By Fr. Glenn Jones
Well, well, well … lookie here. President Trump is coming to town on the 16th. Well … to little ol’ New Mexico anyway. To the cynical observer that’ll be of endless entertainment value in the media for a week or two at least: the love pieces, the hate pieces, the “wish he’d go away!” pieces. Many of the state’s media moguls will be criticized for even mentioning the presence of “he who must not be named”, thereby accused of “promoting” him. But … would it be responsible journalism to neglect one of the biggest stories around, whether one is happy with it or not? … ignoring the “elephant (Rep.) in the room” (har, har).
Whatever your opinion of Mr. Trump, you can’t deny that he’s proven to be one of the more polarizing figures of modern times … or maybe of any time; the nation is pretty much split in half politics-wise (as it has been for some time, if not always). Yet, like the old iron-filings-on-the-bar-magnet school experiment, everyone seems to be migrating toward the poles, not infrequently having intractably inflexible opinions. But remember something about “pole-cats” (a.k.a., “skunks”): they don’t smell very good, and can be a bit repulsive … except to their own “species”. At least when you poke a skunk it just sprays you with a fetid fluid that eventually washes or wears off. But a political pole-cat may spray with the more odious and long-lasting stench of hatred, with which the recipient might be permeated forever and respond in kind. And so … the poles become a little more crowded.
Recently the realization of slanted and/or censored news coverage is becoming ever more prevalent—so much so that there are now congressional hearings over the issue. Now we all love stories affirming our own opinions, and it’s a simple matter to find some media outlet that accommodates that. But … is it truth? If not, what’s the point except to enrich a falsifier with more click-bait $$$ and to help us live in fantasyland? After all, would you willingly make a financial decision based on erroneous data? Then why in the world accept erroneous information about any subject—especially information concerning politics and future governance?
We know that, as even in high school science classes, no data are totally free from bias; there’s always some inherent slanting of results either by omission or commission. But heinous is intentional bias or even fraudulent manipulation, negating the dependability of any result or output. To build upon such results is foolish and, indeed, potentially catastrophic, and so a scientist who falsifies data is thenceforth ostracized and distrusted. “Oh, the strength of that steel is not X, but the much stronger Y; go ahead and build your bridge with it.” “That medicine doesn’t really have adverse side effects.”
In the realm of public policy (and in all things, really), it is just as vital to judge with as objective eye as possible. Deceit—whether self-deceit or otherwise—leads to slanted and, as so many nations have suffered in the world, catastrophic results. Propaganda machines are, by design, often deceitful and deception-cultivating in order to bring about a desired result—one not necessarily with the best effect upon society in mind.
And thus we come to that phrase of Jesus, which in one form or other emblazons countless universities and courthouses throughout our nation and the world: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) It is only truth which provides real freedom to societies, for in truth there is the ability to make valid judgments … to discover what really works, what really IS. We might alter Jesus’ phrase a bit and discover it absurdly faulty in the extreme: “You shall hear deceit, and deceit will make you free.” Who would believe that? Who would accept that? The negative of Jesus’ statement might rather be: “If you hear (and follow) deceit, deceit will eliminate your freedom.”
Media, then, have that particular responsibility, purpose and duty to be as truthful, forthright and complete as they can possibly be, for only in that way do they fulfill their role as defenders of societal liberty.
Yet, on the personal level, our own adherence to truth is just as important, if not as far-reaching—not only speaking truth, but researching to discover truth so as to make actually knowledgeable (and hopefully good) judgments in our lives—each life affecting the lives of so many others. Even individual deception is, by design, seeking a limitation of freedom by warping the other’s perceptions and his development of informed judgment and actions. And, what do we call the limitation of freedom? “Slavery” ring a bell? … even if enslaving the other to our own will.
It is simply wisdom to always seek, speak and accept truth. It is only the Good to seek, speak and accept—and act upon—truth. So let our motto be from those words of St. Paul: “…we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” (2 Corinthians 13:8)
Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.