Can we trust the ‘truth’?

The word of the day is “Trust.” Think about it while reading the following comments:

“I just don’t trust him (her).”

“It’s all the fault of the liberal, left-wing media.”

“Breitbart is the soul of racist, misogynistic, fake news posting media.”

“Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook. We can’t trust her on anything.”

“Trump is a pathological liar. He tweets one thing today and denies he ever said it the next.”

Did any of these comments raise the hackles more than just a little bit?

Now that our new president has been sworn in, I am relieved the political campaigning is over. I am tired of the political wrangling, backstabbing, accusations, counter-accusations and listening to endless rounds of “he said, she said” conversations.

Is it really over? Or are we merely in a calm before another storm?

While observing people going about their everyday lives, eavesdropping provides a window on the world, in a manner of speaking. Sadly, it is not always good.

Not only are people distrustful of mainstream media, they listen to alternative media for their take on politics. Any post on social media that references traditional news outlets are immediately suspect. “CNN is a liberal rag.” “Fox News is right-wing trash.” “CBS, NBC and ABC are totally left wing and worthless.” “Now, Breitbart tells it like it really is.” “Limbaugh is spot on. He gets it when others don’t.”

That depends. An editor friend of a farm publication summarizes another perspective that bears consideration. You can count on learning something about the biggest issues of the day, every day, in almost all mainstream publications. Reporters like to be first with a story, but being the only one with a story is an indicator of unreliability. Be very suspicious if you do not see a story anywhere else.

Makes perfect sense, does it not? Hearing it from only one source and not anywhere else tells me it is a really good indication that the story is not credible.

For example, a story broke on an alternative (not mainstream) news site reporting thousands of bikers were leaving Florida and heading toward Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration in support of the president-elect. They even had video as proof.

It was fake news. The video showing the bikers driving down the Interstate highway was taken years earlier. President-elect Trump even gave it his seal of credibility, referencing the story as a sign of broad-based support, though it had already been discredited as a false story.

In reality, the bikers never showed up in Wash­ing­ton. There were no corroborating reports detailing any accounts regarding the story. Yet, recently, in a local coffee shop and in social media, this story was still gaining traction.

Trust is an elusive concept to win, but easy to lose. Why is it that we easily believe the lie when it is whispered, covertly, and not believe when the truth is shouting from the rooftops?

Perhaps it is our propensity to believe the worst behavior in people is the norm, rather than the exception. It may well be. The worst behavior, however, comes from people who perpetrate this evil and create a false story with their own best interests in mind, not ours.

We are our own worst enemy. Gullibility in the worst possible form.

How do we combat this, when the world around us is full of lies and deception? We begin by questioning, rather than taking everything at face value. Honesty may be a virtue, but first, verify.

It is a lot of work to verify and engage sources when the facts do not add up. People tend to vilify others that have been discredited for dishonest reporting. Former news anchors Brian Williams and Dan Rather fell from grace and are still suspect.

Yet, people will take everything at face value when non-mainstream news media sources are not very discriminating in corroborating the facts of a story. These media folks know the story is false from the beginning, and have no problem selling the lie.

Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, known for being a source of fake news stories, currently is a senior counselor to President Trump. He often is a source of information by my fellow conservatives in the United States, yet they seem OK with that contradiction.

A friend on social media shared her anger over mainstream media’s description of a rural voter as largely uninformed and uneducated. From time to time, I share that anger.

Unfortunately, that description is an apt reflection in an era where misinformation and fake news sites on the Internet threatens to overwhelm the citizen, threatening the very foundations of democracy. And we are giving these individuals and political terrorists access to our mind and permission to twist the news and misinform us on very important matters.

Where does it leave us, now that we are living in these times? An informed and educated electorate is crucial if democracy is to survive. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is never good and never ends well.

On the other hand, those who do care for America’s future, it is time to use our mind and never stop asking uncomfortable questions until we uncover the real story. Trust but verify.

Paul Penner, former president farms in the Hillsboro area. He has been active statewide and nationally regarding agriculture policy.