Today, if you – kind reader – will allow, I am going to make a bit of a departure from my usual screed. I’m going to take a bit of a tour of a book that the religious right in the US reveres but apparently fails to read – or at least to comprehend. I am going to apply biblical teaching to politics.
This screed is brought to you by nobody in particular; it is true that I have recently had an exchange with someone guilty of the very thing I will discuss, but it is because the practice is so rampant that I want to address it. That practice is that of repeating things which are blatantly and demonstrably untrue in the hopes of convincing people that they are true. For example, Fox News recently ran with the story taken from a poorly labeled poll that 71% of Obama voters in 2012 “regret their choice to vote for Obama.”
This is of course not true, and even a very minimal amount of research (like actually taking the three minutes it took to locate the poll and read the results page) makes it apparent that this is not what the poll shows at all. It actually shows that 90% are happy with their choice and would vote for the president again if they had the choice. It shows that of the 10% who would not hypothetically vote for him again, 71% of those regret having voted for him in the first place. But that is not newsworthy, then is it? “71% Of People, Who Believe They Have Made A Mistake, Regret It” won’t sell many papers – or gain many viewers.
I have seen this same “Statistic” referenced by a number of my acquaintances on facebook recently and what really makes me sad is that far from being the least bit interested in whether it is true or not, the people who quote it go on to make sweeping generalizations about the president and anyone who thinks he is anything less than Satan incarnate. And herein lay the biblical lesson:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."
It seems that some of the purveyors of these blatant falsehoods seem to have forgotten (or never learned in the first place) in the biblical telling of the Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus calls out the religious leaders of the time for hypocrisy and perjury. The authors of the gospels include this as part of the story of Jesus in one form or another in all four gospels (unlike the nativity – but that is another story…) so they apparently thought that it was important not to perjure oneself or be a hypocrite.
So, how does this apply? The lesson, my dear readers, is that one should really do some minimal amount of questioning before one spreads “news” that has even the hint of contrivance to it. The pharisees (see definition 2) of today are the people who view “news” as a means to an end. A way to convince people to believe the things they want them to believe; regardless of whether what they want people to believe is true or not.
Like the proselyte who becomes twice the “son of hell,” the people who mindlessly repeat the falsehoods presented by such slanted “coverage” go on to spout all manner of garbage which is equally baseless. This, then, becomes meme and spreads. In the discussion that spawned this screed, the proselyte in question went on to quote such classic tropes as millions of doctors losing their jobs because of Obamacare (a charge that even the healthcare industry disputes), that people are losing their homes because of the cost of healthcare (and while this is true, it has nothing to do with Obamacare – in fact, the law may help to mitigate this), and that the president has somehow committed acts that amount to treason (a vague charge that is never fully explained).
In this particular thread, there are also vague and implied claims that the president is the only one in history to have ever lied. I am absolutely nonplussed! Unlike Bill Maher, I am not willing to write these claims off entirely to racism, but then, I did believe eight years ago, when I was living in London, that we would not elect a black man as president. I was certain that the US was not ready to see a black man in the oval office. I guess I was about half-right.
Wherever you are today, I hope that you will have the intellectual integrity to do some minimal amount of research before spreading whatever baseless “news” that you happen to come across.