest passionate outrage and compassion for the subset of society they choose, rather than all of it.

If you have evidence of Obama’s Muslim faith, show it, and unabashedly claim that as quality of evidence goes, were you facing the death penalty, you would accept that same quality in the evidence against you. If you have evidence of Obama’s Kenyan birth, show it on those same terms. If you have truth and evidence that sustains an argument against guns, to wit, without recourse to calling things you don’t like “assault weapons” when they aren’t, show it on those same terms. The benefit and the hazard of our great republic is that the best argument is supposed to win out, even if it takes longer than we would prefer. Our form of governance is designed, in part, to avoid convenient shortcuts to truth. There aren’t any. I use the cases highlighted here as merely the most egregious examples that occur to me in the moment. The actual cases are countless, propagated as they are by a 24/7 media behemoth and hordes of True Believers on both sides with Internet access, too much time on their hands, and less than rigid insistence on truth for truth’s sake.


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