Viewpoint from Pelham #1 – An Open Message to Political Conservatives (and Liberals too)

I am a political and fiscal conservative. If you stopped reading there, then you NEED to read the rest of this essay.

Of course, I look forward to any information that reflects Conservative thinking. I am, however, a reader of all political offerings. In my opinion, that is the only way that I can make an intelligent decision on where I stand, politically.

I am, however, consistently disappointed by other, I suppose, well-meaning conservatives (and liberals) who send me statements, reports, and other assertions that appear to support their positions that are either not accurate or are distortions of the original premise.

Here is what I want: I want every bit of Conservative/Republican political information to be absolutely accurate—squeaky clean! If the accuracy or veracity of any statement cannot be verified, then (1) we certainly are not going to sway many thoughtful Independents nor convert thoughtful Liberals to our cause, or (2) we are recruiting individuals who can be sold on anything they want to believe regardless of the truth. (We have enough of this group on “both sides of the aisle.”)

Incidentally, this includes also “spin.” If we cannot support our position with the unvarnished truth, then we are no better than the opposition. )Somewhere in the background I hear Jack Nicholson’s voice saying, “You can’t handle the truth!” [A Few Good Men, 1992]. I know—I am an idealist.)

Additionally, “facts” should not only be true but also NOT misleading. What passes for “factual news” on network news and in newspapers is not necessarily false, but may easily be edited and presented (slanted) in such a way as to convey a meaning far different from the truth. Television news, by its very nature is incomplete, but what is left unspoken, by its very absence, can convey a slanted (read that as “distorted) version of the truth. For example, when a prosecutor stands up in court and presents the prosecution’s case, very rarely does he knowingly present any factual untruths. Yet, under cross examination, the defense counsel can draw out additional facts that undercut the prosecution’s “truths” and win an acquittal for the accused. Yes, the prosecution presented the truth, but not the WHOLE truth.

We rarely get the “whole truth” in our news, and it may be very near impossible—every news article would have to be a lengthy exposé. Unfortunately, this means we get a “limited truth”—barely more than a headline—that is not truly informative. Furthermore, we often get two different sets of the “limited truth” on the same subject, resulting in two different perceptions of what really happened, or what the speakers (politicians?) wanted us to believe.

I recently received an article about how an American soldier, a hero, was prevented from participating in faith-based charitable event because President Obama had a policy preventing all military from participating in faith-based events. The way it was phrased was clearly intended to stir opposition to the President. The statement, as presented, was not accurate. The Obama White House has not issued any such policy (that I can find). Instead, and I know this as a former Air Force officer, the military has a long-standing policy prohibiting participation of members of the military in political, religious, or fundraising activities in uniform. The military exists to protect the American people—all of them. The military, as a national organization simply wants it clear that they do not directly support any specific political party, candidate, faith-based organization. Military personnel, may, as individual citizens, support any cause they choose.

This is not a defense of President Obama or the current administration. This is a defense of the truth.

Now, we cannot mandate that everyone always tells the truth, let alone the “whole truth.” There are many people who will create, perpetuate or “spam the Internet” with falsehoods, misleading, or slanted information to sway opinion or because they want to believe it and are too lazy to check its accuracy. It is up to us to police ourselves. If we see something that is almost too good to be true—that is, it paints the opposition in a “bad light”—then we owe it to our cause to make sure it is accurate, not only not false, but also not misleading.

Since much of this information is transmitted via blogs, email, etc., we also have a marvelous fact and truth checking tool—the Internet. Searching for facts is really quite simple. Use your favorite search engine and search for specific names (people or places), events (speeches, conference names, etc.) and/or dates. While no one online source can be trusted as absolutely accurate, there are typically multiple sources of information.

Too often the statements that are perpetuated begin with a real events and facts, but then recast (or twist) or take them out of context to advance a story that is inaccurate, misleading, or blatantly false.

I am perfectly comfortable with statements that begin with “In my opinion.” It is okay for anyone to offer personal interpretation of information, but it should be offered clearly as “opinion” rather than fact.

Too much of what is offered as opinion is interpreted and/or perpetuated as fact. For example, on a national news broadcast, a political analyst (none of whom are totally unbiased) will issue a comment (opinion) on a candidate’s position on a specific issue. Those who support the position take the information as fact; those who do not support the position assume it is misinformation from the opposing camp. It is neither. It is an opinion.

When your well informed best friend tells you something as fact (especially a repeatedly forwarded message)—trust (the good intentions) but verify (the facts).

And that is my opinion.

Respectfully submitted for your consideration.

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5 Responses to Viewpoint from Pelham #1 – An Open Message to Political Conservatives (and Liberals too)

  1. mike says:

    Good article. I totally agree.

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