I have a friend who is convinced that President Obama and the Democratic Party are undermining the United States of America and that the President has “thrown Israel under the bus.” He believes that any statement is permissible in pursuit of victory by the Republican Party in November. He has no problem with the lies and distortions of the truth by the RNC, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, and the Super-Pacs that are supporting the Republican ticket. He justifies their political lies and distortions by saying that the Democrats do it too.
In fairness to truth, the Republican Party has thrown truth under the bus in a way that I have not seen in my life-time. The Democrats admittedly choose facts, skim the truth and mislead as well, but objective fact-checkers place the greatest sin of political fabrication upon the Republicans over the Democrats by factor of 3 to 1.
In this pre-High Holiday season when t'shuvah (repentance) is the principle occupation of the Jewish community, this wanton disrespect for truth is a major obstacle to true repentance and is contrary to every ethical principle Jewish tradition cherishes.
Far too many Americans dismiss objective truth when it runs counter to their passions, opinions, prejudices, and self-interests, and they believe whatever the most virulent voices are preaching.
Compare and contrast public opinion in Canada vs. the United States on the question of whether Global Warming is a scientific fact. According to a 2012 Angus Reid Public Opinion survey, 58% of Canadians believe that Global Warming is a scientific “fact” as compared with 42% of Americans. In a September 2011 Stanford University poll in conjunction with Ipsos and Reuters News, 91% of all Democrats consider Global Warming a fact as opposed to 66% of all Republicans.
Why the differences between our two countries and between the two American political parties? The surveys show that there are significant differences depending upon region and education. Those in urban areas with higher education accept the science of Global Warming as a fact far more than those living in rural areas with less education.
And there is one more factor to consider – who watches “Fox News.”
Canada does not license “Fox News” to be broadcast in that country because it does not consider it news. Rather, it considers it opinion and the licensing board seriously questioned “Fox News” journalistic integrity. One can watch “Fox News” in Canada, but it has to come through an American feed.
Republicans watch “Fox News” far more than do Democrats, and one of Fox’s pet positions is to promote skepticism about the science of Global Warming despite a very large consensus in the scientific community that affirms Global Warming as a scientific fact.
How can one explain the positions taken by another friend who told me that Obama is anti-Israel, a socialist, that the Affordable Care Act is a government take-over of the health care industry, and that global warming has not been proven. I asked her where she got her information, and she said “Fox News.”
Rashi said “God’s seal is truth” (comment on Sanhedrin 94b). Truth has all kinds of meanings, but with regards to continually seeking objectivity in news and reporting, the journalistic profession holds to a high standard of fact-checking and objectivity.
As we move through this next week when the Democrats meet to nominate President Obama and Vice President Biden at their convention in Charlotte, consider these words of wisdom on the pitfalls and importance of truth-telling for individuals and for us as a nation:
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” (President John F. Kennedy)
“Fear distorts truth, not by exaggerating the ills of the world…but by underestimating our ability to deal with them…while love seeks truth, fear seeks safety.” (The Reverend William Sloane Coffin)
“When money speaks, the truth keeps silent.” (Russian proverb)
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)