The Importance of Truth and Facts

I”We the people” are actually in charge of this country. I just thought it was time someone pointed it out because many of us seem to have forgotten. We allowed an asshole and all of his asshole friends to be elected president through our benign neglect of the democratic process. Once again, we put Republicans in charge, not because they were more popular, but because too many people were encouraged to not vote because they were told that the extremely well-qualified Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the entire Democratic Party, for that matter, was basically the same as the Republicans. It was implied by far too many that it really didn’t matter who they voted for, so many didn’t vote for anyone.

Now, we are living with this shit as if it was a big “oops” that someone can fix. We completely fucked up as a democracy and we’re looking for someone to take us off the hook. We demand impeachment and we want it immediately, as if getting rid of Trump would solve our problem. Not only would that not solve the problem, but it doesn’t even address the actual problem we have.

You see, there is one overarching problem that has to be addressed before we can deal with anything else. There is no quick fix; it will take significant effort on everyone’s part and it will take some time. We have to return to a standard “we, the people” once had, and that is a standard in which facts matter and the truth is valued much more highly than a good story told for its expediency.

Truth has taken a beating in recent years and facts seem to have become fluid, and that is no good for anyone. It’s the one thing our democratic system really can’t survive. While there is a lot of talk about the loss of an independent news media, the fact is, if “we, the people” don’t actually value the truth and facts, it may not matter if we lose “the media” or not. There will always be people willing to tell us “stories,” but if we can’t tell or (worse) don’t care if the stories we are told are true, what good will those stories be, really?

And yes, I know. Most of the biggest and worse lies come from the far right. The candidate they championed last year has absolutely no regard for the truth and is likely a pathological liar, incapable of telling fact from fiction and incapable of telling the truth about anything important. And look at their “news” outlets, like Fox News, Breitbart, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, and many more. They lie constantly and they place a greater premium on the efficacy of the story to help them “win” than on the facts that lie within. As progressives and liberals, we should have done a better job of exposing their lies, not by pointing at them and calling them liars, but by providing an alternative. And since the alternative to bullshit is the truth, the best way to counteract the right wing crap machine is through the truth.

Think about it. It has become far too acceptable to lie in this country. Consider that FBI Director James Comey probably had a hand in making sure Hillary Clinton lost the election by revealing that he was considering re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Only that turned out to be a complete lie. He claimed that Huma Abedin, a close associate of Clinton, had forwarded “hundreds or thousands” of emails that she had sent to her husband, Anthony Weiner, for printing. The implication he made was that the emails were so numerous and so troubling that they had to re-investigate, in case she was passing classified material.

Well, it turns out the total number of emails was about 3,000, that none were marked “classified,” that only a dozen or so had any “classified” information in them, and that the “classified” information was determined to be so after the fact. Not only that, but investigators had already seen all of the emails previously, when the FBI cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing and said that she had not broken the law. And when Comey held that unprecedented press conference in which he told everyone Clinton and her people had been “careless,” he essentially retracted that in Congressional hearings a day later. For a year or more, this guy has been openly lying to everyone and he continues to run the largest domestic law enforcement agency in the country.

This is the problem.

Is Comey the first FBI director to lie to or deceive the American people? Of course not. J. Edgar Hoover was a ruthless son of a bitch who deceived us on a regular basis. However, his lies and deception were mostly kept under wraps. A lot of the worst shit Hoover pulled, we didn’t find out about until after he was dead and buried. And that is because the public would not have put up with most of it if they found out. In other words, whereas we all assumed that politicians were liars, their “lies” were mostly in the form of campaign promises they knew they couldn’t fulfill, which is unfortunate, but not the worst thing in the world. When a politician or a member of the government used to lie to us outright, they paid a price because “we, the people” insisted on it.

What happened to us? Whereas we used to get incensed and vote out people who lie to us constantly, now we seem to give them a break. We not only tolerate outright lies and untruths, but we seem to revel in the bullshit, as long as it serves our political purposes. In the last election, the Republican Party nominated the worst possible candidate; someone who should have spelled the end of the GOP as we know it. But instead of correcting his constant lies and obfuscations, too many of us tried to tar Hillary Clinton with the same accusations. Hillary Clinton, who has spent her entire life in the public eye as a public servant, was largely portrayed as the same as a billionaire narcissist and serial liar, incapable of taking blame for his faults or telling the truth.

Hillary Clinton was tagged as “dishonest,” for example, by much of the professional left media and it was based on nothing. There is a lot you can say about the Clintons, but neither Bill nor Hillary has ever lied to anyone to the extent that Trump does on an average day. Hillary was elected to the Senate twice and won over people from all over the state of New York. She and her husband have been thoroughly investigated repeatedly over the course of the last three decades, and they have cooperated with every single one of them. And in every single investigation, save one, they have been completely exonerated by their political enemies. Seriously, folks, if you think the Republicans and right wingers had found anything “dishonest” at all, except for lying about a blow job (which any husband would do), do you honestly think she wouldn’t be carrying around a felony conviction by now?

In other words, everyone who claimed that Hillary Clinton was or is “dishonest” is lying to us. And it doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you come from. If you said it, you were lying. And since a lie is a lie, that makes you no different from Donald Trump, in a very real way. You are also no different when you call her a “corporatist.” Yes, Hillary Clinton has to ask for help from large corporations, like every politician in the post-Citizens United political system. But there is no evidence that she has ever given large corporations any kind of special consideration when governing. And that is how you determine that someone favors corporations. The combined wealth of Trump’s Cabinet is estimated to be $14 BILLION, even though none have any government experience. (Source) Since there is no possibility that Clinton’s would have even approached one billion dollars, what did your assertion about Clinton’s alleged “corporatist” leanings actually accomplish, except to place an actual “corporatist” in office? You lied about her and actually exacerbated the problem you claimed to want to mitigate. In other words, as is always the case, lies serve no one, not even the liar. And the fact that a large portion of the left is just as prone to tolerate lies they believe will serve a political aim should piss a lot more people off than it does. If you are deriding Donald Trump as a lying sack of shit in one breath, but you are lying about Hillary Clinton in the next, you are just as bad as Trump is.

We, the people should never tolerate lies, no matter where they come from. We never used to tolerate lies from anyone in government. If a government official lied openly to us, it used to be a major campaign issue. Now, we look at it and ask ourselves whether the lie is damaging enough. It’s time we demanded the truth from everyone. Not just the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch of government, but from everyone, including the press and even our friends, including those on social media. When someone makes a declarative statement, no matter who they are, we should always investigate and determine whether it is true and, if it is not, then we have to correct the record. Don’t just point to the liar and call them a liar. You need to address the lie itself and make sure everyone knows what is true.

For example, if you tell others that Wikileaks is some sort of “journalistic” outfit with a mission of “speaking truth to power,” you should know that you are lying. Wikileaks is simply a repository of stolen documents. What they do is to  simply dump those stolen onto a website, without providing any sort of context. And then, journalists who should know better relay them to us without any sort of context. They dumped a whole bunch of internal DNC documents last year that all intelligence agencies in the US and several international agencies as well say were obtained illegally through Russian operatives. And they were simply uploaded for us to peruse.

There are several essential questions that everyone has to answer about any document dump before reporting on them or passing the information on to the public as “true.”

First of all, are the documents authentic? That’s kind of an important question. If someone just made them up out of whole cloth, we should know that. Given that these are internal documents from the Democratic Party, how were they obtained? From where were they obtained? For instance, if a document was on an individual’s hard drive, rather than the network server, it could be a training document or a personal document that no one other than that individual ever saw. Therefore, who had them and where they were kept matters a lot. If a document was in someone’s “recycle bin,” it has a different context than if it was taken from a folder marked “Top Secret,” don’t you think? What if a new employee was using a document to learn how to use a piece of software? What if the document discussing a new piece of software or a “new capability” on the part of, say, the NSA, was simply a sales document, and a vendor was simply trying to get the NSA to buy something with those capabilities? That’s another thing that might place a document in a different context, right?

In the case of the DNC emails, in particular, it is also important to ask, why just the DNC? Where are the RNC’s emails? If the Russians weren’t trying to hack the election, then why did they only release DNC emails? They must have hacked the RNC, as well, if they weren’t trying to swing the outcome. And if they did not hack the RNC, then it would be interesting to know why not. Did they hack the RNC and just not release them, or did they not hack the RNC because they only wanted to injure Clinton?

And let’s be real here; if there is anyone who is incredibly vulnerable to blackmail or something similar, it is Julian Assange. Keep in mind, Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London because he’s trying to evade a rape charge; he’s not there because he’s being persecuted for his “journalism.”

It’s time we stopped allowing people to lie to us. Not just in government, but in general. The most important tool in stopping that is to adopt a healthy skepticism about everything we hear or read. It’s called Google; investigate every damn thing someone tells you and determine the truth or falsity of everything they claim. And when someone lies to you, don’t just point at them and call them a liar; that just makes you look as bad as they are. Instead, correct the record on the lie itself and let the public go after everyone who tries to perpetuate the lie. It’s not enough to point to Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz or Jason Chaffetz or Darrell Issa as “liars;” you have to actually tell the truth, so that EVERYONE who attempts to perpetrate the lie is tagged with it. If you make a lie seem that it ends with one Republican politician, then it’s hard to target the entire party. We have gotten rid of many of the worst Republican politicians over the years, and yet, the lying and obfuscation keeps getting worse.

Just as importantly, as a nation, we have to stop tolerating lies from the people who work for us. Those in government, those in the press, those contractors who work on our homes; our demand for honesty should be endless, albeit tempered somewhat. We should understand the difference between a minor lie that hurts no one and a major lie that kills people and we should spend most of our time correcting the record on the most important lies.

I mean, it’s a lie that former President Obama is a “tool of Wall Street” because he dared take $400,000 for giving a speech and those who perpetuate that lie should be called out. However, the lie that “no one has ever died for not having access to healthcare is a more important lie that we should be diligent about. Here’s how:

Instead of calling out the individual congresscritter who said it and calling him a dick, which seems to be the consensus on Twitter the last few days, correct the record. Not only do we all probably know of someone who has died due to the interference of a health insurer in making health decisions, but a study done years ago by researchers at Harvard assert that 45,000 people died every year due to a lack of insurance. (Source) Is that an absolutely accurate number? Possibly not, but then, the assertion was that “no one” had died, and that is certainly a lot more than zero.

That is how we combat obvious lies and we should so that with every obvious lie we encounter, especially from a public official, but also from anyone claiming to be a journalist, including the “citizen journalist” types who make up most of the professional left. No, Joe Manchin is not “as bad as a Republican.” (Source) He votes with Democrats 78% of the time, which is about 77% more than most Republicans vote with Democrats. (Source) To claim he’s “as bad as a Republican” is an important lie to refute because he’s running in 2018 and, like him or not, we need him.

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