Fake News is not a new thing. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) dealt with it and attacked it head on in his December 10, 1941 radio address to an estimated 90 million listeners of the nations 130 million citizens. In it he tried to correct some of the numerous rumors floating around and exacerbated by the national press about air attacks by the Japanese on both coasts, various military setbacks and victories that were not true, etc. He went so far as to say that hearing any statement attributed to “an authoritative source” you can assume the actual source is not “any person in authority”. Sound similar to present day reporting by the New York Times, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC? He then dropped the hammer on all newspaper and radio stations by stating:
“To all newspapers and radio stations-all those who reach the eyes and ears of the American people-I say this: You have a most grave responsibility to the nation now and for the duration of this war. If you feel that your government is not disclosing enough of the truth, you have every right to say so. But-in the absence of all the facts, as revealed by official sources-you have no right in the ethics of patriotism to deal out unconfirmed reports in such a way as to make people believe they are the gospel truth.The lives of our soldiers and sailors-the whole future of this nation-depends upon the manner in which each and every one of us fulfill his obligation to our country.”
These words are surprisingly accurate today as well. And remember this was directed at a press corp that kept FDR’s polio-caused paralysis a secret so as not to alarm and/or unduly frighten the American people. Our current news corp isn’t anywhere near that thoughtful, respectful or sensitive. Now it’s all about scooping all other news sources no matter the consequences and the all important ratings.
The one thing our current leadership deals with and FDR did not have to encounter was social media and the instantaneous distribution of facts, figures, truths, and untruths and the writer’s opinions on that information.
FDR faced the problem head-on and President Trump appears to be trying to do that also but FDR was the imperial president elected 4 separate times with far-reaching executive powers unheard of since the Civil War and President Trump is in many respects a minority president allegedly elected with fewer popular vote vote than his rival candidate.
Further complicating things is a federally funded educational system that is outdated and fully biased to the left and teaching classes and methods contrary to what most of the citizens believe and in many cases downright lies.
One thing we know and history seems to flesh out is that politicians aren’t going to fix it. There have been exceptions along the way, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln to name a few but the idea that a great statesman/ stateswoman can fix it seems to be a thing of the past.
Our only hope is that voters can somehow decipher truth from all the misinformation and bias out there, read the tea leaves, and elect the best candidates available. Sounds like a tall order doesn’t it?
So, is fake news the problem or a symptom of the problem? I think our problem centers around a profession, journalists, that think they are far smarter and wiser than they are and authorities on whatever the current topic of discussion is. They’ve gone from thinking they are smart to thinking they are gods. They think they have the right and duty to educate, lead, and correct the mere mortal intellectually-challenged masses. Unfortunately, they are not alone in this self-assessment as other professions like politicians, actors/singers/entertainers, educators, tycoons/plutocrats/wealthy, and others, me included, think we have all the answers as well. So, perhaps it’s time for all of us to do a little serious soul searching/self-examination and try to make an honest evaluation of our own glorification, coronation, and motivation. Perhaps then God will forgive us for trying to do His job and we will do a whole lot more listening than talking, thinking before speaking and self-assessing rather than pontificating.
* all quotes from the book “December 1941” by Craig Shirley