Jim Crawford: Misinformation, and the fight for a better America

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2022

There was a time when we Americans seemed to be friendlier, more tolerant of each other and a lot less violent in our use of language.

Sure, our politics included considerable namecalling, and some folks cheated on their taxes and others tried to cheat anyone they could in any way they could. But was it really a gentler time, or do we just desperately want to remember a simpler America, when the trains ran on time and parents trusted the teachers and disciplined the kids — and not the other way around?

The trouble with those comparisons, though often overlooked, that we once ignored real problems while they festered. Mayberry RFD looks idyllic in retrospect, and for that reason remains one of the few 1960s shows still aired on TV.

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But were African Americans the victims of racial inequality in 1960? Yes, so much so that their peaceful fight for freedom was essential for the growth of freedom for all Americans.

There was no Environmental Protection Agency in Mayberry, but there were crops sprayed with dangerous pesticides and industries polluting our rivers and streams free of correction.

There was no credit card debt, but there were no credit cards. There was addiction to alcohol and heroin, then and now. As a nation, we faced problems then and now, so why does it feel, somehow, different today?

The Internet has had more unintentional consequences than civilization improvements. The measure of news media by its accuracy has, as a result of the flow of misinformation and disinformation, made truth finding considerably harder than fiction finding.

A recent Letters to the Editor page in another newspaper offered a writer space to express their concern over the Biden administration selling land to the Chinese government near major airports. The author posited that those purchases, combined with Chinese soldiers crossing over our Southern border will result in the Chinese taking over our Air Force bases and controlling the skies over America.

As the author wrote, “This is not theory, it is really happening before our eyes.” The author went on to blame the Biden administration for allowing this transgression.

Maybe this seems possible to you, but one difference I suspect in Mayberry, is that this would not make a lot of sense in a world where any conspiracy theory finds an attentive audience.

The other distinction that may have merit as a difference between past versions of America and today would be the coarseness of our political language.

A local radio host here repeats that all Democrats are liars and to not care about America or Americans. People in his tribe, Republicans, are good folks, gentle in nature and kind in spirit. Other media speakers have used terms like “war,” or “enemies,” or “Attack Them” or “RINO hunts.”

These terms kindle violence among those who may take language in a literal sense. And those who offer such incendiary word violence may actually hope some take them in the literal sense.

Ultimately, we should vote against those who author terms of violence, for their rhetoric will certainly lead to violence. And we should consider reshaping the boundaries of free speech in the media where the truth often is offered no defense and the lies are granted sacred shelter.

Adapting to the times means facing the challenges that threaten democracy, and it is threatened today.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.