On January 8, a single gunman named Jared Loughner, with murderous intent carried out a horrific attack at a Congressional meet and greet in Tucson, Arizona. By now we have all heard or read many of the commentators discussing the vitriolic nature of political discourse in this country, with most of the blame being pointed at the Right (including Republicans, the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, among others).
In their 1/10/11 lead editorial, the NY Times acknowledged that Loughner was probably mentally ill, and that his internet rantings "place him well beyond usual ideological categories." But that did not deter them from blaming talk radio for the death threats received by Federal Judge John Roll (killed by Loughner) after the Judge allowed a case to proceed against a rancher accused of assaulting 16 Mexicans while crossing his land. It did not deter the editorial writers at the Times from this bold assertion: "But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge." (I wonder who they think is responsible for the sudden increase in death threats being received by Sarah Palin since this incident, as reported by Fox News.)
The LA Times in their 1/11/11 editorial was not much different. After saying it is not fair to blame Sarah Palin (or others) for the massacre, they do exactly that. "The real problem is that a former vice presidential candidate and possible 2012 presidential hopeful thinks violent imagery directed at political opponents is acceptable, and her supporters see nothing wrong with it." They go on: "The right bears the brunt of responsibility for this poisoned atmosphere..." but then concede they do not have a "monopoly on hate-inspiring speech." Somehow, they cannot bring themselves to tell us who else they think might engage in hate speech. (Maybe the Left, Keith Olbermann, Mike Malloy, former Florida Congressman Grayson, Howard Dean, and Ed Schultz, to name just a few.) Somehow, they cannot bring themselves to tell us that the Democrats had their own map, with bulls-eyes on the congressional districts held by Republicans.
Somehow, they cannot bring themselves to tell us that it was the current President of the United States who said, in reference to Republicans: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." Somehow, they manage to overlook the fact that the Tea Party movement is one of the most peaceful political movements to ever come along.
So what is going on here? Do the LA and NY Times really not know all the facts stated above? They do, but it no longer matters to them. Their own left-wing agenda is now more important than the truth. In their world, the ends justify the means. So if an incident like the one in Tucson can be used to their political advantage, with an opportunity to take a shot at some of their favorite targets, then so be it; and the truth be damned. The agenda matters far more than the truth. The problem is, most of the people don't buy it. While many factors have been affecting newspaper circulation over the last decade or more, one big factor is the people know they can no longer rely on the truthfulness of these mainstream institutions.
The approval rating of Congress is abysmally low. Maybe the people don't like being lied to. However, many in Congress have the same belief that their agenda is the first and only priority; that the ends justify the means. Truth takes a back seat, if it is even considered at all. The people don't believe, for example, that we can add 30 to 40 million people to the healthcare system without it costing a dime. Yet Obama, Reid and Pelosi told us exactly that. The people voted overwhelmingly Republican in 2010, not because of talk radio, but because they knew they were lied to, and did not agree with the policies being promoted. People do not like being lied to, and yes, it makes them angry.
Not surprisingly, these mainstream papers take absolutely none of the blame for the vitriolic level of discourse they describe. So when the LA Times called all those opposed to gay marriage "bigots," they made it clear that there was no honorable disagreement with their position. If you disagreed you were a hater. They constantly referred to the war in Iraq as "Bush's war." Imagine that. A war approved of by Congress, with American soldiers in harms way, yet they saw no divisiveness in their description. The LA Times has been so obsessed with their agenda, that they also lost another forgotten value - common decency. The day after Terri Schivo died, their editorial blasted the parents for trying to keep their daughter alive. Imagine that - they could not even allow the family one day to bury their daughter and grieve without their vicious attacks on them. For the LA Times, decency went the way of truth.
Of course, truth has not just been abandoned in the political arena. We often see it in sports. During baseball's "steroid era" many players were cheating (another form of lying) while using these drugs. Few were able to admit what they were doing - they just magically grew in size and strength and speed, even though they were getting older; even though the normal aging process should have caused the opposite effects. And Major League Baseball did not care; attendance and revenue were way up with all the home runs being hit. So the ends (money in this case) justified the means. We see football players trying to convince the ref they caught a ball when they know full well it hit the ground first. Basketball players fall backwards onto the court when lightly brushed by another player in an effort to get a foul called on the opposing team. Now, many commentators refer to such antics as "heads-up" playing. So has winning become more important than honesty and integrity?
Back in the political arena, public employees do not want to hear that their unions have obtained salary and pension benefits that are bankrupting many cities and states. Their agenda is more important than the truth.
So where does this all end? We, the People, have to insist on truth and honesty at every turn. We can do it by shunning media sources that lie to us, and that refuse to give us a balanced viewpoint. We can do it by voting out of office politicians who lie to us. We can do it by teaching our kids and grandkids that winning is NOT everything. And we can insist on it in our own lives. Because the more we allow the lies, the more we are likely to be on the receiving end of them.