A Distinct Dereliction of Duty

From politicians and journalists alike, the only thing that’s going to calm me down is truth being told and reported

By Dave Skinner

I’ve been doing a slow boil the last couple of weeks, and I still don’t know if I’m about to boil over, catch fire, or simmer down. I’m referring, of course, to the election, the “Stop the Steal” Trump rally, the so-called “insurrection” on Capitol Hill, and the intertwined, imbecilic responses of both Congress and the national news media in the aftermath.

Frankly, I didn’t expect the “professionals” to step up at this terrible time, and it so happens a lot of others have had their expectations lowered over time until, now, expectations can’t go any lower.

The Gallup firm has been broadly tracking public trust, or “confidence in institutions,” each year since 1993. In almost all categories except the military, public confidence has declined steadily, with the overall decline being self-inflicted, what writer Yuval Levin recently called a “distinct kind of institutional dereliction.” Care to guess which institutions citizens regard as most derelict? You’re right …

Gallup presents percentages of respondents expressing a “great deal/quite a lot” of confidence in each social sector. Thanks to COVID and its devastation, our small business sector scored 75%, beating our armed forces. Big business? Nineteen percent, no surprise. Health care got a 13% boost, up to 51% for 2020. Cops, who have been flogged over the past year, still bring home 48%. The presidency in 2020? Thirty-nine percent.

In journalism, newspapers scored 24% great/quite. But newspapers also scored 39 little/none, with TV news 18 against 49, which in turn barely surpasses “Internet” news at 16 against 47. The institution enjoying the least public confidence? Congress, of course, with just 13% great/quite against 45% of respondents who expressed their confidence as “very little/none.”

Ironic, isn’t it? Both the institution that makes the rules all the others operate under, and the one supposed to watchdog the rulemakers, enjoy the least amount of public trust? And all that mighty “journalist” and prospective Jeopardy hostess Katie Couric can think to ask is, “How are we going to really, almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump?”

Wow, I can’t wait until that’s matched to a Jeopardy answer.

It’s been said that how you look at the world depends on where you grew up. I spent a good part of my growing-up time on various U.S. Air Force bases during the warmer days of the Cold War, fully hoping someday I’d be in uniform defending freedom, too. Therefore, studying America’s worst enemies, not just Communists but also Nazis, was a given.

Indubitably, both epitomize murderous savagery, evil beyond comprehension. But it’s equally important to understand that before either could murder millions, both the Nazis and Communists set the ground for their human slaughters by first butchering truth.

The Soviets earned infamy worldwide for not just brazenly editing and deleting news (Pravda, my eye) that conflicted with the Communist Party’s preferred dialectic narrative (something all totalitarian regimes inflict on their victims), but editing and deleting history itself.

This practice of deletion, or deplatforming if you will, while crude compared to today’s “spin,” was all-pervasive, and tragically effective. After the Soviets lost power in the 1990s, I remember getting my hands on a “before and after” portfolio of doctored “official” images, showing disappeared ministers. Then you saw them, now you don’t, comrades. Magic!

Were there any journalists around with the guts to ask the whereabouts of Minister Smithsky (or von Schmidt)? Not for very long, with the KGB (or Gestapo) being the official answer guys. And how much confidence did good Germans or Russians have in their media, their government? I mean, who really burned the Reichstag? I read the book — here’s the Wikipedia link, which should ring a few of your bells, especially in the context of current events — and the narrative you’ve gotten so far.

So, with the big lies coming unabated, from politicians and journalists alike, the only thing that’s going to calm me down is truth being told and reported, while the truth can still matter. Please: Who, what, when, where and why?

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