Sift­ing through minu­tiae for the truth

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

Who do you trust, even if you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion? I’m in the news busi­ness full time, and I don’t al­ways know what’s true and what’s hype.

I worry about for­get­ting. And no, not the or­di­nary “I should re­mem­ber that guy’s name” kind of thing, though it is some­thing I’m fa­mil­iar with.

No, I’m afraid that politi­cians have learned that we’re not that care­ful about re­mem­ber­ing what we’ve heard, and that, by un­der­min­ing any­one who keeps track, they can sim­ply re­write his­tory to meet their own ends.

It’s been al­most mas­ter­ful: by con­stantly ques­tion­ing the me­dia that used to be the an­chor of peo­ple’s un­der­stand­ing of is­sues, cer­tain politi­cians and me­dia out­lets have cre­ated a world where it’s hard to know what’s true, and where you can dis­count some­one else’s opin­ion by merely call­ing them out as fake.

Maybe those who have de­vel­oped and de­liv­ered that strat­egy cot­toned on to the idea that, in a rel­a­tively com­fort­able democ­racy where close to half the pop­u­la­tion can’t even be both­ered to vote, few peo­ple are pay­ing close enough at­ten­tion to catch out­right liars. I un­der­stand, to a point. Ev­ery­thing’s be­come such a sideshow car­ni­val, it’s hard to keep track. To­day’s bizarre claim about the right is over­taken with the lat­est bizarre claim about the right. Sto­ries on the In­ter­net can change with­out so much as a hint that sec­tions have been added or elim­i­nated.

Checks and bal­ances ex­ist when there’s some kind of con­ti­nu­ity — and there isn’t con­ti­nu­ity right now. There’s un­end­ing plethora of sources and up­dates, and there’s the weak­en­ing, cash-strapped tra­di­tional me­dia it­self.

There are clear dan­gers here, and not just to jour­nal­ists’ jobs. (By the way, I don’t know what my par­tic­u­lar busi­ness has done to en­gen­der such ha­tred. I am as­tounded by the num­ber of times a week some­one writes to tell me they can’t wait un­til I’m out of a job.)

But if we reach a point where any­thing true can be dis­counted, and any­thing false can be an­nounced as true, where do we go to en­sure that we’re mak­ing the best de­ci­sions on ev­ery­thing from vot­ing to re­tire­ment sav­ings to whether our school sys­tem is work­ing?

The fact is that more sim­ply is not bet­ter, just be­cause of the crush­ing weight of it.

By 11 a.m. Mon­day, I had been del­uged by in­for­ma­tion on Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s trip to Wash­ing­ton: ev­ery­thing from the plane be­ing late, the plane be­ing de-iced, the air­port where the plane was land­ing be­ing changed, right down to a neck­tie choice made by a Trudeau staffer and the fact that a ceil­ing panel had come loose on the plane dur­ing a bumpy land­ing. There were snaps of Canada geese in a field, of trav­el­ling in the mo­tor­cade, of a beer truck. Heck, there was even video of Trudeau get­ting off the plane and wav­ing — why? And to who? Do I need to know any of that, and how much of my head is now crammed with use­less data?

Plenty of chaff, not much wheat. And I don’t blame any­one for get­ting lost in that, or get­ting lost in any of the other con­flict­ing sto­ries.

I agree: we’re part of the prob­lem, de­liv­er­ing too much that doesn’t mat­ter, but at the same time, if you lis­ten to a politi­cian and think they’re stretch­ing the truth, re­mem­ber that you have tools like never be­fore to go back in time and see what was ac­tu­ally said. The only thing you have to do is to have the civic energy to bother. The tools that we all have at our fin­ger­tips are star­tlingly pow­er­ful.

Some­times, I for­get a face. But you know what? I never for­get some­one who lies to me.

Nor should you.

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