Monday, January 28, 2013

Credulous Nation

To paraphrase something which Sen. Moynihan is credited with saying, " All of us are entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts." This past week I got embroiled in a fruitless discussion of the attack in Benghazi. Some of those involved cited "facts" that I could not verify. The one I came closest to tracking down was the assertion that a General in Stuttgart had been arrested when he tried to send troops to Benghazi. After a little research I discovered that Gen. Carter Ham, who commanded the Africa Command, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, was in Washington on the day of the attack and was replaced as head of Africa Command a month later. Was his being replaced prompted by his disagreeing with the Secretary of Defense's decisions about responding to the attack? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

When I had the temerity to suggest that the statement about an arrest might not be true, my comment was dismissed as a defense of he President's lies by one of those in the discussion. It appears that the convictions of some folks that the President is lying are immune from facts. Of course we can make light of conspiracy theories - as the TV show "Bones" did when one of its character said that Monica Lewinsky was a KGB trained sex agent - but conspiracy theories and other totally unfounded statements ave a way of creeping into discussions of public policy. Remember the Obamacare "death panels"? Having to answer that lie over and over again made the discussion of the actual provisions in the bill a bit more difficult.

The story of a comment of Benjamin Franklin's at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 may be apocryphal, but it does express an important truth about this country. Asked, "What we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?" Franklin responded, " A Republic, if you can keep it." As President Shepherd says at the end of "An American President" democracy is hard work. Part of that hard work, one thing we need to do to keep the Republic left to us is to pay attention to facts. Political decisions based upon rumor will not serve us well.


Chris H. said...

Part of the problem is, of course, that nobody can really get the "facts". The devil's in the details, which we'll never see. It's all tied up in "National Security" and all we get are talking heads and blurbs on CNN. We can't "prove" that anyone is telling the truth. Both sides choose to believe the people on their side of the argument, and overlook the lies and mistakes of their side because doubting them makes one a traitor to the cause.

It happens both in secular and religious circles. ENS just published the transcript of PB Schori's sermon in S.C. She equates Lawrence with school shooters,mass murderers, and terrorist hostage takers. And surprise, surprise, the liberals bloggers don't mention it, although I'm rather horrified by how many people called ther sermon perfect and beautiful on ENS itself.

Until both sides in both the secular and religious worlds learn to police their own, admit their own side made mistakes, there won't be a middle ground to discuss things and make peace.

Daniel Weir said...

Thanks for the comment. Policing our own party is, as you say, important. I hope that the PB got some feedback from folks on her side - if there is such a side!
I read the transcript and understand why some would see there negative references to Bp Laarence. I saw there some legitimate concern about the way decisions were made in secret in SC, as well as what might be seen as references to her understanding of the polity of TEC, an understanding which Bp Lawrence does not share. What I found interesting was the ending, in which it is quite clear that the PB was calling the congregation to refrain from demonizing those who had left.

Anonymous said...

As the amount of cheese shrinks in the church cupboard, the mice start to squeal and snap at each other. They may be small, but they sure have sharp teeth, those church mice!