Last January, one week after the presidential oath of office, Eliot Cohen, Director of the Strategic Studies Program at Johns Hopkins, published an article in TheAtlantic.com from which this quote is taken:
Some Americans can fight abuses of power and disastrous policies directly—in courts, in congressional offices, in the press. But all can dedicate themselves to restoring the qualities upon which this republic, like all republics depends: on reverence for the truth; on a sober patriotism grounded in duty, moderation, respect for law, commitment to tradition, knowledge of our history, and open-mindedness.
Cohen is a political scientist. He’s also a neoconservative who served under Condoleezza Rice in the George W. Bush administration. I add this only to make clear he is no liberal, Democrat, or Clinton supporter.
What caught my eye was that his long list of “qualities upon which this republic … depends,” began with “Reverence for the truth.” [Hence, my putting it in bold] It is this reverence for truth that I set out to write about this week.
What is truth? How do we recognize it when it’s in front of us? How does it differ from fact?
Beginning on the eve of last year’s presidential election, my blog went a bit off goal with a three-part Examining My Political Story, ending just before last Christmas with The Culture of Philanthropy. I wanted to address the questions that had been swirling around in my head. Now, a year later, I have more questions.
How do we educate ourselves on the issues of the day? To whom do we listen? What do we read? How do we decide? How do we know what we know?
Often, there is no single “right” answer. Then the value is in the process of discussion or debate. And, as always, I’m in favor of “chewing” on an idea before you swallow it whole.
We seem to be living now in an era of anti-intellectualism, a time when “experts” are no longer admired and when “the truth” is no longer valued. This does not bode well for our republic, nor for our democracy. How do we combat this? How do we stay informed in this age of rampant fake news?
Long before we associated fake news with politics, Tracy Lee Karner, motivated by a misleading headline about a cure for fibromyalgia, wrote “How to Identify Yellow Journalism” on her blog.
- Scary, Provocative, or Sensational Headlines
- Quotes from unnamed sources or pseudo “experts”
- Unabashed Self-Promotion
- Pseudoscience–claims, beliefs or practices incorrectly represented as scientific
- Articles written by writers who get paid for the number of “clicks” they generate.
I began this post with Eliot Cohen, so I’ll end with him too, from the same article.
There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.
I hope this post adds to that endeavor.
How about you? Where do you get your news? How do you stay informed? How important to you is following the news? Will you check out any of these sites?
Next week: Reexamining those old wives’ tales we were taught as kids.
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