In Other Words… Who Needs Fact and Logic?

Who Needs Fact and Logic When Fear and Loathing Pass as Legitimate Discourse?

Written By: Sara Ledesma

The death of Walter Cronkite signaled an overall death of accuracy, accountability and professionalism in the mainstream media. It is tragic that the country with the freest media in the world is squandering it away on sensationalism and partisan bickering. The free press is paramount to keeping our country both free and democratic.

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of the press are the essential instruments that sustain and uphold the liberty we enjoy as citizens of this great country. Why then has it become acceptable to short change our democratic process and our national dialogue by promoting falsehoods and muddying intelligent discourse about actual issues with ridiculous inventions? There is no accountability when these lies are told and the constant media coverage they receive serves to promote them and grant them credibility.

In place of civil, reasoned debate, we have ill-informed talking heads screaming at one another with no regard for accuracy or logic, only for “winning” and increasing ratings with their performance. Polls pass for data, sound bites pass for thoughtful dialogue and knowledge, and there is no standard of legitimacy, civility, logic or most of all—accuracy and truth—for any statement or claim made by journalists and bloggers. More and more, even politicians, officials elected to serve and lead, are engaging in formulating and promulgating theories and statements that are outlandish, unsupported, and sometimes flat out contradictory to the actual facts.

We’ve reached an apex of disrespect in discourse that allows blatant vulgarity against the President of our country during a joint session of Congress. Joe Wilson can yell at the President and many think him a hero, including some whom confer the title of journalist upon themselves. In fact, over a million dollars was raised on behalf of Joe Wilson’s disrespect. Instead of outrage at his breach of appropriate conduct, he received praise by the fringe Right that has high jacked the Republican Party. Wilson’s lack of decency transformed him from an obscure politician into a fundraising cash cow. Walter Cronkite is turning over in his grave.

We have always proudly been a country of competing ideas and viewpoints. Our “marketplace” of competing ideas is what makes our country the egalitarian, democratic, free thinking, diverse nation we embrace as uniquely American. Throughout our history it has been vital to what is flouted as American ingenuity, innovation, resourcefulness and creativity. Enter the current political and social climate where we are witnessing a perilous, radical rupture with our history of honored tolerance and encouragement of multiple points of view. Our prior reverence for freedom of thought, born of the Enlightenment, is succumbing to a Dark Age of incivility to those whose views we oppose and contempt for any ideology that differs from ours. In place of tolerance, intellectual integrity and intellectual curiosity is a total lack of regard for truth or facts in discourse and a willingness to disrespect any person who is deemed a threat to the views and way of life one holds as preeminent.

Our current disregard for actual discussion and relevance is evident from the recent outbursts and finger biting at town halls, to the toting of assault weapons to presidential appearances, to the photos of our President as Hitler and Stalin, to Joe Wilson’s outright debasement of President Obama during a speech to Congress. Thinly veiled threats of violence at protests, outright declarations of succession in Texas rallies and virulent rants calling for the assassination of our president by religious zealots are ubiquitous in the media and distract us from the actual facts and policies at hand.

The democratic process suffers when we are unable to focus on serious issues because outlandish inventions, and theories with no relationship to reality, dominate the media and our national debate. The majority of the country is held captive by the unhinged fringe element that is being manipulated by pundits, media personalities and politicians that are exploiting an ill-informed, fearful, conservative faction of society. It’s tragic to see those who are intelligent enough to know better use fear and misinformation to play to the cultural dislocation and fundamental misunderstanding of the issues of Americans who seek their guidance.

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the Fox News team realize they are fanning the flames of violent and racist rage with their manipulation of fact and blatant fear mongering, yet feel no accountability for the environment of political and social hostility and aggression they are ushering in. Extremists now head the Republican Party which was once the party of intellectuals. They incite racist opposition to our President and promote theories he is not an actual citizen, his birth certificate is fake, he is an outsider usurping power of our government in order to subordinate White America. Glen Beck no longer uses coded messages to perpetuate this false anxiety, but said explicitly, “Obama is a racist” and “Obama hates white people.”

Of course, Beck chooses not to highlight the fact that Obama was birthed and raised by his White mother.

As a country we are experiencing a breakdown of civility and mutual respect in our society. I am fearful of what this new age of intolerance and antagonism will unleash upon us all. I wasn’t alive to see the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or JFK, but I am terrified we will see a new round of violence erupt and claim innocent lives. I fear our President will meet a similar fate, and it keeps me awake at night, frightened and confused at how we got to this point. Weren’t we supposed to be past this division and hatred? It has already begun with the assassination of doctors who perform abortions at the hands of extreme Pro-Life groups. They share the same rhetoric of violence in the name of God and country that many Deathers, Birthers, Successionists, Tea baggers, Militia groups and religious fundamentalists share. I pray this country remains the bastion of diversity, freedom and tolerance that have made it the noblest political system in the world.

Those on the fringe are blinded by their own fears and use hate as a way to protect themselves from that fear. Eventually that hate gives them comfort and, even satisfaction, or worse, a sick pleasure and sense of superiority. The enlightened, reasoned discourse that is the foundation of Democracy is suffering at the hands of those who perpetuate illogical emotion over facts and honest debate. Our communities, our children and our future will suffer at the break down of respect, empathy, decency and compassion for one another that is spreading like a perilous virus.

For those who will give anything to win, the damage they are inflicting is of no consequence. That is the scariest fact of all. They are benefiting from the breakdown of all that makes our country great and they have no remorse for the destruction of all that this country has represented for so long to so many. Those who perpetuate our divergence from science, progress, rationality and a compassionate, civil society, do so with calculating purpose. A fearful, misinformed, misguided, electorate is exactly what they want.

It is a constituency they can bend and manipulate any way they choose. It is an electorate that is powerless to challenge the status quo they so greedily and effectively benefit from because it is a public that does not understand their own interests or posses the judgment to vote according to what is best for themselves and their families. In Other Words…to those that relish in the breakdown of an educated, informed electorate, who needs fact and logic when fear and loathing pass as legitimate discourse?

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One Response to “In Other Words… Who Needs Fact and Logic?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Spot on. I miss William Safire, William F. Buckley, Winston Churchill and even Thatcher Longstreth (A Philadephia blueblood that lost several mayoral elections to the lovable loud Democratic near thug, Frank Rizzo). That intellectual wing of the GOP contracted cancer in the McCarthy era, slipped into a coma under Nixon and Reagan, and finally died an unnoticed death under W. As much as I disagree fundamentally with many of that wing's arguments, at least they were arguments. I mourn its passing.

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