When the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge died in 1933, it was mostly a non-event in the country. Nobody knew much about him. He remained incommunicado, or so it seemed, the whole time he spent in the White House. During his presidency from 1926-1929 “Silent Cal” was notorious for saying very little and doing even less. A reporter in 1933, upon hearing that Coolidge had died, dryly asked the question: “How can you tell?”
And so it is in determining the “truth” in American politics. Ah, truth. How can you tell? How can one know? And sift the chaff from the grain (of truth)? It has become a worrisome exercise that vexes the very core of American voters. It is a hassle to pursue truth in determining the value of a candidate or a political issue before the nation. Many a voter in their own dark places of the mind, simply don’t know the truth. They close their eyes, many of them, and the curtain on the polling booth and just pull the lever. After all, this candidate has a winning smile and winks like Reagan did for the camera, and you tend to feel good when you hear his words. He must be a good choice. Let’s end this madness of indecision and pull the lever. You can only do the best you can. It’s Tee time at the club. And oh, yeah, about the truth? How can you tell? You can only give it your best guess. So don’t sweat it, right?
Several online websites are dedicated to dispelling countless items said to be true. Snopes.com is such a website for fact-checking and the dispelling of onerous lies. You can hear or read the most outlandish lies about a person or a happening, an incident. Only to find out at the end of the day, it is a complete or partial lie meant to demonize a person or an issue or to influence public opinion. Ads paid for to delude and deceive the reader.
Many popular stories abound to demonize President Obama. These stories pose as authentic and circulate unchallenged for years, it seems. They will outrage any reader until he or she holds it up to the light by exposing it to a truth tester meter like Snopes. Just look at some of the idiotic lies told about Barack Obama (according to Snopes):
There are other asinine lies published in Snopes.com of George W. Bush. And it labels them as lies without partisan slant. One has to wonder how our occupation with telling lies came to be such a prolific means of displaying our ignorance here in America. But you don’t have to wonder very long. There’s money in it. Big money. Candidates and/or those PACs and billionaires like the Koch Brothers spend billions on media ads to influence the press and the voters to believe in bizarre lies and utter nonsense. Take the Tea Party. Please. Anybody want to define what it is? What it stands for? How it has even the GOP worried about losing credibility as one of the 2 major political parties in America? It’s all about selling an idea to the voters. Television wooed and won the American voter with Tea Party ads, but even (mostly) the members could not articulate what made the TP different from your good old common conservative Republican. The Koch Brothers started it all as a lark, it appears. But now with funding the TP has won many national slots, and in some cases managed to unseat sitting Republicans in high places. But isn’t it high time that the Tea Party lets us all know just who they are and what they stand for? Or must we succumb to the outright belief that all voters are crazy as a Texas road lizard?
We used to sanction such liars as Senator Gunner Joe McCarthy who accused most of Congress and the rest of America of being ‘Communists’ back in the 1950s. After he was skewered by enough rational people, he was ejected in shame. But not today. They build presidential libraries after some of these charlatans today. Guess who?
It is obvious that rumor mills exist in all political parties. They exist in the form of 507 Political Action Committee organizations, sometimes. The truth is not a prerequisite to having these rumors and lies spread all over the world. The reason for blatant lying is to demonize opponents and exalt the candidates of your choice. And the truth? Ah, well, much has been written and said about winning in political consulting circles. Winning is said to be the only thing that matters. Truth can go suck grapes. One has to wonder how our occupation with telling lies came to be such a prolific means of displaying our ignorance here in America. But you don’t have to wonder very long. The pay in media ads to influence public opinion is an “on-fire” demand item in politics. It is more than lucrative. First, you get the dude elected. Then, if you got enough bucks, you exploit his greed and get him to back your own private agenda for government. The return on your investment is enormous. Consultants up front will categorize how much it will cost to assure the election of your candidate of choice. That senator slot will cost you a million bucks. Plain and simple. That governor slot, a cool 3 million. You got the dough, you got the puppet elected and in office to do as much bidding and harm as you so desire. This is America? Of course. Even the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Citizens’ United that unlimited monies could now be used to purchase the candidate of your choice. Made the Koch Brothers drool.
It is obvious that rumor mills exist in all political parties. They exist in the form of 507 Political Action Committee organizations. Unless you are laundering the money like convicted former Speaker of the House, Tom DeLay. The truth is not a prerequisite to having these rumors and lies spread all over the world. The reason for blatant lying is to demonize opponents and exalt the candidates of your choice. And the truth? Ah, well, much has been written and said about winning in political consulting circles. And lies are perfectly acceptable. And if enough money is spent on them and the media ads are run constantly, voters will come to believe the lies instead of the truth. If, according to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, they are repeated enough. And so winning by falsehood pays well.
In time, Truth became something that was no longer an absolute. Shrinks and philosophers muddied the water with concepts such as how “his truth” is different than “her truth,” and so the chase begins to grasp the truth. We had graduated from being a fetus only to learn that something like truth was not stationary or absolute, that it could shift and change with how it was presented and who delivered it to the people.
Truth had ceased to be something that just was, and not on the table for debate. The notion of truth had become malleable and changeable whenever a president, a king, or a leader wanted it to be something different than what it was. And soon, this loose and reckless mishandling of truth in this manner became a vague and contradictory exercise that usually left us more confused when formerly, we thought we had things all clear in our minds. When truth morphed into something delivered by a “great communicator” or by “somebody you’d like to have a beer with” we felt like we had little choice but to listen to the messenger. And you began to believe them because it sounded good, and you had to trust somebody. We felt like we had no alternative when Evil Empires and Terrorists were holding us hostage in our minds.
Like when George W. Bush told the world that Saddam Hussein had direct connections with Osama bin Laden, it was accepted as the gospel truth until nobody could find one. Not even at a cool million dollars or 2 in reward money posted by our own government could flush one out. Or where the WMD’s had been stored. Not a nurse, not a janitor, a cleaning lady, nobody could point to one. And it even got harder to find one once America invaded Iraq and turned on the vacuum cleaners to suck them up.
When the press asked Don Rumsfeld, Bush’s Secretary of Defense if he knew where the WMD’s were, he said, “Sure, they’re near Tikrit, near Baghdad, lots of places. But one never turned up there, either. So was Rummy winging it and lying in the process? Looks that way.
Even Colin Powell, Secretary of State, told the UN Assembly and the rest of the world on television that he knew where they were, too. He backed it up with artists’ drawings of where and when. But that turned out to be an untruth, too. Just artists’ renditions of what posed as the truth so America could attack and depose Saddam Hussein.
Bush agitated the American people in his state of the union address by saying that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellow cake Uranium from Africa. CIA Director George Tenet had warned Bush not to use that material because it was based upon British Intelligence that the Brits themselves admitted was bogus, right after it was gathered. Bush went ahead on, anyhow. Another lie, I guess, but heck, it was enough to work Americans up enough so Bush could attack Baghdad with shock and awe missiles and smart bombs that lit up Baghdad. And to send our troops to fight in and occupy Iraq longer than in any other war in our history. In the name of truth, you see. Yeah, right.
Years later, you can step back and ask some of the hard questions, breathe deeply, and attempt to understand what went on. Well, the truth does stroll in when you take it back to the beginning, sometimes. Osama bin Laden had claimed responsibility for killing over 3,000 Americans in the 911 attack on New York City. That, with good cause, we accepted as truth. But from there the truth went downhill. We still do not know the truth about all that happened and why. Perhaps we never will. It has all been shrouded brilliantly with misinformation.