Rounding the Dark Side of the Moon
More than a million years ago, our moon spun on its axis much faster than it now does. Our spinning moon, slowed due to Earth’s gravitational pull, is one half of a symbiotic relationship—the other half is called tidal locking. Earth’s ocean tides are the result of lunar gravitational pull. Together, these forces allow Earthlings to see only one side of the moon.
Just because we cannot see something, does not mean it doesn’t exist.
The far side of the moon is only visible from outer space. Perspective is everything—the long view of an object, a peculiarity, or an experience eventually reveals its potency, affects, and consequences. In other words, the whole story about something—verified facts without conjecture, otherwise known as truth, is eventually revealed.
So exactly who shot Kennedy? Some would argue that we have known since the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. The Warren commission upheld that it was indeed Oswald, the lone shooter, who killed Kennedy. Yet, a 2013 Gallup poll indicates this is an unsatisfying answer for sixty percent of Americans.
Truth now appears to be a fluid concept.
We humans intuit understandings, presume, jump to conclusions, and demand to know the yet unknowable. We live in the flux of truth more and more in our American world, fueled by group loyalty—and by the sense that we can change the world for the better with our version of truth.
Why we are the way we are goes back to the dawn of man. We were, and are still now, tribal—a key to our survival. We love teams, groups, and affiliations. Sports teams and political parties are the best examples of our doggedness in wanting to win; we believe victory proves the superiority of our group. But winning and truth are often not synonymous. Too often, lies, misdeeds, briberies, etc. corrupt politics, sports, commerce, and organizations—humans since earliest times seem to chose preservation at any cost.
But where are the lines?
It seems as a nation, are moving to the dark side of a moon we cannot fully see with a bright blight on our government—an ominous authoritarianism creeping into our democracy. Whether the current administration has operated in malfeasance has yet to be substantiated, but their relationship with easily verified truths is another matter—alternate facts, fake news, and the new realities of our government is where, dear friends, the danger lies. According to the New York Times, as of Friday, June 23, Mr. Trump has uttered fifty outright lies publicly; not every falsehood he employed is included in this figure. All his untruths may not be deliberate, but it would be naïve to think him innocent, either. In short, he plays with the truth at every opportunity.
Of course, Trump is not the first president to speak falsehoods to the American people. Lyndon Johnson reported an unprovoked attack in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin. At Johnson’s urging, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing, “the president, as commander-in-chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the US and to prevent further aggression.” This resolution transferred the power to enact war from the U.S. Congress to the commander-in-chief and has been subsequently used by many U.S. presidents to wage war, skirting congressional approval. The problem was, that there had been no attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was a lie.
Ronald Regan, despite being beloved by the Grand Ole Party, had a penchant for lies both silly—he claimed that trees were major air polluters—and scandalous, his whopper in which he denied selling illegal arms in exchange for hostages in the Iran-Contra affair.
His claim of America as “a shining city on a hill’ belied the fact that thousands of mentally ill patients, including veterans, were made homeless when his administration closed psychiatric hospitals across the country. During Reagan’s watch, cuts to welfare plunged half a million people, mostly children, into poverty, while tax rollbacks exclusively favored the wealthy. Tragically, his denial of the AIDS/HIV crisis worsened a growing epidemic. Denial is simply another form of subverting truth.
The Camelot of JFK’s administration claimed there were no plans for the United States to invade Cuba; that lie fell apart when months later Cuban nationalists, backed by the CIA, invaded Cuba in what became known as The Bay of Pigs. Castro and his soldier were waiting for the invaders and a slaughter ensued. All of this led to an emboldened Soviet presence on the island and the eventual Cuban Missile Crisis a year later.
Abraham Lincoln, James Polk, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and the Bush presidents, father and son, uttered some of the more infamous presidential half-truths, deceptions, and canards.
Presidential truthfulness has been eroding for a long time, paving the way for our present crisis of alternate facts and fake news.
There is no doubt; we are in a crisis in the United States, perhaps careening toward a constitutional crisis. The misrepresentations, slurs, and deceits from Mr. Trump and his “Make America Great Again” administration are rapid-fire and vehemently defended by his lawyers, surrogates, and supporters, while journalists valiantly report Trump administration abuses and continue performing their constitutionally protected jobs.
I have to wonder: Does Mr. Trump understand that according to the Constitution of the United States, the Fourth Estate is protected?
Despite this, Mr. Trump denigrates many of the most respected news organizations in our country, and has now banned most, though not all, audio and video transmissions at the daily White House brief, a breach of protocol. More importantly, this stance limits the transparency of an already murky administration. In a continuation of his rhetoric to ban coverage and to incite violence against news reporters during his 2016 presidential campaign, and now at his ongoing rallies, there have been multiple and ongoing incidents.
Frank Tristan, an intern at the OCWeekly and photographers Julie Leopo and Brian Feinzimer were pushed and shoved. Feinzimer, who was shooting pictures of Leopo, was hit with an American flag; while Trump supporter then repeatedly punched Tristan.
Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, was arrested at the West Virginia State Capitol after trying to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the House-passed healthcare bill, as the secretary was entering the building. Price did not answer the question as to whether women who have been victims of domestic violence would be regarded as having a “preexisting condition”, and Heyman asked persistently. Apparently, determined questioning is now a reason for arrest?
And then there is the story of the newest congressman from Montana, Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte, who body slammed Guardian news reporter Ben Jacobs—all of it caught on tape.
In essence, the definition and function, and how the American people view perceptions of truth, is now in flux.
While no media outlet is perfect; conscientious news organizations thoroughly vet and corroborate their content, and when breaches occur, those involved, depending on how egregious the error, either find a way to retract or pay the consequences, as noted this week in the resignations of three CNN reporters and editors.
Typically, news media also offer opinion. These offerings require thoughtful and informed consideration; they require critical thinking, and interaction from readers who are willing to call them out. Transparency breeds honesty and truth.
News and gossip sites, whose primary goal is to attract viewers through misinformation, often foster skepticism of solid truths, and support conspiracy theories. They do not rely on vetting and verification. They trade in ad hominem arguments, which resonate with Trump’s true believers who trade in outrage, fear, and personalization. Their offerings may be of entertainment or salacious value, but verifiable truth is of less value.
The binary choice, much like the either/or stance between conservatism and liberalism, becomes the drama of fiction versus critical thinking. In the pragmatic, either paradigm informs behavior—and isn’t that what politicians want—for each of us to take a side and to vote accordingly?
Right now, we have a president who clearly understands entertainment, skepticism and fear, but has no grasp regarding the importance of truth in support of democracy. Worse yet, he and his supporters inside the White House and in the U.S. Congress do not appear to care.
Charlatans willing to go to the dark side, spinning out of control, are right now taking all of us with them.