This is a long entry, containing three elements: A letter slamming us, followed by the two editorials that prompted the letter.
The writer contends our recent editorial in support of fact-based thinking was hypocritical given our recommendation for then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008? Is the criticism justified?
We know most Mid-Columbians believe the reasoning behind our 2008 presidential recommendation was flawed, but did we distort the facts in the process?
The Letter — Editorial irked
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The recent editorial, “Fact or Fiction: Let’s think about it,” has iced the cake of the Tri-City Herald’s journalistic hypocrisy.
You speak with a forked tongue or a dementia unparalled in journalism.
Remember your practicing what you now speak against? Hmm?
It was just a tad over two years ago that this same editorial page heaped praise upon a then mere upstart and tyro, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. The opinion was based upon what? I query! His ebullience on the dais? His ability to proficiently read from a telprompter? His decisiveness by voting “present” 129 times in the Illinois state legislature? His blackness? Or perhaps his progressive liberalism?
Or maybe a combination of the preceeding.
Apparently facts meant nothing to you then but today you deride those of us that in your opinion pay no attention to facts.
In 2007, you could have vetted Barack Hussein Obama like you vetted Sarah Palin, et al, but you didn’t. You could have wondered why he sealed all his records so tightly that even his shoe size was a national secret. You could have taken a close look at his circle of friends and associates and found the common thread of Marxism, racism and anti-America sentiment that existed then and exists now, but you didn’t.
What you did do was fall for his slight of hand tomfoolery and his flowery speech while totally ignoring his experience. And now you pretend to be experts on avoiding being duped.
Well, you were duped, so in the future please practice what preach. Think, reason and research the facts.
Maybe then you can restore your credibility.
Recent editorial — Fact or fiction: Let’s think about it
It’s interesting how willing we are to believe something outlandish if it lines up with what we already believe.
On the other hand, we’ll resist anything that challenges that belief system — no matter how reasonable it might sound in another context.
Have we reached the point where facts don’t count for anything? Is scoring points against your opponent is all that matters?
A recent example of the phenomenon is the cost of Obama’s trip to India. To people who are already convinced Obama is a spendthrift, it’s an easy jump to believe an unsubstantiated price tag of $200 million per day.
No wonder people are upset. That’s an outrageous tab. At least, it would be if it were an accurate number.
In the days of analog, before the digital era, there was a story that likened gossip to releasing a bag of feathers on a windy day, then trying to gather them all. The moral was that once you start a lie about someone, you can’t go back and completely repair the damage, even if you wanted to.
And that was before the advent of the Internet.
With technology, we can update this little parable.
Rather than a bag of feathers, let’s use an anonymous tip, someone’s blog or even Wikipedia. Instead of a windy day we’ll just toss the rumor onto the information superhighway.
True or false, verified or not — there is no way anybody is getting that genie back in the bottle.
It’s not necessary to be the president or even a public figure to fall victim.
Now that many people have a video camera on their cell phones, what would have been an embarrassing moment soon forgotten or perhaps never even noticed can go viral on the Internet.
Whether it’s the cost of Obama’s trip to India or the “Don’t taze me, bro” video, the script’s the same. 1) Shock. 2) Outrage. 3) Apology or correction. 4) Continued outrage at initial shock.
First, come up with an attention grabbing idea, the more preposterous the better. Next, get some wheels on the thing to get the rumor moving. At this point, the job is really completed.
If you get called out on it, go to an apology or retraction but only if absolutely necessary, and keep it toned down as much as possible.
Step four will take care of itself.
We suspect that some of the bad information out there is the product of good intentions gone awry, people passing along what they believe to be true. It’s not always a deliberate lie to mislead and manipulate the public, although there is a fair share of that, too.
But intentional or not, once the word is out, it’s out for good. And much like post traumatic stress disorder, if the emotional shock is great enough, the feelings persist long after the danger is gone.
Did Obama’s trip to India really cost the American public $2 billion? No. Are there plenty of people out there who believe that it did? Yes. And boy are they mad!
We are astounded at how easily otherwise clear-thinking people are duped.
As zeal and desperation escalates, we expect to see continued indignation at any “fact” — true or otherwise — that supports some existing belief.
The only solution is for people to think. Thoughtful reasoning counts. Facts matter.
If we can’t distinguish fact from falsehood, then what we believe cannot stand for much.
2008 recommendation — President: Barack Obama
John McCain’s life story is far different than Barack Obama’s, but they both are inspirational.
McCain overcame imprisonment and torture in Vietnam to become a leading spokesman for the Republican party, while cherishing the independence that makes him, even as a U.S. senator with considerable seniority, a maverick.
Obama, the child of mixed-race parentage and raised by a single mother, electrified the nation when he addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2004 when still merely seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate. He went on to win, defeating Republican Allen Keyes with 70 percent of the vote.
He is the first black American in history to be nominated for the presidency by a major political party.
If current polls are to be believed and hold up to election day, he will become the first black president of the United States.
The Herald’s editorial board is supporting what looks to be the nation’s future, but not without serious reservations.
We’re often divided on our political recommendations, but never more deeply than in our presidential choice this year.
McCain’s supporters among us include Herald Publisher Rufus Friday, who chose not to use his power to overrule the majority.
Friday lived in Illinois when Obama was a member of the state Legislature and didn’t see anything in the novice politician to qualify him for the presidency.
And frankly, Obama’s career in the U.S. Senate has been undistinguished. The question of experience hasn’t been answered to our satisfaction.
Obama’s chief asset is his ability to rally and inspire people, especially young people. In the tough times ahead, that may be what America needs most.
He is campaigning on the prospect of change — in health care, energy policy, the war in Iraq and relief for the beleaguered middle class in a turbulent economy.
We wish he were more enthusiastic on nuclear energy. It is a definite plus for McCain that he is a strong supporter of that clean technology as one of the tools out of our dependence upon Middle Eastern oil.
McCain’s plan for reducing health care costs seems rife with the possibility of bureaucratic clumsiness making it even more costly to taxpayers in the end.
George W. Bush’s disapproval rating among the American people, as reported by polls, is now the highest on record, 73 percent, and his approval rating at 23 percent is below even the lowest approval rating of Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis.
Obama has tried to tie McCain to President Bush, but McCain chided him Wednesday night that he should have run against Bush in 2004.
McCain easily listed many votes and positions he has taken against Bush policies.
Our bigger concern is the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Even some conservatives are pointing out the obvious — she’s not qualified for the job.
On immigration, McCain and Obama have similar ideas and position papers.
And on Iraq, McCain mocks Obama for saying the surge in Iraq wouldn’t work when time proved that it did. Of course, McCain glosses over the fact that the case for invasion was trumped up by misinformation and subterfuge and that Obama opposed the war from the start.
We think Obama is better prepared to deal with a volcanic economy where experience is proving to count for little.
The deregulators (McCain is one) from Bush to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have been overtaken by events.
The economy that both pronounced healthy just weeks ago (when McCain insisted that “the fundamentals” were sound) has resulted in drastic cuts in personal savings, seen catastrophic bank failures and required nearly $1 trillion to ignite only a flickering long-range hope that we can get through it without a major depression.
There is a mistaken impression that Franklin D. Roosevelt swept into office with a powerful plan to lift the country out of the Depression.
He did not. He came with a nimble mind and a determination to try many things and see which worked. Some failed. Some succeeded — wildly.
But it was his focus on the common man that brought about Social Security, the Works Projects Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority and, eventually, the Bonneville Power Administration.
McCain’s idea that a continued reliance on trickle down economics will somehow benefit Mom and Pop in trying to figure out how to pay their bills is unconvincing.
McCain’s service to his country has been long and honorable.
But the American people, while respecting that, seem turned toward a candidate they think will not be stifled by old theories that play out daily on the stock market and in business, in jobs and in health care.
The Herald editorial board recommends Barack Obama for President of the United States.