Thursday, February 26, 2015

Motivate Facts

ABC airs a Canadian series “Motive” during the summer. “A feisty Vancouver homicide detective tracks down the most cunning of killers by trying to figure out the motive to the crime” reads the promo for the show. The third season has begun airing up north and is due to hit the Lower 48 this summer. It’s an interesting twist on the procedural where the who-dunnit is determined by the why-dunnit. The old “just the facts ma’am” don’t apply's getting to a conclusion via the emotion. It’s not too dissimilar from what American politics has become – where the motive has trumped facts.

Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani made international headlines on Feb. 18 2015 when he said that President Obama “doesn’t love America.” It is an asinine assertion and it has no place in the serious discourse of American public policy. As a freedom loving zealot I welcome the former mayor’s right to say stupid things. As a responsible citizen I am embarrassed that his remarks have (a) been taken seriously and (b) been widely disseminated and (c) become part of a ‘dialogue’ about the motives of the 44th President. I hesitated to perpetuate the nonsense by commenting on it, but it has taken on a life of its own, become the subject of polls and is actually being seriously discussed. Giulianai is a failed Presidential candidate who is addicted to the tabloid spotlight and he said something hugely provocative and the media ate it up, giving him a platform to reinforce his opinions. This is an individual who has no official role in any government today and is not likely to have one in the near future. The comments, however, feed into the salacious side of journalism and were outrageous enough to get passionate responses.

Donald Trump pops up in the news regularly with various claims and implications. Journalists give him visibility because he generates controversy and viewership. His latest headline came when he expressed his upset that “Mexico…walk[ed] away with all the gold” at the Oscars (with the win by director Alejandro Iñárritu’s “Birdman.”) Aside from the factual inaccuracy in his statement – the film is an American film – why on earth is a failed businessman with a crappy reality show opining on anything? While he has the right to say whatever he likes – and often does - why is he given a platform in national media as if he’s somebody who should be listened to?

Outrageous statements that are not based in facts are not the sole dominion of one political perspective. Al Sharpton has built a career – and indeed a movement – on racially tinged and factually inaccurate events. Nearly 2 years ago the New American published a comprehensive analysis on how Sharpton has spent 25 years lying and manipulating the truth. Sharpton himself doesn’t disagree with the conclusion as quoted in the article.

Journalist Brian Williams and Commentator Bill Riley are currently the subject of various investigations of fabrications that they told while reporting stories.

The Iraq War after the events of 9/11/2001 began as a result of inaccurate information. Lots of fingers have pointed at lots of people. The fact is that war was started with a premise that was wrong. The motive? Does it matter? The fact should be disturbing enough.

George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers is also famous for his honesty. Perhaps the best known story about Washington's childhood is that he chopped down his father's favorite cherry tree and admitted the deed when questioned: "I can't tell a lie, Pa." Too bad that that the man's character didn't rub off on the city named for him. 

It took from Sept. 5, 1774 until March 4, 1789 to draft and ratify the U.S. Constitution…nearly 15 years along with warfare and infighting along the way. The United States can survive division and discontent. In fact, it thrives - it's the basis of Jeffersonian Democracy. In today's media environment would the issues that were being thrashed out in developing the Constitution been able to be looked at without assessing the motive behind somebody's position? No - and that's the issue. It doesn't matter if Obama loves America or not - challenge his policy, but don't challenge the man. There are few policies that President Obama has that I support or endorse, but I have no doubt that he loves the country as much as I do.  

It’s time to get back to some basics, focus on facts and have those front and center while the theorizing of the why can be relegated to rooms with couches and professionals.

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