We are beckoned to see the world through a one-way mirror, as if we are threatened and innocent and the rest of humanity is threatening, or wretched, or expendable. Our memory is struggling to rescue the truth that human rights were not handed down as privileges from a parliament, or a boardroom, or an institution, but that peace is only possible with justice and with information that gives us the power to act justly.
~ John Pilger
Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?
~ Bertrand Russell
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary about Bill Nye (the Science Guy). One of the central themes of the piece was his debate with Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist, regarding evolution vs. creationism. Something that stood out to me was the argument from other scientists about the debate. Some felt that by debating Ken Ham via a public platform, Bill Nye was legitimizing both Ken Ham and his ideas about creationism. Because the debate was so widely publicized, it gave Mr. Ham exposure and attention, essentially putting his argument regarding creationism on the table as something worthy of, or authentic enough for debate when, as a scientist, Nye should probably have stayed far away from a debate of this nature. The argument goes something like this: Nye’s agreement to participate in such a debate gave Ham a big win without any need for the debate to happen because it provided credence to Ham’s point of view. (There are a whole host of other controversies surrounding the debate, but those are not the point of this post. Bear with me.)
As we go down the rabbit hole of alternative facts, “just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not happening,” and propaganda from what appears to be state-run news (or news that runs the state), I have been thinking a lot about words and public platforms, and what is happening with public discourse. I know I am not alone in contemplating these issues.
For a while I wondered about the Fairness Doctrine. Should we bring that back? For a while, I thought so. Now? I’m not so sure.
I love reading and writing (and science, by the way), and I believe that words are important. How we share our words is important. Words can tear down. Words can uplift. Words can injure. Words can heal. Words can demoralize. Words can inspire. Words can sometimes help us see or discover truths, and words can misinform, encouraging (persuading) us to believe lies if used often enough.
As I occasionally survey the pack of sycophantic shih tzus in the Washington press corps, wriggling on their bellies to kiss the feet of those in power, I feel plumb discouraged about the future of journalism.
~ Molly Ivins
Molly Ivins might have been a little hard on the Washington press corps. I know we need them, I know they work hard and some put their lives at risk, and I know the press provides a valuable service. But I also believe the press needs to start thinking about the stories they tell and how they tell them. Rumor has it that a lot of people don’t read beyond a headline. If that’s the case, the all-important headline needs to be accurate. Yes, I know the purpose of a headline is to grab attention. I think that can be done in a more accurate way. Call a lie a lie and do it in the headline, not two paragraphs down in the story. So many headlines lately are nothing more than an excerpt from a tweet, giving authenticity to a falsehood.
Then there is the issue of both sides. I stumbled across this the other day: Bubbles 10 — Both Sides. It is a long and great read with much food for thought. If you have time, or can put aside some time later, please give it a read. Reading it will also help explain why I started this post with Bill Nye and his debate with Ken Ham. I can’t begin to approach the subject as well because I don’t have the writing skills and because (I’ve learned this the hard way), my emotions get tangled up in pretty much every exchange of ideas I try to have when it comes to what is currently happening in the U.S. and in the world at large. Too much heart, maybe? I don’t know.
I am getting better at detaching my emotions from my arguments. A friend on Facebook recently accused me of being apoplectic about an issue and I told him that I decided to give up apoplexy in favor of yoga and meditation. Those two practices have calmed me down considerably. I even managed to convince a family member, who spends too much time watching a certain cult-like “news” channel, that maybe, just maybe, his ideas about some things he heard on that channel are not his ideas and not necessarily true in terms of the way humans work. (It was a debate about objectivity in law enforcement and since this particular family member is a retired police officer, it turns out the best way to approach him with a different point of view is to ask him questions about his own experiences. Surprisingly, it worked. It turns out his point of view, not the one he was being brainwashed to believe, isn’t all that different from mine after all.)
Digressions aside, in the piece I asked you to read regarding Both Sides, Mr. Moxon writes about how protesting the lies and the atrocities are matters of justice and matters of love. I found his argument to be a good one. I agree that we need new stories and we need people to tell them, loudly, clearly, and courageously. There are people out there doing just that, and I’ve been taking the time to listen to some of them.
While I have you traveling through cyberspace to read what others have to say, there is also this from Julie Gibbons. It brought tears to my eyes because she expressed some of what I’m feeling. I understand what she means when she writes that she can’t be silent anymore.
In other news of a political nature… Have you heard about the protest going on at Lafayette Park in front of what they’re calling the Kremlin Annex (you would know it better as the White House)? It’s a combination of art and protest at its best. It began with on Day 1 with air horns and bullhorns and a big, bright TREASON sign. They have had Mariachi and other types of bands, a Russian interpreter (to translate what was being said via bullhorn), dancing sharks (in honor of shark week), a small drum line, a dancing dinosaur (a T-rex, the kind with the tiny hands), and much more. You can watch the live stream on Twitter via @AdamParkhomenko. Today will be Day 11. I hear some big names might be showing up this weekend, and there are folks caravanning across the country to be a part of the protest. As with the #SecondCivilWarLetters, there is some humor in the seriousness of it. The creativity of some of the protests over the past year or so have me thinking about some small ways I could participate.
The things of the world become human for us only when we can discuss them with our fellows. We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human.
~ Hannah Arendt
It is time for me to step off my soapbox. Thank you so much for visiting and for reading. I’m not sure what will get here first, the rain and clouds or the sunset. If it’s the sunset, I’ll meet you at the Point for a walk on the beach and to have a look at the show. Sunset is scheduled for 8:18 PM. It’s terribly hot today. A wade or swim in the water might be just the thing to keep us cool.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 791) The flowers of summer. 792) A couple of days of sunshine before the next round of rain arrives. 793) The incredible creativity on display lately. 794) Inspiration. It’s everywhere, if you take the time to look for it. 795) Listening, learning, hearing the voices of others.