Oh, how I wanted to move on from fake news, hyperpartisanship and dubious sources. Alas, apparently that’s not to be.
A letter from Jerome Tidmore recently published on the Voices page stirred up a little unrest among a few who don’t believe any of Donald Trump’s supporters have made death threats, just as a column I did a few weeks back, which mentioned hijabs being torn off Muslim women’s heads, had a few claiming it was a hoax.
Threats are not ‘great’
Trump supporters need to stop sending out death threats when they’re displeased with someone not attuned to their wavelengths.
Based upon how Trump supporters react when someone criticizes their man, are we to assume and fear that “death threats” are a part of making America great again?
These screwballs making death threats are some of the real monsters in our political swamp. They are asinine and dangerous–an evil combination that too many cultures have been infected with. It’s a real shame that such vile and venomous vipers have attacked our liberties and freedoms.
Our forefathers had words for such worms: Do not tread on me!
To be clear, both of these things—death threats and assaults on Muslim women—have happened, and have been reported by national media. There have also been reported death threats from supporters of Hillary Clinton, so hate and stupidity have no partisan lines.
True, there are hoaxes in some of the reports out there, but those are generally the exception rather than the rule, despite what many partisans would like you to believe.
Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of Snopes, told the New Statesman that hoaxes tend to fall apart as soon as they’re scrutinized. “They usually make it easy because they can’t handle the pressure and feel guilty so come out and recant.”
Like the Louisiana student who admitted to police early in the investigation that she made up the attack in which she said she was robbed and her hijab was torn off. Other attacks, though, have proven real, like the one in which a man pleaded guilty and was fined after removing a woman’s hijab on an airplane.
Binkowski (great name, by the way) also recommended the same thing I do: “Everyone should read from a variety of sources, even ones you don’t agree with. A lot of people yell at us because they think we are trying to be the be-all and end-all, but we just want to be the starting point.”
So, yeah, if you’re getting the bulk of your news from right-wing sources, you might think that most of the stories about death threats and attacks by Trump supporters are bull (because people who follow him would never do anything like … oh, yeah … never mind), just as if you stick to left-wing sources, you might believe some of the more outlandish stories about Trump (again, he didn’t tell People he’d run as a Republican because they’re more easily fooled). Feeding confirmation bias is no way to stay informed. Seek out news from across the spectrum; to do otherwise is to wallow willingly in misinformation.
And no, unfortunately, we at the paper can’t get in every bit of news that happens every single day, so scattered reports might not make it in; that’s when you check national-circulation newspapers, news magazines and the like. Don’t like the New York Times or Washington Post (or only go there to hate-read and troll the comment boards … yeah, we know who you are) because you think they’re too danged liberal? Check publications like The Hill or Fortune, both of which are right-leaning and have covered reports of death threats from Trump supporters before and after the election (some to Republican officials) and death threats from Hillary’s backers. If you’re only seeing reports of one side making threats, you’re not seeing the whole picture.
It doesn’t help matters when you have a president-elect who can’t let any perceived slight go and feels no compunctions about attacking private citizens on Twitter, then disavowing or simply ignoring resulting threats to those citizens because, clearly, they’re just partisan fantasies. Tell that to people like teenager Lauren Batchelder, who reported death and rape threats after Trump attacked her on Twitter. Batchelder, who told Trump at an October 2015 No Labels event that she didn’t believe he was a friend to women, has dealt with a year of abuse, only opening up about it this month. (How dare a private citizen challenge a candidate for the highest office in the U.S. on his views!!!!)
Yup, it’s lots of fun being an ordinary person who challenges Trump and his flying-monkey army of trolls (sorry about the insult, flying monkeys). And more of this seems likely. Yea.
Traditional media made a lot of mistakes this past election season, especially by not taking Trump seriously (literally, yes, which we should have, but seriously, no). However, many of us as news consumers also failed by seeking out only that with which we agreed and dismissing anything we didn’t, as well as passing along things before we checked their veracity.
As Jan. 20 and a new presidential era approaches, a few reminders are needed.
♠ Dissent is a fact of life in free nations, regardless of who the president is. It’s sorta what that First Amendment thing is about. While some may not agree with a point of view, it doesn’t mean they’re traitorous and hate their country. Just as Bob is free to trumpet his love for all things Trump, Sue is free to not hold Trump in such esteem, or to speculate on what things might happen under his reign, as long as she doesn’t libel someone, or physically hurt or threaten anyone. And no, Sue doesn’t have to keep her mouth shut any more than Bob did under Obama. Really.
♠ The media covers news, and a president-elect who communicates primarily through Twitter, often to attack those he feels slighted him, is news, believe it or not. On Jan. 20, Trump’s voice will be seen as that of the nation, so that little Twitter tiff he had with such-and-such world leader might just turn into something that could affect all of us. Pointing that out is not disloyal to the nation and, again, is protected speech. And at least for now, we don’t have state-owned media in the U.S., so the government does not tell us what to write, and thank God for that.
♠ “Fake news” is just that—made from whole cloth; it doesn’t mean just anything you loathe. (So you don’t like those reports on things Trump has said, often accompanied by full transcripts? They must be fake! Keep telling yourself that.) When something is reported without evidence, it should be questioned. Like in a criminal court, the burden of proof lies with the people presenting the charges. With a news story, it’s the media’s job to present the case that something happened, not the readers’ to prove that it didn’t. If you don’t like a story, it doesn’t mean it’s a lie, but if it’s fake, it is a lie. Pizzagate and others—unsupported lies. Trump not paying contractors? True, as the Wall Street Journal (hardly a liberal source) found in court documents and talking to Trump and contractors and suppliers he did business with.
Of course, that must be a lie too.
You’re free to believe what you want, and free to read what you want. Others, though, are just as free to call you on it when what you believe and trumpet is false—and I have a feeling that’s going to be happening a lot more now.
Grown-ups can take it … or at least they should be able to. Tantrums are not attractive, especially when you’re an adult.
But I guess, if you must throw a tantrum, you can always send us a letter if you’re an Arkansas resident. Just make sure that any statements of fact are actually factual and that the letter is suitable for publication in a family newspaper (no obscenity or anything inappropriate for the breakfast table). Letters that are pithy and funny are especially appreciated, as are those that include references for statements of fact (’cause, remember, I’m a one-woman show now), and that keep it under 250-300 words. Email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org, or submit them to our form at http://www.arkansasonline.com/contact/voicesform.
I’ve tried drafting the furry one into the cause, but he wants nothing to do with other people’s opinions unless they’re adoring of him. Why does that seem familiar?