People in a "free" society must have the right -- and the courage -- to point out corruption when they see it
The cognitive dissonance in America today is staggering.
Half the country thinks it’s a moral imperative to defend the freedom of Ukrainians, yet actively ignores the suppression of freedom in their own country. Even as Americans are spied on by their government and routinely denied their right to free speech, there’s no outrage from people who are willing to pay $7 for gas to protect democracy 6,000 miles away.
It's a profound disconnect that's deeply disturbing, but also completely understandable. Feckless politicians and opportunistic media have spent years stoking fear and anger in Americans, convincing each side to loathe the “other.” They've distorted our perception of people who don’t think or vote the way we do and conditioned us to see them as monsters who must be slayed. When people are constantly triggered by hate and fear, they tend to think emotionally, not rationally. And when people are overtaken by emotion, it's difficult for them to see hypocrisy that’s staring them in the face.
If everything you’ve read tells you Donald Trump is an existential threat, you’ll spend years accusing him of colluding with Russians and delegitimizing his election — but you'll think it's a crime for anyone to question how his successor was elected. If you believe there's a pandemic of white supremacy, you won't care if months-long protests cause multiple deaths, destroy businesses, and inflame the population— but you'll think people who protest the government and occupy the Capitol for hours, without taking a single life, have destabilized the country.
If you've been conditioned to hate, you won't see that these situations are really just two sides of the same coin. The hypocrisy will evade you.
To be clear, I don’t blame anyone for falling into this trap. If you’re convinced someone is evil or dangerous, you’ll resort to desperate measures to destroy them. You might even be willing to cut corners in a democracy and consent to things you might otherwise be ashamed of because you honestly believe the fate of the country hangs in the balance. You might, for example, think it’s okay to put a pin in the First Amendment, just for a little while, to punish the monsters and contain them. It becomes a “If you had the chance to kill Hitler in the crib, would you grab a knife and off the little bugger?” kind of dilemma. I get it.
But what if the people who convinced you to poke holes in democracy — for the sake of punishing the monsters — have been less than forthright with you? Do you wake up and realize the danger of relying on sources with questionable credibility? Or do you double-down on the emotionally-driven narrative they’ve addicted you to, even if it threatens the core of the democracy you’re trying to protect?
This is where we find ourselves at now.
For the past four years, the media have gone to great lengths to convince us that they have a monopoly on truth and that everything else is disinformation (mostly dispensed by Russians). Legacy media have shamed and crucified people who dared to question their version of the facts, and Big Tech has suspended, banned and otherwise silenced those who deviate from The Narrative. Yet while all this has happened, we’ve been getting inklings that these truth tellers are far from infallible.
Throughout his presidency, we were told that Trump colluded with Russians to win the 2016 election. Anyone who begged to differ with The Narrative was guilty of spreading disinformation. Yet after a lengthy and expensive investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Trump actually conspired with Russians. In fact, last year we even learned a key informant lied to the FBI to make the case for collusion.
In 2020, fact checkers debunked claims that New York had inflated the number of COVID hospitalizations. Yet in January, Governor Kathy Hochul disclosed that as many as 50% of the state’s COVID patients were likely admitted for reasons unrelated to the virus.
But it's not just COVID hospitalizations. As recently as three months ago, fact checkers also debunked claims that COVID deaths in the U.S. had been exaggerated by counting those who died with, and not because of, the virus. Yesterday, however, the CDC announced it was reducing the total number of deaths by 70,000 due to a "coding logic error" that was "accidentally counting deaths that were not COVID-19-related." (One can only wonder how systemic this computer “glitch” is and what the CDC will uncover in the future).
The list goes on.
At this point, sensible and intelligent people can see that relying on these trusted sources to tell us what is “disinformation” and what is “real” information is dicey, at best. The problem in America now — and it’s a HUGE problem — is that we’re in seriously short supply of sensible and intelligent people. The media have done such a bang-up job inflaming, manipulating, and flat out terrifying millions of Americans that they're not just ignoring hypocrisy; they can’t even acknowledge when they’ve been lied to. It’s not a case of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” What we’re dealing with now is “Fool me again and again, and that’s just fine by me.”
Sensible and intelligent folk have found this head-in-the-sand denial puzzling and mildly frustrating. We often scratch our heads and wonder why anyone would continue to trust people with such shoddy credibility. If you caught your wife cheating six times, would you trust her when she denies it the seventh time, even after you saw her car parked at an out-of-the-way motel at 2 A.M.? Probably not. And yet this is how millions of Americans treat the media and government that curate “facts” for us: they keep driving by the motel and seeing the car, but they continue to believe their spouse is faithful. It’s epic, epic denial.
But now the denial is getting scary. And extremely dangerous. Two recent developments highlight the threat this denial now poses to our ability to maintain the "free" society we like to believe we still have.
Two days ago, we learned the infamous Hunter Biden laptop — the one containing incriminating emails of his dealings with Ukraine, China and other governments, the device we were assured was fake — is, in fact, quite authentic. Keep in mind that three weeks before the 2020 election, The New York Post was vilified for breaking this "fishy" story, and former intelligence officials insisted it was Russian disinformation of the highest order. Twitter even suspended the Post’s account and demanded that it retract the piece. Anyone who shared the story was put down like a rabid dog.
But now we know the truth. Now we know the people we're supposed to trust slandered responsible journalists for uncovering facts that threatened Biden's campaign.
Think about what this means: we now have solid evidence that the president’s son traded his father’s influence as currency to enrich their family to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Yet Americans weren’t supposed to be aware of this as they headed to the polls — and if they became aware and tried to share this information, they were shamed and silenced.
This isn’t supposed to happen in a free country. This is something you’d expect to happen in, oh, maybe Russia — the tyrannical country that’s invading Ukraine. These are tactics you’d expect to see in a banana republic or within the lawless borders of a repressive Middle Eastern kingdom.
But it’s not happening in those far flung places; it’s happening in a country that millions of people believe is still a bastion of freedom and is capable of defending democracy abroad. It never occurs to them that a country that shames and silences people who expose bribery at the highest levels might not be best suited to “defend” democracy anywhere.
Now consider this: on February 7, the Department of Homeland Security quietly updated its summary of terrorist “threats” to include “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions.”
Again, think about what this means: if you were one of many Americans who suspected the Hunter Biden laptop story wasn’t disinformation, might it have created doubt in your mind about the integrity of the office of vice president? If Hunter could leverage his father’s role as a public servant to reap millions from the country that’s systematically displacing the U.S. as a global leader and the country the U.S. is hell bent on protecting at all costs (even if it means Americans can’t afford to commute to work), might you start to wonder just how deeply flawed the innards of government are?
The implications are profoundly disturbing. They might even have prompted you to question your trust in the U.S. government on a much deeper level. You might have been so disturbed that you were tempted to share your suspicions and your waning trust with others.
But if you did this a week ago, our government would deem you a terrorist.
Thankfully, no one who believed the Hunter Biden laptop story can be accused of being a terrorist now. Thankfully, we now have proof that the story wasn’t disinformation. But what if the truth had never come to light? How long would the creators of The Narrative have continued to spin their version of reality and persecute those who resisted it? More important, how many Americans will be courageous enough to doubt The Narrative in the future if they know they might be branded a terrorist?
If you believe Americans are entitled to at least as much freedom as Ukrainians, these questions should make you think long and hard. Because what’s at stake now transcends politics, emotions, and personality. It doesn’t matter if you think Biden is the next Winston Churchill and Vladimir Putin is the reincarnation of Hitler, whether you think Trump is America’s Second Coming and Volodymyr Zelensky is a third-rate actor giving the performance of his life.
What’s at stake now is the beating heart of America.
If people in a "free" country aren’t allowed to question the integrity of their leaders and their institutions, then what guarantees do we have that our country will, in fact, remain "free"?
If we can be prosecuted for spreading false narratives — even though the people we rely on to suss out facts often get them wrong — what makes America better than the tyrannical countries it demonizes?
When will we stop blindly trusting people who have misled us, again and again, and find the courage to suss out the truth ourselves?
What will it take to get America to think again?
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