For me, this story starts out back during the 2002 coup attempt on Hugo Chavez. I was driving and I turned on the radio. I heard the former US Ambassador to Venezuela who had been appointed by Bush Senior saying, "and Chavez is a bad guy and really I know the current administration must be glad about this because the US wasn't involved in this coup at all." Immediately a gasp escaped me as I thought, "Oh good lord, we are involved in this."
Call it intellectual arrogance, but I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know if Chavez really was a bad guy. I had heard that all the common people in Venezuela carried a copy of the constitution on their persons and that they all debated what it meant. It sounded like they were engaged and empowered and I loved that. I heard all the statespeople talking about what a tyrant Chavez was and it sounded like ruling class protectionism to me. But I wanted to know.
That desire took me on a months long journey through so many different news sources that I couldn't possibly recreate the paths I took. I never did get a solid understanding of Chavez. But I learned two things. First, my suspicions that we were involved were probably correct. And two, you can learn a lot about what is really going on if you have way too much time on your hands and solid intellectual curiosity. By the time W. started the disinformation campaign to get us into the Iraq war, I felt very confident in my ability to parse out the lies from the truth. It was shocking to discover that my fellow citizens did not care about whether they were being lied to or not, but that is a different story than I am telling now. Open source intelligence gathering is hardly a secret, but I guess what I'm saying is that lots of people don't have the time to develop an understanding of it's value.
The latest thing I gleaned from the news was in an NPR Morning Edition piece a few days ago about the large bust of gang members in New York state. Here's the quote that I can't stop thinking about:
DISTRICT ATTORNEY FRANK PHILLIPS: These aren't the drug-addicted street urchins that are being swept up there for statistical purposes. These are the real movers and shakers behind the level of violence that's being committed upon our citizens throughout the county.Do you see that? It's an admission by an elected official that there are announced criminal raids that are used as window dressing. Please tell me that upsets you as much as it upsets me.
When I talk to "conservatives"*, the number one thing I hear from them is that they don't trust our government. What I think when I hear that is that they have listened to the propaganda that Gingrich and his ilk have been flooding us with for the past 30 years. But there is a solution to that distrust and it is to pay attention to what you hear in the news and then triangulate the hell out of it. Go ahead and listen to Fox News but then if you really feel as smart as your arrogant attitude indicates, hit 12 other sources and see if they were lying or not. It doesn't take that long before you don't have to depend on trust any more. You start to learn what fits into what you already know, and what doesn't.
I wish I knew a way to make this sexy for our populace. This would be a better place to live if we were better informed and it isn't that difficult to learn how to inform yourself, even in the current environment.
*Sorry about the scare quotes. But it's difficult for me to see the intellectual integrity in these people which would allow me to write that word without them.