Thinking through issues is a tricky thing to do. There’s so much misinformation out there. It was easier when we were kids. We’d go to a library and talk with librarians about reliable sources and learned how to identify abstracts to help us in our search for understanding. Nowadays, students refer to the Internet because it’s quick and easy and right at their fingertips. My school doesn’t even have a librarian.
Anybody with a computer can put out there whatever they want the world to believe. Any louse with an agenda and money to be made can make any statement he wants – “let the buyer beware” is a forgotten phrase. Then we wonder why our discourse is so anemic. Guys like Alex Jones, and his infamous radio show Infowars, who plants seeds of doubt as to the whether the Sandy Hook massacre ever took place is a case in point.
Jones was recently prosecuted by the families of children whose lives were lost at the Elementary School in Connecticut. Jones claimed that the massacre that took place on December 14th, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut was a “giant hoax.” He went further with his claims stating that the deaths never happened and it was a staged event and the families were “crisis actors.” The families sued for defamation. On November 15th, 2021, he lost the case and was liable for damages.
The judge asked for financial records of Infowars in order to assess if Jones was profiting from his statements. As was reported by New York University’s First Amendment Watch, Judge Barbara Bellis admonished Jones’ attorneys “for providing only “sanitized, inaccurate” financial records and showed “callous disregard” for her repeated rulings to provide complete analytics data.” One can only imagine why this course of action was taken by Jones’ lawyers.
This inability to decipher fact from fiction is disturbing. This in and of itself leads to discourse being misguided and often times one sided. We’re not even reading the same material anymore.
I was doing some research for a talk I’m giving. I found an interesting article, and the more I was digging, the less confident I was the information was correct.
Oh, “what a tangled web we weave.” I’m teaching my students to draw “relationship maps.” Much like the web of life, it helps them see how interconnected we are as a society. One social structure impacts another. Students pick an issue like poverty or racism, and they determine how that issue impacts particular structures and how it affects the rest of society. Students see how injustice can snowball into more injustices in numerous ways.
It’s an activity that forces me to rethink how important justice is to our society. The laws we create and the necessity for carrying out those laws is a sacred act. Justice is a cardinal virtue and there’s a reason for this. No justice, troubled society.
One of the greatest lessons I learned working at a newspaper came from journalist Bill Miller. He taught me an old journalist maxim, “If you want to know the truth, follow the money.” That’s always stayed with me. I apply this healthy skepticism to most issues and follow the trail of money to see when people might make the claims they do.
Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the power of corporations and waged boycotts for those who supported segregation in the 60s. MLK was famous for helping us to see that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Such research and boycotts led to significant change with the drafting of the Civil Right Bill of 64 and won King the Noble Peace Prize.
I’d like to think that the injustices that can easily snowball into greater injustices can be corrected by a conscientious individual who recognizes the power of getting at the heart of an issue. When we see the root causes, it’s easier to prevent the injustice. The problem is the willingness of active participants and their willingness to change. Money corrupts, and when someone has tasted the riches of a money, there is an unwillingness to change.
There is hope. Guys like Dr. Paul Farmer who was made famous by the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” lead the way. The Harvard graduate medical doctor founded “Doctors without Borders, and addressed the global health crisis in developing nations. Farmer worked on global health initiatives and delivering better care to the poorest among us through the company he founded “Partners in Health.”
Farmer died in Rwanda on February 21, 2022. He was a man who stood for something.
In the words of Robert Kennedy, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Guys like Farmer are making the “ripples of hope” we need in the world.