Has our nation become too trusting?
It’s all in the presentation. A week ago we were presented with hearings that were intended to be fact-finding and informative for the American public.
Chairman Adam Schiff of the House of Representatives attempted to conduct a serious presentation of the actions by the president and his associates which could qualify for impeachment. However, Republicans at the hearings chose instead to emulate the pugilism of their president, whose tweets came fast and furious, ridiculing witnesses even as they were testifying. Ranking member Devin Nunes brought up TV ratings, as his marker of the importance of the proceedings.
While it has been the impeachment investigation that’s been in the limelight, another investigation has been ongoing by the justice department Inspector General, of the investigation of Russian election interference begun by the FBI and taken over by the Mueller team.
One lead that was pursued involved surveillance on a former Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page. This was a small part of a much larger scope. Even though the warrant was obtained legally, several times, with proper court approval, the fact that the IG found that a lawyer employed by the FBI may have altered a document turns a lower level mistake into an “overthrow of the Presidency” according to Trump’s Fox and Friends histrionics. The fact that an hour-long rant on a cable talk show has more influence on the American public than the release of factual documents produced through thorough investigative, by-the-book processes, like the Mueller report or the soon-to-be-released IG report, is at the root of the inability of many to recognize wrong-doing.
Watergate alumni prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks recently stated that the American public has lost its critical listening and thinking skills. Trump’s harrangs are more compelling, easier to absorb than the facts on a page. Most just want to watch the movie, while fewer actually read the book. But what is really required is research of the author.
The investigation is expected to find that some low-level officials made mistakes, but that no underlying political motivation was evidenced. Hardly a coup attempt on the presidency, but that’s the idea that gets planted in the minds of the public.
We are a country of people who are not used to being hit with obvious deceptions on a scale that is happening today. We’ve always assumed some corruption occurred behind the scenes, but we have been able to essentially trust what was presented in the open. Now it is hard to recognize misinformation for what it is when it is blatant because it is not what we are used to, not what we are prepared for.
Unfortunately accepting and allowing this trickles down from the highest levels to the lowest. In order to keep political party or personal status quo, this normalization of propaganda becomes the way busness is conducted.
The U.S. intelligence community conclusively found that Russia attacked our election and the Mueller investigation concurred.
However, as a tactic for refuting the bribery evidence, Republicans are trying to flip the narrative to create a scenerio where it was actually Ukraine that was responsible, thus giving credibility to Trump’s pressing Ukraine president Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. This story, that is also being promoted by Russia, will be accepted by many, simply because of the way it is being forcefully, systematically, and homogeniously presented.
The example gets set at the top. The count of verifiable mistruths from Trump since he took control of the government rises daily into the multi-thousands.
If truth and ethics are not practiced in Washington, that attitude will be reflected all the was down to local government. Deception can still be accomplished while not breaking any laws. Because you can do it without legal consequence does not make it just or fair. The saying goes “all is fair in love and war.” There is no addage that says that includes democratic governmental representation.
Deception can be accomplished by not presenting at all; by the withholding or omission of critical or relevant information. Trump is forbidding key members of his administration involved in the Ukraine scheme to testify before Congress, withholding evidence that would lead to a public understanding of the truth. Trump himself refused to speak to Mueller, and he continues to block release of any of his tax information. Omission of information can be used to mislead at all levels, right down to local politics. The way information is presented can cause incorrect assumptions with even the omission of a single important word.
Many of the rules of ethics and morality in political dealings, we are now realizing, have been unwritten rules, obeyed by officials who could be trusted to acknowledge them. With the election of a president who fails to se their importance, we are witnessing a breakdown in the system of integrity that was once a standard in government practice that ostracized and punished those who corrupted it.
This breakdown is permeating through the ranks of government and into our everyday lives.
Imaging teaching a youngster just learning about board games that there are rules to the game, but they discover that they can win easier by making up their own rules and changing them to suit their advantage as they go. Do we let them do it because it’s only a game, after all? Or, do we even praise them for the ingenuity in figuring out how to “rig” the game in their favor? Or, do we insist they learn to follow the rules, play fair and not cheat so as not to take unfair advantage of the other players? Win “fair and square.”
That used to be important to us. How do we present to our children the reasons for playing by the rules when we elected a president who flaunts his disrespect for the constitution, his set of rules which he swore to uphold? how do we explain in terms of a board game what it’s like to play a game with someone like that?
They win, you lose, it ends badly. It’s all how we present it — from Washington, D.C. to our living rooms.
Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org