What you're about to read is the honest to God's truth: You can't believe a word I write. I'm a liar from the word go. I have been lying my entire life. I tell the truth only when I can't think of a convenient lie. I believe in magic. I believe fire is man's greatest discovery. I believe the wheel is man's greatest discovery. I've been lower than a snake and I've been higher than a kite. I use clichés now and then but they weren't cliché when I made them up. If you don't believe that, you're crazy.
I'm a tool of George Soros. The only thing I know about Soros is that he is not a Greek, therefore, I don't give a rat's fanny about him. People should not be allowed to have Greek-sounding names if they're not Greek. That goes for you, Arvydas Sabonis and double for you, Jesse the Body Ventura aka George Janos. Even if I wasn't a tool of Soros, and I am not, many people reading this believe I am. They'll believe that, because I am regarded as being a liberal. And liberals cannot be trusted.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not a liberal; I just portray one in this newspaper. I'm an open-minded, play-by-the-rules, conservative journalist with a 30-year record of never pissing anyone off in this community to prove it. I'm not even sure if this town has a liberal journalist. If we did, God would have rained hell on us already, so that's proof we don't have any.
Liberals hate God and God hates liberals. I've seen both of those Facebook memes, so those statements are also true. I've also seen the meme that liberals hate Donald Trump more than they love America. That's only true if you believe it. I don't. It's trickier than that, and if I were telling the truth I'd say that only the most politically lazy among us would believe such a thing. Actually, the more correct and nuanced meme would be, "Liberals love America therefore they hate Trump," a phrasing that would thrill elitist Ivy League liberals and René "cogito ergo sum" Descartes himself. I haven't seen that meme yet.
OK, I gotta stop here. The above is a garbled heap of over-cooked, starchy canned spaghetti with every strand sticking to the next even if it doesn't belong there. But that's how I feel every day, asking what, exactly, can I believe any more? I can't promise that what comes out of my keyboard next will be an improvement. But to be sure, I'm as confused as the next person as to what is real and what is not these days.
While Trump is easily blamed for much of our confusion-triggered national migraine—lying regularly to the very citizenry who he should not tell lies to—there's plenty of finger-pointing to go around: The proliferation of news channels, our growing propensity to only use one news channel, the weaving of entertainment and pop culture into hard news stories, the erosion of trust in the mainstream media, self-serving exclamations of FAKE NEWS by Trump, the list goes on. Meanwhile, America has managed to devalue our core education realms, we are factually dumber. Even though it's our good neighbor, I'd lay a big bet that a high percentage of Americans couldn't find Mexico on the map. That's bad. Now ask them to find North Korea or Yemen. Yet, those same folks authoritatively claim expertise about Mexicans and immigration, North Koreans and nuclear weapons or Yemen and gas prices. We are fed a body of lies each and every day because lies move eyeballs.
Lying is a big business. Marvel at what cable news has become and fear what traditional broadcast may become—a model cast by the ever larger and more influential Sinclair Media. Sinclair is turning trusted local news outlets into a national propaganda machine. It might be too late for those of us who merely lie in newsprint, but time will tell.
According to University of Utah management professor Bryan Bonner, the fault lies with each of us and our propensity to fall prey to false expertise. Though Bonner's ideas are meant to aid in business management, they are applicable in a broader sense, too. In an article by Khalil Smith in Strategy + Business Magazine, Bonner explains our brains pay closest attention to figures from our hometowns (wayda go Sinclair! You've stolen Mark and Shauna!), those who talk the most (cable TV talking heads), the loudest (Trump) or the tallest (Bill O'Reilly) in a room, or people with the best title (Idi Amin). People believe suave columnists like me or handsome radio hosts like Bill, Kerry and Gina because we have a perceived authority by virtue of our lucky DNA. We believe memes because they were shared by a mother or bishop.
Meanwhile, our brain is taking short cuts to sort out all the information it's given, fitting it all neatly into our growing (and hard to change) bias. We feed our bias and there are a growing number of outlets—political and financial—that have learned to capitalize on those biases. Russia did it; Sinclair is doing it.
Meanwhile, neither you nor I know what is actually true. We just read, listen, watch and wait for our brains to file the information into the most convenient bucket. Even when we're served a plate of wet spaghetti, like this column, many brains will go "Yeah, it's by that fat Greek," and file it under God's Truth. It wasn't and it isn't. We all have to start paying better attention, folks.
Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org