I Got News for You: “Fake” News Ain’t The Problem!

201016msmI’ll confess, I’m a news-aholic.  I watch and listen to a lot of news.  I like staying informed and current about what’s happening in our world today.  I consume news from all flavors, views and biases, from Fox to CNN, Drudge to the Huffington Post.  I enjoy commentary, whether it was CBS’s Andy Rooney or my new favorite flavor Tucker Carlson. I grew up watching NBC News and DVR every newscast.  Like mac ‘n cheese, the Peacock network is my “comfort” news channel…even if it’s horribly bad for me.

There’s a lot of talk right now about “fake news.  President Trump has repeatedly used it to brand the leftstream media, but he wasn’t the first to trumpet that idea.  During the Obama administration, many liberals proudly promoted Fox News as “faux news.”  In fact, the go-to clincher argument these days is to slap your detractors as “haters” or “ignorant.”  You see it on both sides.  Which, when you think about it, makes us ALL “haters” and ALL “ignorant.”

But even in fake news there’s a hint of truth. One of the greatest tragedies of modern education, particularly higher education, in the past half century has been a seismic shift from information to indoctrination. School assessment became more about filling in the blanks than solving a problem or explaining a solution.  Consequently, professors and teachers taught to the test and left out the rest.  The hard truth?  Most USAmericans who graduated college since 1960 were simply not trained to THINK (not, at least, until our post-graduate studies). Most of us just learned a skill or profession.

No college or university–secular or sacred–has been immune to this shift. Conservative religious schools routinely indoctrinate more than inform their students. I know, as I’ve watched and experienced it firsthand. Most Christian college graduates (including myself) are woefully ignorant and unskilled to communicate anything more than the core “doctrines” their particular theology school promoted (although these seminarians will debate you to the death that they’re “right” and “know it.”). They just quote their favorite preacher or professor if they get in a pinch. Secular universities are equally ripe in indoctrination, favoring Darwinism, communism/socialism, agnosticism/atheism and other liberal socio-political world views. It’s a tragedy when supposedly open-minded young people today view life and their politics through a Stephen Colbert-Bill Maher-Whoopi Goldberg looking glass lens and can’t logically defend why. Most Millennial university students I meet today know very little history except the narrative their profs (liberal or conservative) opined to them.  High school students are worse.

Now don’t misunderstand: it’s not wrong to hold a view (liberal or conservative). We all see life through the shades of our experiences, education, background and community and that creates a WORLD VIEW. I actually think there’s great value in OPPOSING  world views. We need contradiction, opposition and disagreement. If the only radio station in town plays conservative talk radio all day it’s easy to “rush” to judgment on all things liberal. But I’ve seen the same intolerance from the leftstream media too. When CNN (who claims to be middle of Fox and MSNBC) is 97% negative in its coverage of a President, it’s hardly “fair” or “balanced” either. Every news outlet–and most of the major ones today do lean left–have prejudices and biases. The wise will learn to find the truth in all the noise.

The problem, again, is our educational and media institutions no longer INFORM people about our world, but rather desire to INDOCTRINATE a particular narrative. Information is just the facts, but indoctrination paints a specific story (like Russian conspiracies and anti-Christ theories). In recent years the narratives, particularly from the former peace-loving left, has been one of hate. FYI: It’s hard to convince most people in the conservative and moderate camps that you’re in a “peaceful” march (hoisting “Love Trumps Hate” placards) when your companions are spitting, kicking, punching, breaking, cursing and tossing firebombs. When a comedian hoists the severed head of President Trump it’s not funny and neither is a New York play that reinvents a Shakespearean tragedy into a Trump assassination. These are all attempts to indoctrinate or create a narrative.  Conservatives aren’t excused either. There was plenty of mockery and epithets tossed around about former President Barack Obama. If there’s any silver lining for conservatives it’s their political protest strategies, generally, tend to be less overtly hateful, degrading and violent.

But here’s my point: Our NARRATIVES matter, folks. What we assume to be true influences our attitudes and behaviors. What we believe is rooted to how we perceive everything. There’s always been “fake news” by the way (hint: George Washington didn’t cut down any cherry tree). People have always lied, shaded, colored, whitewashed, expanded and branded truth. It’s just today we live in such an information-soaked culture where news happens so fast (as do the op-eds, commentaries and news “spin”) that our heads are in a continuous whirling cycle. If you were never trained to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information (and most of us weren’t) then we always fall back on our “narrative” or world view.  It’s natural. It’s comfortable. It’s secure.

Think about this insight: a NARRATIVE is just an “ism” for life. Conservatism. Liberalism. Creationism. Darwinism. Racism. Nazism. Marxism/Communism. Socialism. Capitalism. Anarchism. Feminism. Mysoginism. Masochism. Catholicism. Evangelicalism. Calvinism. Arminianism. Dispensationalism. Mormonism. Islamic Fundamentalism. Buddhism., Etc. Etc. An I-S-M is an acronym for “internal security mechanism.” It’s our inner beliefs (i.e., accepted doctrine) that operate, dictate and propagate our ideas, doctrines, world views, biases, prejudices, attitudes, speech and behavior. When we are attacked, we fall back to our I-S-M. When we attack, we rely upon our I-S-M. It’s how we feel “secure” in who we are. Consequently, we will censor, prohibit, downplay, ignore and disregard information that attacks our “ism.”

Most I-S-Ms are largely innocuous and innocent.  They promote a world view that’s different but generally positive.  Buddhists, Mormons and gays believe radically different from orthodox Christians but there’s room to accept and live peacefully together.  In most communities, ethnicity no longer matters.  Whites live next to blacks who live next to Asians, Hispanics and Indians.

Nevertheless, every “ism” harbors extremists that damage the whole. A fundamentalist Christian crusader who bombs an abortion clinic is as wrong as a anarchist throwing bricks through a window.  “Racism” is universally wrong because it assumes superiority over another race, to the point of discrimination, exclusion and hate.  Radical “Islamism” preaches a hateful destruction of all persons who do not bend the knee to Allah.  Some feminists clearly despise men. Communism in eastern Europe, China, North Korea and the former Soviet Union has left a historic trail of bloodshed.

To be honest, it’s very difficult–even impossible–for people to make major shifts in their world view, as it requires a deconstruction of the I-S-M.  For an atheist to convert to theism demands dismantling the I-S-M that God doesn’t exist. For a Republican to switch parties requires dismantling the I-S-M that Democratic policies are evil or bad for America. Even for a Catholic or Mormon to convert to evangelical Christianity requires dismantling the I-S-M that Catholicism or Mormonism isn’t the “one True Church.”  That’s not an easy, nor necessarily a desired, process.  I’ll leave it to you, and your world view, whether it’s even a productive one.

The problem in America today isn’t fake news. Our problem is the inability for MOST of us to allow another view, idea, proposition, doctrine or fact to challenge our I-S-M or narrative for life. This inability initially created AWARENESS, then CONCERN, then FEAR and now, unfortunately, HATE, as shown in this past week’s shooting rampage upon Republican congressman.  In today’s political culture, for a Democrat to consider the possibility that Donald Trump might actually have a few good ideas is anathema…and that’s a problem. It’s even worse if the final political answer is to correct the perceived injustice with violence. Nobody has the right to take another human’s life or steal/break property.

The problem with world views–especially those that promote peace, love and unity–is someone won’t like it.  Even the most open-minded can be horribly intolerant.

Mahatma Ghandi taught non-violent civil disobedience…and was horrifically gunned down.  Martin Luther King, Jr. preached a dream of peace to inspire civil rights for black America…and was senselessly assassinated. John Lennon once imagined a world without religion, boundaries, possessions or war…and was tragically murdered.

Imagine how incredibly beautiful this world could be if we humbly and respectfully LISTENED first, argued second. If we walked a mile in someone’s shoes before we criticized and condemned their soul. If we simply confessed when the problem was too big, the answers too murky, or the situation too dark that we simply “don’t know.”  If we leaned on Love more than harassed with hate.

I really do believe Love trumps hate.  It’s a good idea.

I also believe knowledge liberates and binds.

The problem is the more I know the less I know.

And in today’s world there’s a lot I don’t know…even though I think I know a lot.

How about you?

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