One of the most unpleasant pre-election thoughts is just how much lying is going on during this election campaign. It's gotten to the point where one can't trust most of what one reads or hears about the candidates, the parties, and their positions on the issues.
I think it's true to say that most of the bias in evidence comes from the left wing: but it's not confined to them. The right can be just as biased, just as determined to 'skew' the facts to suit their positions.
Consider the following.
THE NEWS MEDIA: Commentators from across the political spectrum have commented on how biased the news media have become. Orson Scott Card, a Democrat who voted for Barack Obama in the North Carolina primaries, has written an excellent article titled 'Would The Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On The Lights?' An excerpt:
Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.
But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie -- that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad -- even bad weather -- on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.
If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth -- even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.
Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means. That's how trust is earned.
Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time -- and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.
Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter -- while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.
So I ask you now: Do you have any standards at all? Do you even know what honesty means?
Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?
Michael S. Malone, in an article titled 'Media's Presidential Bias And Decline', says this, amongst many other things (I recommend you read the whole article):
The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game -- with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates.
The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I've found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.
But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I've begun -- for the first time in my adult life -- to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was "a writer," because I couldn't bring myself to admit to a stranger that I'm a journalist.
PRESSURE AND LOBBYING GROUPS: These are as guilty of bias as the news media. A few examples (out of many I could cite):
American Hunters & Shooters Association: This organization was set up this year by anti-gun, pro-gun-ban lobbyists to counteract the NRA (see below) and provide a 'false-flag' endorsement to anti-gun politicians. Gun Law News has done a good job of uncovering its members and those it supports.
Factcheck.org: This organization claims to check politicians' claims against the 'facts' and correct any errors. Unfortunately, it's funded by the Annenberg Foundation, a notoriously progressive and left-wing organization: so it should come as no surprise that Factcheck's 'checks' are depressingly predictable - pro left-wing politicians, anti right-wing politicians.
National Rifle Association: This purportedly right-wing organization, demonized by the Left for many years, does indeed support the right to keep and bear arms, and is opposed to those politicians and parties who oppose this right. However, it's not above assigning good ratings to politicians whose records don't stand up to pro-gun-rights scrutiny, and is notorious for trying to 'hijack' others' efforts (for example, the recent District of Columbia vs. Heller court case) and take all the credit for them.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND POLITICIANS: These are the liars supreme. They're great at making promises, or passing laws to hand out largesse to the groups whose support they hope to win: but they're suddenly vague to the point of catatonic idiocy when pressed to explain who's going to pay for their ideas, or where the money's to be found. A couple of examples:
Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security: The silence on the cost of these programs from the candidates has been deafening. A recent article pointed out:
Peter Orszag is no conservative ideologue. The head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was a scholar at the liberal Brookings Institution before being picked for his current position by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Yet, Mr. Orszag recently warned that the rising cost of federal entitlement programs, particularly Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, poses a grave threat to America's economic future.
According to Mr. Orszag, without dramatic reform, the cost of those three programs alone will rise from 18 percent of GDP today to 28 percent by the middle of this century and as much as 35 percent soon thereafter.
That means that just three federal government programs will be consuming between a quarter and a third of everything this country produces.
Paying for those programs would require raising both the corporate tax rate and top income tax rate from their current 35 percent to 88 percent, the current 25 percent tax rate for middle-income workers to 63 percent, and the 10 percent tax bracket for low-income workers to 25 percent. The impact on workers, businesses and the economy at large would be catastrophic.
Yet, discussion of entitlement reform has been conspicuously absent in the presidential campaign so far.
Health Care Reform: There's been much talk of 'single-payer plans' and 'health care for all Americans'. The fact that this will cost an astronomical amount, and there's no money available to pay for it, has gone conveniently unmentioned - as have the catastrophic problems affecting socialized medicine in almost all countries that have adopted it. As USA Today points out in an opinion piece:
To hear the ads approved by John McCain and Barack Obama, each other's health care plans would unleash the bubonic plague on America. Or, if not that, they would inflict some form of dreaded financial malady on an already suffering populace.
Obama asserts that McCain's plan would impose crushing taxes on the middle class and drain Medicare. McCain claims Obama's would involve socialized medicine managed by bureaucrats that would lead to economic ruin.
In truth, their attacks are loaded with hyperbole and falsehoods . . . Neither of the starkly different plans is as bad as the attack ads make it out to be, nor as good as its authors contend. While both include worthy ideas, they read too much like summations of party orthodoxy. What's needed is some bipartisan mixing and matching.
Unfortunately, such bipartisanship is sadly lacking.
Immigration Reform: All too often, those campaigning about this issue are falsifying the truth, and making their positions out to be something other than what they are. The classic example in this election cycle is the so-called 'Stop Illegal Hiring Act', Proposition 202 on the Arizona ballot. It claims to be what its title says, but in fact it's the exact opposite! It's funded and supported by those wanting to overturn a referendum-endorsed tightening-up of Arizona's laws against illegal immigration. The whole thing is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. For more, see what Numbers USA has to say about this fraud. (And, yes, in the interests of full disclosure, Numbers USA is opposed to illegal immigration - as am I.)
BLOGS: Oddly enough, blogs are one of the best sources of information about the true facts of any situation - if, and only if, you read carefully and with understanding. Most blogs will make the positions of their authors clear, and you can thus read what they write with allowance for their built-in bias. On the left, we have sources such as the Huffington Post and Daily Kos. On the right, we have PowerLine and Right Wing News. There are individual commentators or bloggers or forums, such as Ann Coulter, Michele Malkin, Camille Paglia and the members of the Democratic Underground forum.
What am I driving at by listing the shortcomings of these sources? It's simply this:
If you want to make an informed choice when you vote, you can't rely on any one source to tell you the truth. You have to take the time and trouble to discover the truth for yourself.
Read widely, assess the perspective of the various commentators and sources, and decide for yourself which can be trusted. When you've done that, you can decide which candidate or party is most closely aligned with the values you hold dear. If none of them are close, pick the one that's closest. It's no good not voting because you can't find someone who meets every one of your requirements. Sometimes you have to settle for the lesser of two (or more) evils.
If you don't take the trouble to research the issues for yourself, and rely on what you're spoon-fed by the media and other pressure groups, you'll have only yourself to blame when you're blindsided by the consequences.