What are the rest of us to do, those of us who see torture and call it torture, those of us who see exploitation and call it exploitation, those of us who see injustice and call it injustice?
I received a forwarded electronic chain-mail message from a conservative friend Saturday evening. The message had been making the rounds all summer. I had heard about it, but this was the first time that someone had actually forwarded a copy to me.
The friend who sent it to me is a man with whom I have worshiped and have worked with shoulder-to-shoulder on local mission projects. Unlike me, however, he is a man who fears that President Obama’s social and economic agendas threaten the future welfare of Americans like himself and the very fabric of our country.
My friend’s message ended with the following appeal by the originating, anonymous author, which seems to me like a good way to start my own message: “Do yourself a long-term favor; send this to all who will listen to an intelligent assessment of the big picture. All our futures and children’s futures depend on our good understanding of what is really going on in DC!!!! And our action pursuant to that understanding! It really IS up to each of us to take individual action!!! Start with educating your friends and neighbors!!!”
Indeed, do yourself a long-term favor. Rather than accepting this kind of “viral” disinformation as fact, even if it resonates with your convictions and persuasions, educate yourself first with facts before passing it along to your friends and neighbors.
As a part of his forward, my friend provided the following endorsement: “Krauthammer is not only an M.D., but he’s a psychiatrist. (He has a page on Face Book.) So when he makes observations about one’s behavior he’s witnessed, I imagine he could qualify as an expert. His brain is massive and his conservative thoughts are important. He is not as dramatic as Glenn Beck, but their visions are pretty parallel.”
After reading this, that the thinking of this person named Krauthammer with a “massive” brain runs parallel to Glen Beck’s, I nearly deleted the message without bothering to read the rest of it first; I know from where Glen Beck comes and I have no desire to visit that place — a murky void of angry conjecture, fabrication, and speculation. But I wanted to be fair and open-minded for my friend’s sake. I read the rest of it.
I was not impressed, neither by the content of the message nor by the language and grammar the anonymous original author employed. It contained no evidence and no references to substantiate the opinions attributed to Dr. Krauthammer. But if you would like to read it for yourself, a complete copy is available at http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/krauthammer.asp. This site also contains Dr. Krauthammer’s personal retraction, his denial of the account’s authenticity, and links to articles that have actually been published by the good doctor.
This is the first paragraph of the forwarded message: “Dr. Krauthammer is on Fox News. He is an M.D. and he is paralyzed from the neck down. Be forewarned on what is happening. A friend went to hear Charles Krauthammer. He listened with 25 others in closed room. What he says here is NOT 2nd-hand but 1st. You would do well to read and pass this along to EVERYBODY that loves his country. This is VERY serious for the direction of our country. The ramifications are staggering for our children & us.”
Hmmm… “A friend went to hear Charles Krauthammer… What he says here is NOT 2nd-hand but first.” Obviously, the original author of the message doesn’t understand about primary and secondary sources of information. He is reporting what someone else told him he had heard, and doing so without so much as a closed quote or even naming the source. His first paragraph clearly establishes the fact that everything else in the message is hearsay.
According to a Wikipedia bio on Dr. Krauthammer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Krauthammer, he is generally considered to be a conservative on economic, international and defense issues. However, on domestic issues, Krauthammer is a supporter of legalized abortion, an opponent of the death penalty, an intelligent design critic and an advocate for the scientific consensus on evolution, calling the religion-science controversy a “false conflict.” He is a supporter of embryonic stem cell research using embryos discarded by fertility clinics with restrictions in its applications, and he is a longtime advocate of radically higher energy taxes to induce conservation.
Hmmm… being a psychiatrist, Dr. Krauthammer may be an expert on personality disorders. But this doesn’t make him an expert on economic issues, on international diplomacy, or on matters of national defense either. His opinions in these areas should carry no more weight with us than yours or mine – except that I teach economics and am a retired Army officer.
So, why are so many people willing to credit his views as being those of a “so called” conservative expert, especially since his views on social issues discount his credentials as a conservative in a social context? And why are so many publishing this kind of thing, distorting and exaggerating the views of credible thinkers? Further, why are so many willing to buy into this kind of thing, passing it along to others?
I blame what I call, conservative paranoia. Like mob violence, fear of change – the unknown, masked with anger – conservative paranoia spreads from person to person, sapping us of our better instincts. And the modern Conservative movement in America takes advantage of this fear, sustaining the status quo with dogma that they call, principle. This is worse than disingenuous – this is shameful!
The message claimed that Dr. Krauthammer labeled President Obama a narcissist. Well, so what if he did? We are all, to some degree, narcissistic, are we not? This is especially true for those of us who are driven to making significant achievements in life. This is a “healthy” kind of narcissism, and President Obama is truly driven to making significant achievements, but for the sake of the nation and for all of mankind. If any in Washington have unhealthy narcissistic tendencies, the self-serving kind, they are those in Congress who would scuttle health care reform for purely political purposes, denying future Americans access to affordable health care just to get reelected or to further their party’s chances of regaining seats in the House and/or the Senate.
And what are the rest of us to do, those who see torture and call it torture, those who see exploitation and call it exploitation, those who see injustice and call it injustice? We resist appeals like this to buy into the fear; we resist and let our Congressional representatives know what we really think, whether they are Republican or Democrat, and; we respond with measured logic and reason to viral disinformation like this. We persevere and we become the change that we voted for in the last election.
Please feel free to comment whether or not you agree.