Who Are You Going to Believe, the Liars or Your Own Eyes?
We’re seeing a flood of disturbing news items all emanating from the same mindset that results in refusal to accept historically verifiable events as true.
People are deciding to follow the bias of a partisan prophet or even a president who make things up. Because a leader or prognosticator says something again and again, louder and louder, their altered versions of history replace whatever had proved inconveniently true earlier.
Last week, alternate history embodied by Alex Jones was on trial in Austin, Texas, Travis County. Three parents whose children were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist of “Info Wars,” who has long claimed loudly that the shooting was “completely fake.”
Jones has wanted to see the school massacre of 26 adults and children in Newtown, Conn., as a “giant hoax” perpetrated by anti-gun forces who doctored news reports and video for political purposes. For years, some Sandy Hook parents have complained that conspiracy theorists like Jones have insisted that those in Newtown were actors in some kind of plot to prod government to enact stronger gun laws. Jones admits his voice can amplify legitimate questioning of “facts” reported by what he sees as increasingly unreliable news media, and adds the First Amendment gives him the right to do so.
Whatever is decided in the Sandy Hook case, there is some actual empirical truth here that does not seem to sway arguments.
Two-thirds of American millennials surveyed in a recent poll cannot define Auschwitz. A study released on Holocaust Remembrance Day found knowledge is not robust among American adults of the genocide that killed 6 million Jews from the day Adolph Hitler ascended to leadership of Germany in 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945. Some 22% of millennials in the poll said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are unsure they have heard of it—twice the percentage of U.S. adults as a whole who said the same.
Even if you are a rabid anti-Semite, you know 6 million Jews indeed were killed in the Holocaust, as well as Roma (gypsy) people, homosexuals and others.
Without understanding that there was a Holocaust or a Sandy Hook, there is a very, very good chance that slaughters can happen again, whether specifically targeting Jews, unguarded elementary schools or a newly scapegoated minority. Look for evidence to Rwanda, the Balkans, Syria and Parkland, Fla.
This all is the backdrop as I listen to Trump promising tax cuts that will help the low and the high.
In multiple stops with voters, military or business audiences, Trump continues to describe widespread leaps in employment and unprecedented repatriation of dollars invested in foreign shores for raises, bonuses and tax cuts to individuals.
In fact, corporate stock buybacks are booming. In a few months, the real winners from the corporate tax cut became clear—not workers and consumers, but shareholders. Companies have boosted dividends and stock buybacks, Vox reported. Corporate orders for new equipment and debt reduction are the order of the day, according to money.cnn.com.
Indeed, only 13% of companies’ tax cut savings will go to pay raises, bonuses and employee benefits, according to a survey of Morgan Stanley analysts. Some 43% will go to investors in the form of stock buybacks and dividends, the analysts predict.
We see contradiction and incongruity throughout the Trump administration. The EPA takes pride in improving the environment by eliminating environmental regulations. The Consumer Protection Fraud Bureau reports that it is protecting consumers overall by refusing to enforce consumer laws. The president talks of making the country crime free by raiding immigrants’ workplaces. Trump argues we need a border wall more than ever as immigration entry tries have withered.
What is it about us that we prefer to believe the partisan statement rather than look at what ever actually happened?
Congressional Republicans have decided to move aggressively to attack the Justice Department for seeking FISA warrants on Trump associates, to demand relevant documents while they still are part of the active probe of obstruction of justice and, in general, to attack those who are investigating Trump—all with an apparent intent to undercut the work of the Justice Department. Where is the “conservative” respect for process here or acknowledgment that there is an official investigation going on? The actions make the issues about whom to believe, not about what is happening.
Certainly, we understand the use of political “spin” to present a good, strong, accomplished face to voters. But this president needs public adulation, and he is discontent just to allow a good story about him to emerge on its own. And as individuals, we seem to want our “side” to “win” as often as possible, truth be damned.
This is not a new question. The commonly used expression, “Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat” is actually a misquotation of the original text written by George Santayana (1863-1952). In his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Imagine what Santayana would say about people who go out of their way to deny events.
Current world leaders—even some of the most highly educated of our time—are making fatal errors in managing international crises. The solutions that would work require knowledge and respect for history.
I worry about Trump taking on North Korea without respect for regional history and culture. I worry about Trump declaring Jerusalem the Israeli capital without consultation with Arabs and Jews. Trump’s voters seem to love the fact that he reacts with his gut rather than his head.
We need to pay attention to what is actually happening if we expect to solve any problems.