Saturday, September 05, 2009

Assault on Truth

My return to America was as culturally shocking as my arrival in Europe two months earlier! I returned to a country where anger had utterly replaced discourse. It seemed that every day newer and more preposterous accounts of what was in the emergent congressional health care legislation was reported in news media lending credibility where none was deserved. Please read the article in AARP's September Bulletin "The Assault on Truth."

My husband pointed it out to me. He gets the AARP newsletter and has since he turned 50, but me....I like to think I am too young for such material! The article answers in reasoned ways some of the most egregious myths about health care and leaves it to the reader to draw conclusions. It also cogently explains why fringe ideas are finding their way into public acceptance. That is frightening. The knowledge that nonsense if repeated often enough might be perceived as truth lead me, weary from a long day at school with candle-in-hand, to a health care vigil at Centennial Park in downtown Nashville. Your won't find me in the pictures, but I was there.

As a Goldwater Girl wannabe (I was not old enough) I followed the 1964 election diligently. My brother, the much older college man, had plastered Goldwater or socialism bumper stickers all over the back of his 1953 Plymouth. I idolized him and read the books he left around the house. Several of these were the kind of fringe thinking that is getting so much play today. Filled with hateful speech and fear mongering about how Gestapo would be in my house if we failed to elect Goldwater. In 1963 the main stream news media would have used the "Fairness Doctrine" if these ideas had been in the main stream of news. It was the doctrine that required news to be separated from commentary, and opposing viewpoints were presented back-to-back to let people sort through the maze of misinformation themselves. I loved the old Johnny Carson spoofs of the fairness doctrine on the Tonight Show! My favorite was the NRA guy in his plaid shirt who always spoke in favor of guns...anybody remember his name?

The argument against the fairness doctrine runs that today you can get any viewpoint you want on no need to require it of any network. That is 100% accurate, but the problem is people only choose to receive the feeds they already agree with. They do not hear or see opposing viewpoints. The news all comes form the same sources and is picked up and used by all news outlets. It is difficult to find any news organization supporting independent reporters. Independent reporters are critical to our democracy. They invest the kind of time and energy in unearthing what is happening and thereby holding government, politicians, corporations and individuals to a higher standard. I can no longer sit by silently as I watch my country degenerate into a bickering match between intellectually unarmed people. A democracy can only function if there is an educated electorate. I cannot stand yelling and hostility----so I stood quietly until my candle burned down for all the people who need health care, but can't afford it. For all the people who had healthcare, but lost their jobs, for all the people who will need healthcare, but can't imagine needing it. I stood until my candle burned down because we must return to civil discourse and thoughtful inquiry as a way to seek truth!

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