It is nearly impossible to reach objective and successful conclusions if one can’t see beyond one’s own Ideology. I’m defining Ideology as a set of beliefs about the world that shape how you interact with it. Few people share identical Ideologies, at least if they’re taking the time to think everything through. Those with identical Ideologies are usually following a prescribed set of thoughts blindly. It’s possible to be Conservative in many ways while still despising President Trump. It’s possible to be a confirmed Liberal and loathe President Obama. And, it’s possible to have a set of beliefs anywhere in between.
Well, why shouldn’t Ideology shape my opinions about important issues?
I suppose it should, in some ways. At the Core of My Ideology is the belief that people should be helped according to their needs, and that every life counts. To the extent some policy is impeding that goal, I am likely to oppose it. On the other hand, if I reject facts that don’t fit the way I see the world, I am blinding myself to real problems and possible solutions to them. I can wind up working against my own beliefs.
This has happened to me several times. I was once a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). It sounds to me like a good idea. My liberal Ideology embraces ethics. And I love animals. They oppose testing perfume and things on animals. They don’t like fur. Those are all positions with which I can agree. I thought no more about it.
Then a friend of mine showed me compelling evidence that PETA kills pets. My first thought was that this must be the same sort of Conspiracy Theory as the famous Pizzagate Scandal that nearly cost an innocent man his business. Or, it was like the faked videos of Planned Parenthood selling body parts. This was to be ignored.
But when I investigated what she showed me, I recognized the information was factual, well documented, and included statistical analysis. It included the founder saying that the idea of pets was bad in the first place. “We at PETA very much love the animal companions who share our homes, but we believe that it would have been in the animals’ best interests if the institution of “pet keeping”—i.e., breeding animals to be kept and regarded as “pets”—never existed.” For more, you can follow this link. https://www.peta.org/about-peta/why-peta/pets/
Now, my point isn’t to try to convince you PETA is bad. I think they are, but that’s a part of my Ideology, and I recognize that there can be another point of view. That isn’t the point.
The point is that to recognize I had been wrong, I had to pull off my Ideological Blinders. I still see the world as I see it, but I didn’t have enough facts to see all I needed to see in order to decide how I felt. And, even now, I have to accept the idea that I still may be wrong. There may be other facts that I don’t know that will change my mind again. If I’m unable to adjust my views to fit the facts, I have an unsupportable view. More importantly, I can’t develop an informed opinion.
There is a danger in undue credulity. If you’re going to believe everything someone tells you, even in the face of evidence that he’s lied repeatedly, you’re not going to be able to see things in any other way. Your Ideology outweighs evidence. You are unable to change your mind. And then you can’t have an informed opinion, either.
I may still think of you as a good, close, or dear friend, but there is little point in discussing politics with you if you’re going to use Alex Jones as evidence to support your argument. The source is not credible.
And that brings us to the next argument: The Mainstream Media is unreliable… It’s Fake News! Our President has even called The News Media “The Enemy of the People.”
There may be some truth to this. Media is made up of human beings, and human beings lie sometimes. I admit that.
I don’t know, however, any other way of gathering information. And that’s why our government is designed the way it is.
The Founders of the United States were brilliant. They put together a Constitution that included three branches of government in order to keep any one branch from gaining too much strength and taking over.
The Supreme Court keeps the legislative and executive branches in check by ensuring any laws they pass fall within the framework of our Constitution. So long as The Supreme Court is made up of ethical men and women, who are committed to a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution, the Court can protect us.
The Congress can keep the Supreme Court from legislating from the bench by means of proposing amendments to the Constitution that would overturn Supreme Court rulings. (I’m hoping for one to overturn Citizens United, for example.) This was made an intentionally arduous task by The Founders to keep a corrupt Congress from destroying us. It’s been accomplished only 27 times. It’s been attempted nearly 12,000.
The President can keep the Congress from getting too strong by means of the veto. The Constitution grants the President to reject legislation, but the word “Veto” never appears. It’s simply a Latin term meaning “I forbid.”
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law…
Article 1, Section 7 of the US Constitution
There have been more than 2,500 vetoes in the last 230 years. As long as the President is an ethical person, this power can be useful.
The President appoints Supreme Court Justices. In order to keep the President from appointing unethical people the Congress has to approve them.
In short, the Constitution is a brilliant document.
In the First Amendment, the Freedom of the Press is enshrined. This amendment protects their right to gather and report facts. It also protects your right, and that of others, to tell the Press they are lying. I would be unwilling to give up either of those protections.
The Press is the most powerful check on the government. Without them, citizens have no power. You and I know what happens in Washington exclusively through the press. Neither of us will be invited to sit in on meetings. Neither of us is going to have the opportunity to ask the President, or a member of Congress what they are doing. It would be impractical. In order to keep a corrupt government from seizing power, we have a Press to tell us what is happening. Their power is to provide voters with the information we need when we go to the ballot box.
We have, therefore, a Press that does this for us. It is popular nowadays to decide that when the Press says something someone doesn’t like, the Press is lying. Ideology, however, doesn’t determine facts.
I posted an article on my Facebook page from a liberal media outlet called Occupy Democrats. They made a claim that was flat out absurd. They had no credible sources for the story. I posted it as an illustration of the concept of Ideology being separate from facts.
I am a liberal. I am a Democrat. I tend to agree with liberal ideas. On the other hand, just because I like an idea doesn’t mean that it’s true. I called bullshit when I saw it. My ideology doesn’t dictate truth. It can’t, because it’s no guarantee that I’m always right. In fact, I’m wrong rather frequently.
Fortunately, when I am wrong, I can learn why, I can change my mind, and I can be right again. If, on the other hand, I decide that only things that I like are true, then I will see the world only through my Ideological Blinders. I will be barred from learning the facts and making intelligent decisions based on them.
We don’t need to restrict anyone’s right to Free Speech. We don’t need to restrict Freedom of the Press. We need to enhance it. Far from being an “Enemy of the People,” the press is our only real representative.
There are problems with it. The majority of the Media is owned by only a few people. Independence is harder to find. Sometimes they get things wrong.
Nevertheless, real journalists continue to push for the truth, in whatever form it comes. And they do this because they have what I believe to be a sacred duty to all Americans. They have to tell us what is happening, so we may make up our own minds what to believe.
In Russia, there are fewer press outlets, and and most of them are controlled by the government. Given that, I’m amazed to find Putin has, in his own country, only an 86% approval rating. I would expect it to be closer to 98%, particularly when disapproval has wound up killing many people, including several journalists, over there. They are poisoned. They are dropped out of windows. And how do I know that? Because the Freedom of the American Press allows me to know.
Is it possible that all of The Press is lying? Of course it is. It’s also possible that Valerie Bertinelli will be texting me and asking me out for dinner this week. And both are equally likely.
If you choose to believe in a conspiracy, there is nothing that can be done to change your mind. Any evidence to the contrary is simply a part of that conspiracy.
I submit that in order for our form of government to work properly, maximum freedom is necessary in order to combat the ever growing tyranny threatening to overtake us every day. I don’t want to live in a country where the only thing The Press can report is what is approved by the government. I would find it difficult to believe anything they tell me when I know that it has all gone through an approval process.
It was the Press that showed us Nixon was a criminal. There are still those who, to this day, deny the facts. I can’t convince them that President Nixon covered up the Watergate break in, even when there are tapes in which he confesses as much. I can make the arguments against his guilt myself. “The tapes were probably faked. He’s not the only President who did lousy stuff. What about your liberal hero, JFK, who cheated on his wife and screwed up the Bay of Pigs? Why don’t you hate on him and leave Nixon alone? You liberals are all such haters.”
That’s an ideological argument that moves us not one millimeter closer to finding the truth. Such arguments are merely detours on the Path to Truth.
Again, Truth is not just what I say it is. It exists independent of my feelings about it. Donald Trump did or didn’t behave unethically, regardless of what I think. The Truth, whatever it turns out to be, has nothing to do with what I think.
I am probably more of a skeptic than most people. I reject many more arguments than I accept. I always look to see how credible a story is before I believe it. I know that The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC, ABC, and CBS have a history of many decades of doing their best to find and report the truth. Like all humans, they have made mistakes. Dan Rather, for example, is one of my heroes, but he reported a story that turned out to be entirely false. He was simply fooled. That doesn’t, however, mean that everything he did before or since is to be ignored. It means he made a mistake.
I would not wish to be defined only by my most public errors. I’ve made more mistakes than I wish I had. But there is more to me than my mistakes.
I wouldn’t want President Trump defined only by his mistakes, either. “Grab them by the pussy” is a mistake of epic proportions, and I think most people would admit that. However, there is more to Mr. Trump than just the fact that he said something stupid once. He is best judged by assessing the body of his work. His credibility is best assessed by looking at his own statements and seeing how well they match up with reality.
We can disagree about how often they match up, but we have only the Press to help us find out what he said and how well it matches with reality. His own statements about his reason for firing Comey, on National TV with Lester Holt, flatly contradict what his Vice President said, what his spokespeople said, and what others in his administration said.
If we can’t agree on that reality, if we just assume the Press is lying to us, then I have no means of determining what to believe. What other source do I have?
If I am to believe only the President’s Tweets, then I am likely to have a one sided view of reality. I like to see more than one side. Russia wants to show us only one. I want to live in The United States.
Let’s all try to beware of our cognitive bias. Let’s all recognize that just because we want to believe something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Let’s all look for credible sources for our information. If we will all do all these things, we have a fair chance at saving our country from the corruption that seeks to destroy it. “We must disenthrall ourselves,” as President Lincoln told us, “and then we shall save our country.” Let’s try our best to do that.