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Monday, September 01, 2014

HAVE AMERICANS LOST THE ART OF INDEPENDENT THINKING OR ARE WE MISINFORMED?

                                                     Image:  Mission to Learn dot com


Americans have grown acclimated to viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased news financed by money driven politicians and lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts to influence our opinions.

As a result, we have very little trust because the product of this buzz portends negative, stagnated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted wars through a focus on big corporations and big business.


 "WASHINGTON POST"

"Voter turnout in statewide primaries so far this year has been historically low, even among states with procedures designing to make voting more convenient.

Overall, voter turnout among the 25 states that have held primaries is down 18 percent from the 2010 election, according a study by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. There were almost 123 million age-eligible voters in these primary states, but only about 18 million of them voted."

 Voter Turnout thus far in 2014

Has independent thinking by researching a personal perspective become a lost art in our day in age?

Are we just too busy to develop a credible opinion of our own due to the fast pace our social values demand?

 Or are we misinformed?

THE VALUE OF TRUST

Trust is hard to establish in the modern era. We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive. 

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.

To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it.

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.

THE CHALLENGE

Mass marketing and communications has created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth and the role of nations.  We must come down to earth and become much more sophisticated in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust. If we do not we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves. 

THE ENVIRONMENT

Charles Lewis’ New Book Looks at the “Lies Your President Told You and Other Mistruths” 

 INTERVIEW WITH "THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT"

 
Author Charles Lewis

"The most disturbing discovery in my nine years of research and writing is this: leaders don't need to distort information and the truth. All they have to do now, in our fast-paced, short attention-span world, is just delay the truth, by years, months, and weeks. We still don't have key documents from the Iran-Contra scandal, the second biggest political scandal in the U.S. involving a White House since Watergate. That was a quarter century ago! Is that coincidental?  No." 

 Here’s the question you have to ask yourself before reading Charles Lewis’ new book, 

"935 Lies The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity" 

Are we as a country so jaded that we’ve come to accept untruths and    
misinformation from our government as just the cost of living in a democracy?

Lewis, who teaches journalism at American University and who founded  the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), does his best to remind us that we can and should expect more from our leaders. 935 Lies expands upon a CPI project that tracked the number of false statements that the President George W. Bush administration told in the two-year build up to the war in Iraq. The lies were aimed at persuading Americans that Iraq posed a threat to our national security.

Deceit, however, is bipartisan, as Lewis shows.

POGO: What is the big-picture effect of the public being repeatedly lied to by our leaders?

Lewis: Over time—many years which have become decades—persistent prevarications by those in power leads to cynicism, distrust and citizen disengagement. Which, you may have noticed, we substantially have had now for decades. Distrust and disapproval of Congress, for example, is at unprecedented, historic levels. Voter participation in elections has been woeful for years. Etc.

POGO: You describe the problem of misinformation as endemic to our society-- why did you choose to focus on lies told during the Bush administration? Of course they’ve continued since then.

Lewis: The "935 lies" mentioned in the Prologue of my book, regarding the false and erroneous statements by President  George W. Bush and either other top administration officials between 9/11/01 and 9/11/03, were compiled in a 380,000-word database and  published by the Center for Public Integrity in Iraq: The War Card in January 2008, near the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

That prompted me to examine the extent to which this had occurred before, over time, since approximately 1950 to today. And of course, the Johnson administration misrepresentations about the Gulf of Tonkin and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam more broadly, pre-dated the Bush/Iraq war by 40 years.

It also demonstrates the extent of what J. William Fulbright called "the arrogance of power" and the fact that lying by those in power is bipartisan. My book also examines untruths in the Obama administration and others, and "mortally consequential" lies by corporations dating back to the 1940s.

POGO: What should a leader’s punishment be for intentionally lying to the public? Should he lose his job—or worse?

Lewis: A leader's accountability should be directly related to the seriousness of what he/she has lied about. In real life, whether a leader should lose his job depends on the circumstances of the moment, and obviously, the political will of the people.

Unfortunately, we generally don't punish our politicians for lying, as we seem to have  a bifurcated, bipartisan perception of "truth" in the United States, to the extent that in one poll, four years after George W. Bush's second term had ended, more than 60 percent of Republicans still believed there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

We, as a society, have become increasingly confused, unable to discern the difference between truth and falsehood. And as Hannah Arendt  and others have noted, that is a dangerous state of affairs, when we no longer can ascertain what is factual and what is not, who to believe  and who NOT to believe.

We live in a society that doesn't have "real-time truth" about those in power. How can a democracy predicated upon an informed citizenry and  self-government exist successfully if the people don't know the facts about those in power?

As some point, I hope the public decides to get angry and demand more truth, but getting there from here is an enormous specter to imagine.  First of all, there is no longer a "general public" but instead numerous  carefully studied, dissected electorally and commercially micro-publics  throughout the United States.

Marketing, advertising and high-tech wizardry by those in politics have rendered the concept of "the public"  less meaningful and media political advertising has become a huge source    of revenue for that industry and fanned the fires of fractious, vituperative partisanship during and between election cycles.

We are the only advanced democracy in the world without free air time for politicians during election time.

The only way the McCain-Feingold  campaign finance law could be passed by Congress years ago was when McCain and Feingold agreed to take out the "free air time for    politicians" section of their bill—then the National Association of Broadcasters and others backed off their opposition to the legislation and it passed, among other concessions made. The broadcasters now make a billion dollars per election cycle from political ads...

It is a grim situation which has been deteriorating in many ways for decades. And it will take years, decades, to ameliorate."

 

 

 

 

 





 

 







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