Tag Archives: conservative

Worldview: The word which has empowered propaganda machines of the left and right

Worldview (n.) – a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

hqdefault
Nothing truer than this.

Worldview is everything in political belief, whether or not we wish to admit it. What dictates beliefs from an ideological standpoint varies widely from person to person. The extremes of both sides of the ideological aisles often fail to see, or choose to be blind to, this fact. What is more bothersome is that many of the things which we hold as truths, as Obi-Wan Kenobi once observed with such eloquence, depends entirely on our point of view or, to use a more modern vernacular, our worldview.

This definitely affects how news and information is approached and received. The notion of “fake news” is not a new concept; President Theodore Roosevelt spoke of reporters who infiltrated sweatshops in America’s Northeast and Midwest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as “muckrakers.” To him, many of these reporters were simply attempting to sensationalize the conditions, such as those described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, in an attempt to advance an agenda. Granted, this was largely the case and did achieve historic changes which led to modern health and safety rules in the workplace, but Roosevelt and, more to the point, industrialists directly affected by the changes caused by said articles, regarded these journalists as self-serving do-gooders whose publishers where more concerned about selling newspapers than actually looking out for the national interest. It is very familiar song.

While the journalists of that time were unjustly regarded as parasites, today’s media has created much of its own perception issues, but those problems have also been exacerbated by the proliferation of the sources which cater to one particular worldview. Websites such as RedState, Huffington Post, NewsMax, and Mother Jones were all established with one purpose – activist journalism, which takes legitimate information and manipulates it to advance an agenda, be it conservative or liberal. These websites have become popular, and even trusted, because traditional legacy sources such as network news and periodicals such as Time, Newsweek and USA Today lost sight of their primary mission – to inform the public. Instead, traditional information sources have focused more on the viewpoints of individual writers and “anchors” to “sell the story,” rather than letting the story sell itself.

A great example would be to compare the Trump Administration to the Nixon Administration in terms of media coverage. Today’s media is focused on “pouncing;” attacking what the President does with Twitter, or what his underlings say in press conferences, and picking it apart. The media of the Nixon era was more concerned with receiving information as it was disseminated, analyzing it, and finding inconsistencies. While it was not entirely investigative journalism, the reporters of Nixon’s day focused more on the facts and allowed that administration to create its own worst nightmare; impeachable offenses revealed through a combination of individual hubris and collective administration incompetence. For the Nixon White House, the gaffes of ego committed by the cabal led by both Nixon himself and advisors, such G. Gordon Liddy, did more damage to that President than any newspaper editorial ever could. For Trump’s Administration, the media now appears to be willing patsies in a war of misinformation and blatant ego inflation. Rather than reporting on inconsistencies and obvious conflicts of interests, the media’s obsession with the President’s twitter feed and what his children do in their off hours appears to be stuff of political and editorial vendettas, as opposed to the work of truth-seeking reporters.

During operation Desert Storm in 1992, the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf pulled one of the great distraction moves in modern warfare. He sent coalition forces to the Kuwait border in such numbers to keep the late Saddam Hussein’s forces occupied and obsessed with stopping a direct invasion and then, in a bold move, launched a massive offensive to west of Kuwait, destroying the Iraqi Army’s rear lines. Much of Trump’s campaign and administration’s public relations moves appear to be the same; focus media and public attention away from the more pressing issues of the day by using marketing buzzwords and research to distract the public and media, then working to do things his way without public scrutiny. This sort of distraction is a classic tactic in business – use distraction in negotiations to focus attention on one hot-button issue in order to gain larger concessions on broader matters, and his most vocal, rabid supporters are defending him at every single turn, no matter how questionable his statements on these matters. A good question is why are these voters buying into it, but a better question is how is Trump pulling it off?

The answer is simple; Trump is playing to the fears of his base’s worldview.

0922-beckchart1
Former Fox host Glenn Beck, who became famous for his conspiracy chalkboards, started his conservative talk career at WFLA-AM in Tampa in 1998.

Many Trump voters share a similar, if not identical, worldview; a collective group of nations, largely Muslim, which seek to destroy the United States by any means necessary. While several of these nations exist, most lack the will or ability to strike even indirectly. In addition, they feel that corporate America is part of a globalist cabal which seeks to destroy the American-Western way of life. Some of these worldviews also put white Anglo-Saxon protestants (so called “WASPs”) at the top of the world pyramid of authority. Others espouse the worldview that Western culture is far superior to any others on Earth – former radio host and libertarian standard-bearer Neal Boortz once famously admitted he was not a racist but a “culturalist,” stating he did believe that Western civilization was superior to all others on Earth and must retain its eminence, and TheBlaze founder Glenn Beck was pulled from Fox News when even the heads of the largely conservative-oriented news network got the jitters over Beck’s increasingly conspiratorial claims on his own short-lived TV program.

While these worldviews are often based in personal experience, they can also be based in a facade of nationalism designed to profit from the fears and emotions of those who seek validation of their beliefs and views. It is these individuals, such as conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones and Breitbart head/Trump advisor Scott Bannon, who are the greatest purveyors of convincing misinformation. In Bannon’s case, a reasonable individual can deduce one reason for his practices – packaging propaganda in a veneer of factual data to present in such a way that it’s accepted because it matches the accepted views of those who voted for Trump in the first place and, therefore, emboldens the President to behave in a manner which is to the advantage of both Bannon and those of his ilk.

To many, the media is not reliable because it was the media itself who bought into the notion of not only informing the public, but influencing it to act in accordance with a narrative. Individuals such as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Nancy Grace, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, and even Fox News’ newest crop of hosts are not journalists in the true sense of the world, but commentators using the facts given by genuine reporters to advance an agenda. This is reminiscent of another individual who has used legitimate reporting as a means to advance an agenda – The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson. The controversial conservative minister’s Christian Broadcasting Network, though a reasonably ethical operation on its own, allows its facts to be manipulated for Robertson’s own purposes, mainly fundraising. For this reason, CBN suffers from a heavy dose of “guilt by association,” and is regarded as a less-than-credible outlet for information.

Another example of worldview issues could be found on the other end of the spectrum, BBC News. For years, Britain’s government-owned network was regarded as a go-to source for information from around the world, with strong ethics and a high standard of quality and accuracy. As time went on, BBC’s own anchors became more and more focused on news which portrayed the United States in a less-than-flattering way and, for that reason, aided far-right media types in a campaign to paint the mainstream media as liberal elitists. Unfortunately, this image was only entrenched further when a scandal broke within the BBC’s ranks exposing editorial bias being encouraged and dissent being quashed by network bosses. Those with a worldview of journalists being nosy crusaders only concerned with their career found their views confirmed, and this only served to undermine the media and enhance the position of ideologically-oriented websites which take legitimate information and spin it to suit their needs.

maddow-jones-trump1
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, known for her fiery ultra-left views, is considered part of why the network’s ratings continue to languish far behind CNN and Fox News.

So how can we separate the good from the bad, the reliable from the speculative. Critical thinking comes into play here. If something doesn’t an instinctual “smell test,” chances are it is either false or manipulated. Stories about Trump which seem too crazy to be truth tend to be so, just as stories about former President Obama also lean that way. Both sides have websites which focus on fomenting resistance though inflammatory news articles, and both are extremely adept at pointing fingers at the other side while denying stories which they themselves plant. One way to determine the veracity of story is to know the backgrounds of the writers. When one sees the words “activists,” or “political expert” or “left” or “right” in their bio, it is a fairly safe bet that writer has the interests of their cause, not the reader, at heart.

While some ideologically oriented websites have quality informational articles, double checking the information though other mainstream sources is always advised. If even a sliver of the information is accurate, it could point to a much greater situation. Nevertheless, worldview contributes to how we view news, whether we want to admit it or not.

A word about why American politics are so f—-d up.

Warning: this post may be offensive to everyone on earth. Better to close it now and get it over with.
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, protests and riots have swept across the nation.  The new President has signed executive order after executive order, and the country is more polarized than ever.  The more I look at things, the more I can see the origins of a lot of these issues and it comes down to a saying by the late pro football coach Vince Lombardi:

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Somewhere along the way, both the left and the right decided that their way was the not only the right way, but the only way to run things.  Instead of being open to new ideas and practicing moderation, extremism took root, aided by the absolutism made fertile by talk radio hosts, many of whom have turned out to be, themselves, outright hypocrites.  Both left and right pointed the finger at each other, decrying the other’s way as “evil” and “corrupt,” tossing about buzzwords like “income redistribution,” “globalism,” “market freedom” and “indoctrination.”

In the end, both sides are guilty of fomenting national discord for the sake of their own ambitions and avarice.  Both extremes are akin to fans of opposing teams in the Super Bowl who use the exact same offensive and defensive strategies.  The only differences are the cities represented, team colors and the one massive variable:  personalities.

This year’s Super Bowl is a great example. New England’s Tom Brady is a person who draws absolute reactions.  You either love him or you hate him.  You either admire his guile for exploiting lax rules enforcement with “deflategate,” or he is a cheater.  For Atlanta, you either love Matt Ryan for his stoicness in games and his ability to heave the ball downfield with stunning accuracy, or you hate him for his occasional post game showboating and arrogance or the demands of owner Arthur Blank.  Long story short, team affiliation and cults of personalities determine the fan base.

America’s political landscape is much the same way anymore.  It’s no longer about “what’s right for America.”  Rather, many citizens have become so fed up with the demands of either side, their rhetoric, and the approach to life their supporters take, the “win at all costs” attitude has permeated American politics.  You either love Donald Trump and what he espouses, or you loved Hillary Clinton.  Anyone who isn’t on the side of an extreme allegiance is a gutless moderate, or an independent who is immediately picked apart for which side of the ideological aisle they most identify with, regardless of if their heart is good.

We are no longer a nation which compromises for the good of all; we are a country obsessed with winning and being “right,” even if being right means may the good of the nation be damned, so long as our side prevails.  We no longer see shades of gray, or the empty spaces in between the argument where facts get lost in the name of victory.  It is now black and white terms:  good and evil, order and chaos, life and death, left and right….and zero in between allowed.

Both sides are guilty on this one.  The far right has pushed gun rights, the far left gun restriction.  The far right pushes free market and free will as the answer to everything, while the far left pushes government as the solution.  Both sides point the finger at each other when something goes wrong.  A great idea is only a great idea of our side came up with it.  If one side comes up with a truly great idea, the other side will do everything they can to stop it, and vice versa.  Why?  Because it wasn’t their idea. They can’t take credit, so they want no part of it.

This is where our nation has been taken. Compromise is death.  Bipartisanship is evil.  The left will destroy the rights of all.  The right will destroy the rights of all.  They are both the same, but they are different.  The left wants people to be lifted up, but so does the right.  The only difference is the means it happens and who at the very top benefits.  It’s old money family rivalries on a global scale.  The same monster with two heads and the same master manipulating both heads, in this case the people are the brains inside the heads, to fight each other.

But why?

Did it not occur to anyone here that if a world leader with access to nuclear weapons gets into a pissing match with another world leader with nuclear weapons in this age of “pride before prudence,” things could end VERY VERY BADLY? This is not the old Cold War era where world leaders understood the concept of mutual assured destruction. In this era where all that matters is winning, regardless of the cost, MAD isn’t really so crazy anymore.  It’s considered “acceptable risk.”

That said, here’s something think about:  all the protests and guns on earth won’t mean shit if there’s nothing left to protest or no one to kill. Yes, people are angry at each other and there are powerful people making a ton of money off pitting us against each other, but do you really think any of them give a damn about YOU when the mushroom clouds start rising? They already planned for this years ago.  At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, anyone who thinks those in position of true power haven’t found some way to gain from a world atomic holocaust are sadly mistaken.  They get to rebuild the world, only the way they see fit.

We can stop all this madness, but we need to focus on what we see happening, not the rhetoric being said or the memes being posted. Focus on what’s real instead of what is imagined. We still have a judicial system and civilian control of our military. I know people are saying we need to strike “just in case.” What is that going to accomplish? To all of you wanting a civil war to settle it all, do you really think that dying for SOMEONE ELSE’S CHECKBOOK is more important than the ideals espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, because I guarantee you that most of your radio and television pundits and commentators, liberal or conservative, couldn’t remember the Bill of Rights, much less which state first ratified the constitution.  They CAN, however, remember their bank account number and safe combination, easily.

Those want to die, or are okay with friends and loved ones dying, to impose their worldview of America on everyone else, are EXACTLY the sort of danger George Washington spoke of in his farewell address. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror as a nation, stop worrying about who is offended by who said what and what injustice was committed by people long dead, and instead focus on the injustices being committed right now, against us by each other. We need to look at our current immigrants who may not have gotten here legally, but are law abiding otherwise and a great source of tax revenue.  We need to look at our homeless and see how much of it is true laziness and how much of it is actually mental illness which, once treated effectively, can unlock the minds of potential geniuses.  We need to feed our hungry children so they can feel compassion and grow into compassionate adult instead of bitter children in adult bodies vying for the power they never knew in youth.  We need to help our veterans who our leaders have come to view as similar to sanitary napkins; something to absorb political blood in photo ops and rituals, but disposed of once they’ve outlived their usefulness.  We need to address the reality that racial tensions exist not so much as the result of what happened over a century ago, but the mistrust formed between races because of old fears turned into old wives tales, which have in turn become cultural norms.
Finally we need to remember and accept that assimilation does not mean elimination.  A people can become law abiding productive citizens without being forced to abandon their cultures and customs.  Immigrants should have to learn our language, history and abide by our laws but should not be required to abandon their heritage and culture in their own homes.  

Yes, there will always be those who wish to harm us, but we should never do the work for them, and our current political climate is doing just that.  We are truly doing our enemies’ dirty work.  We can, we must, learn to listen to the better angels of our nature.  That is what a “more perfect union” is about, after all.

My greatest fears for America realized, my greatest hope still possible

This is what I’ve feared ever since I left college in 1997.

We’ve reached a crescendo of anger and partisanship in our nation.  Those who we once believed were our best and brightest, offices which we once looked to for inspiration and hope, are now becoming synonymous with scandal and mistrust.  We have a media which is so steeped in ideology on both sides, common sense has vanished.  The notion of an America where anyone can become a success with hard work, a little luck, and some smarts is beyond endangered.  It’s been eviscerated.

Everyone is angry at everyone.  Family and friends are no longer speaking to each other, separated by ideology, preconceived notions, income disparity and occupation.  Ours was a nation once admired for its ability to take the best features of any culture, any religion, and race, and make it our own.  The ability to merge, to meld it all together into one made us the envy of the world.  Today, we have allowed those who wish to do us harm to claim the ultimate victory.  We’ve allowed them to drive us apart.

Worse still, we have allowed others to profit from our divisions.  We have embraced them and entrepreneurs and innovators instead of what they really are:  unpatriotic predators.

We are better than this.  We don’t need tolerance or safe zones now.  We don’t need gun control or fear mongering or opportunistic politicians.  We don’t need platitudes, slogans, investigations, accusations or organizations.  We don’t need moguls taking advantage of situations to enrich themselves.  What is needed is what we fear the most, the hardest possible thing we could ever do as a people.

We need to wake up and accept that fact we cannot live In the past anymore.

Progress happens.  Forward movement is part of life.  Change is reality.  Regression is what backwards societies such as North Korea and Iran have done.  It’s what ISIS wants. Regression, for a nation such as ours, is death.  The question for us is why we resist change so fervently.  Why are some changes so embraced, while some are so repellent, and the only thing I could think of was an analogy I once offered a longtime friend.  This man, who is an avid tea connoisseur, was asked a practical question; if your doctor told you that tea is lethal for you and that you must stop drinking it now and never touch it again, could you handle it?  He admitted it was a very disturbing idea. 

This is where we are now.  We are a people facing tough choices we don’t want to make because it upsets our lifestyles, our narratives, or our worldview.

We’ve gone from a society of reasonable people to a society of folks who have been told what they must do or can’t do.  We have a President who once told Americans we had to “eat our peas,” like a grouchy father scolding oppositional children.  We have a slew of pundits on talk radio accusing the party in power of everything short of killing puppies.  Whether it is true or not is irrelevant – the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” is gone.  We have become a society governed by our passions, those passions fomented by those co-opting the message of well-meaning, passionate citizens, and twisting them to fit a very profitable narrative.  Rather than listen to the better angels of our nature, we are now embracing our greatest demons, both past and present.

Our Founders were skeptical of the People governing directly, and I can see why.  We are no longer a nation of individuals who have the greater good at heart.  Ours is no longer a nation which asks what we can do for our country, as President Kennedy once called upon every American to do.  Nor is it the nation which once saw morning dawning again, and President Reagan once declared.  We aren’t even a nation which only has to fear fear itself as FDR once declared our only enemy to be.  We are beyond a nation by the people, for the people, and we have allowed ourselves to become too involved in foreign entanglements.  We are no longer a nation of laws, but of men and women.  Ours is a people captivated by cults of personality, enthralled by fantasy, obsessed with scandal, and unable to move forward out of a desire for vengeance and bloodlust.  We no longer forgive; we retaliate. We are near nihilists, but accept everything told by so-called “leaders” as gospel.

We can come back, if we want.  We can focus on the good in our nation, if we would stop looking at each other with suspicion.  We can end the hatred if we stop wondering how we can “get over” on each other.  We can rebuild if we start focusing on rolling up our sleeves and working on repairs.  We can stop the insanity if we realize that our greatest strength is the very thing which many regard as our greatest weakness – our differences, our seeming inability to agree.  If our nation was to collectively awaken from its slumber and see just how badly we are being played for fools by both sides of the political aisle, the consequences would be as an earthquake destroying a major city.  Anyone who wonders the veracity of this assessment need simply read this quote…

“A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.”

That quote was not by any American, but by Admiral Yamamoto of Japan in 1942 as the war in the Pacific intensified.  Three years later, Japan would lay in ruins, and America would have displayed what the collective will of a truly free people, properly directed, can do.

My hope is that my fear is only short-lived.

A brief over/underview of the leading President candidates

As we are entering the trailing end of the presidential primaries, appears time to take a critical look at the major candidates platforms,  including all supposed rumors, speculation  and insider cigar insertion knowledge.   Enjoy!

 

wp-1456254480000.jpg
You can’t say that a woman who managed to piss off Russia, leave soldiers stranded to die in a firefight then cover it up by alleging no knowledge and somehow misplacing the emails, doesn’t have skills.  Wait, she doesn’t?  Never mind.

Hillary Rodham Katniss Everdeen Clinton, daughter of Joffrey Rodham, first of his name, protector of the realm:  Mrs. Clinton, styling herself as the first President able to have a “First Man,” stands for what all red blooded American women stand for.  Namely, the ability to wear brightly colored pantsuits which look like something off a futuristic totalitarian runway, but maybe that’s just me.  Clinton, the Democratic Party’s heir apparent to President Barack Obama, was dominating the party agenda until Debbie Wasserman Charles Schulz forgot the party’s name was Democratic, which led to Clinton’s time tested strategy of no discernible platform biting her when, from the primordial ooze of the Green Mountain State, the Wonder Twin powers activated and begot that which is…

 

Bernie Sanders.  Sanders, an independent commie pinko tree hugging Socialist from Vermont (French for “Cherry Garcia”), is campaigning on the populist platform of Free Ben & Jerry’s pints for all.  His other platform planks include a new car, free health care for raccoons, giving everyone a shot at winning American Idol, and the promise of using green energy to destroy our enemies by inflicting bouts of terminal laughter.  His campaign slogan, “Feel the Bern,” would be even catchier with the trendy hashtag, because then it doesn’t sound so absolutely creepy.  Naturally, this leads up to that All-American candidate who is as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and xenophobic bigotry….

donaldtrumpego
This picture will be used until such time as it’s no longer funny.  Which means it’ll be used FOREVER!

Donald Trump.  I have devoted copious (Latin for “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough”) amounts of space on this blog to the veneration of Dear Leader Eternal Light Force and Ultimate Master of Coin.  The New York (state motto “Lemme tell ya sumthin, pal!”) candidate, in his immense glory and dedication to the great cause has been an inspiration to…oh, that lawsuit was NOT aimed at me?  Okay then, read carefully:  Donald Trump is a dangerous, megalomaniacal egotist with hair appearing to be the byproduct of crossbreeding a Lhasa Apse with a deranged, rabid ferret.  Any lawyers skulking around?  No, then let us digress to the Lone Star State and its Exhaulted Immigrated Chumminess….

Ted Cruz.  His Canadianess and Texas Pride, Senator Cruz is in favor of everything Trump is against,  unless the Democrats are for it, in which case he is against it.  Also, he looks like a young version of Grandpa Munster, which means he needs to, should he win the nomination, offer the Veep card to Paul Ryan, so we can have the 50s throwback horror comedy ticket, the Munster Party.  Oh, and he wants to kill the terrorists and believes in God, which are critical qualifications for anyone who wants to be elected Mayor in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.   Alas, this is the election for President of the United States, and since Florida is, technically, still part of America (Pasco County still waiting to receive word on probationary readmission) and, sadly, planet Earth, we much recognize that who needs recognition on the basis that he is not well recognized outside of Miami-Dade County and Fox News….

Marco Rubio.  Where the Dems have “Feel the Bern,” the GOP has “Marco the Island.”  No, that is not a play on words reference to the uber-rich section of southwest Florida, but instead noting the fact that Marco Rubio is, indeed, a man alone on an island.  He’s having the worst turnout and poll results at this moment of any Florida candidate this side of Jeb Bush, and Bush at least at the decency to recognize his own delusion and drop out.  Rubio, however, is committed to a party ideology which includes flip-flopping on immigration reform, taxes, and the ability to build high-dollar stadiums for lousy baseball teams and flip the check to the taxpayers.  Rubio, however, is proving that he indeed is the eternal optimist, hanging in there despite the fact that, if he went up against a trained seal from Tallahassee who promised to end all entitlements and boot the poor to an island and nuke it, the seal would win.

1355718775-0
Even HE’S a better candidate!

We can only hope that America chooses a reliable, dependable, and empathetic candidate for the Oval Office.  Unfortunately, this crop makes me want to vote for any corrupt politician from any small town along the eastern seaboard instead of the current nominees because, come on, if you can’t trust a sleazy weasel from a small town to be a sleazy weasel with billions of dollars in federal largess at their disposal, who can you trust?

PODCAST: Taking Off the Gloves on Trump

Get In Johns Head – 12/9/2015

If you like Trump, this will piss you off.  If you are on the fence about Trump, this could change your mind.  If you are on the fence about me, this WILL change your mind one way or the other.  I encourage you to listen, and excuse the coarse language, but I hadda blast this fool full blast.

Tampa Bay floods: the national media ignores it because they’re doing everything right?

Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa, flooded out from torrential rain.
Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa, flooded out from torrential rain.

Congratulations Tampa Bay!  You’re showing, as a region, how to handle an emergency situation with professionalism, intelligence, and a general sense of community.

Now here’s the bad part – because you’re doing everything right, nobody outside Florida (mostly) seems to give a flying crap!  Well, aside from The Weather Channel, that is.

The worst of it appears to be over, thankfully.  Much of the rain has gone away, and the main threat seems to be from local cresting rivers, mainly the Alafia to the south and the Anclote to the north of Tampa.  Shelters and sandbag locations are up and running, and it appears that everyone is not only on their best behavior, but also working together to help their neighbors out in whatever way they can.  This is a wonderful example of how Americans can be at their very best – courteous, helpful, brave, compassionate, and generally caring of one another.  It’s a great testament to what our nation can do when faced with extraordinary odds.

The problem is simple – it doesn’t play into the news networks narratives.  There are no references to Tampa Bay on either Fox, MSNBC, CNN or CNBC – at least none that I could find.  Florida stations are covering this pretty well, but America is mostly in the dark about it.  Only The Weather Channel mentioned Tampa Bay, and that’s only because weather disasters are their business.  But there are no celebrities calling for help for Tampa Bay, no politicians screaming that this region is being overlooked and given the shaft by the government.  There are no calls to action; in short, my adopted hometown is being given a lesson in Ayn Randian-politics.  Long story short – you don’t produce anything we can use, so go the hell away.

To be quite honest, this is rather shameful, but it speaks to the state of the American media, both liberal and conservative.  Nobody in the national media is innocent on this one.  Other cities had telethons, crowdfunding pages, benefit concerts, Congressional hearings, reporters taking selfies, celebrities tweeting about how bad the people got it, and general sense of national heartbreak and outrage.  What about Tampa Bay?  The national attitude seems to be a general shrug and a “oh well.”

What’s so sad is that Tampa Bay has always, always been ready to pitch in when other cities and regions got slapped by Mother Nature.  When Superstorm Sandy smashed in Staten Island, Tampa Bay had church groups, linemen, and scores of volunteers heading in to help.  When Katrina hammered New Orleans, Tampa Bay welcomed refugees of the storm with open arms – many actually settled in the area permanently.  When Hurricane Andrew clobbered Miami in 1992, the region put aside its civic rivalry, mounted up, and rode into the center of hell to assist.  Here in Atlanta, linemen and utility crews from Florida helped out when the snow and ice battered us in 2014.  It didn’t matter what the situation – Tampa Bay came to assist.  Yes, other parts of America have sent in volunteers and workers to help in recovery efforts, but few have literally gone “all in” quite the way Tampa Bay has, with quite so little fanfare.  In short, this region has really been one of the unsung heroes of recovery for many others across America.

And now, because there’s no race riots, class battles, political points to be scored – only compassion and human dignity – Tampa Bay is ignored by America’s news media, and many people in general as a result.

Shameful.

I will do what I can with what limited resources I have, including this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter feed to help my brethren in Tampa Bay.  If you, or someone you know, can help out, please check the local news stations and newspapers.  The Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, 10News, Newschannel 8, Fox 13, ABC Action News and Bay News 9 have lists of shelters and charitable groups which can, no doubt, use assistance.  This transplant expresses his gratitude – Tampa Bay has done so much to help us all over the years.

Please, it’s time to for America to return the favor.

Some Easy Ways to Discern Real History from the Junk on the Internet

Thucidydes is considered the father of modern western history.
Thucidydes is considered the father of modern western history.

“It is the habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire.” – Thucydides

Had the man known as the “Father of History” seen today’s internet, he would be astonished by the accuracy of that quote. The internet has created a wealth of information for everyone to share and research, but it’s too easy for well-meaning individuals to fall prey to individuals.  Recent controversies in the United States have underscored like never before the need to discern accurate, factual information from those alleged “truths” which are merely based in distortion, opinion and junk science.  History, more than most other subjects, is an area which is vulnerable to such agendas.  Unlike other arts and sciences, history is a truly subjective area of study, so much there is an old saying which, fair or not, holds true.

“The victors write the history books.”

One of the greatest examples of how perspective and perception can affect the way one views history is the current debate over the validity of flying the Confederate Battle Flag.  There is an immense amount of misinformation and propaganda on both sides of this issue, and it has brought to light concerns about how individuals twist facts, pull ideas out of thin air, or purport to be experts when, in reality, they are little more than agenda-driven activists with an axe to grind and an audience.  That being said, here are some very easy ways to help discern historical fact from fiction and propaganda.

Never rely solely on Wikipedia:  Yes, it’s easy to use the world’s first open-source information database as a primary source, but that’s not so much lazy as it is dangerous.  Wikipedia is best described as a really tricked-out card catalog, providing detailed abstracts which offer a great synopsis and survey of the subject matter.  When one digs into the “Reference” section of wiki page, that’s when you tap into to the meat, and it’s also when one finds out quickly what is fact, what is fiction, and what is misinformation.

Be careful with Google and Bing:  Search engines such as these are excellent for the casual information check, like finding out how to do a home repair or when did the first ice cream shop open, but hardcore history requires the ability to something Google and Bing simply can’t – discern what is real from what is propaganda.  Here’s a good example:   of the first ten Google listings under the search term “Confederate Currency,” half were actually collectible buyers instead of historical information.  My goal was to learn about the origins of the currency, if the Confederate States of America had a central bank, and the sort of problems they had with counterfeiting.  Only ONE website of the first ten offered this information – and since studies have shown most people don’t go beyond the first page of search results, it’s remarkably easy for someone to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to plant misinformation to suit their purposes.  The more specific the search terms, the better.

There are great history websites which are extremely easy to navigate:  The History Channel, despite its recent forays into reality-style programming, remains an excellent commercial source for history information that is of a survey variety.  For those more academically inclined, the National Archives, Smithsonian Institution, and university libraries remain outstanding resources for locating primary source information.  For some added research spice, check out the National Park Service and park services in your respective state – the NPS offers great resources, and some park services even offer links to primary sources of their respective areas of service.

Question the backgrounds of so-called “experts”:  If you find a website with a testimonial or essay from an person claiming to be an expert, check their background.  A bona fide expert will either have extensive field experience, or will be of an academic variety who is happy to provide their credentials to you.  The easiest way in the world to spot a fraudulent “expert” is how they react to a credential request.  If they are outraged or seem insulted, chances are they are not a real expert, but a paid spokesperson or, worse still, a person with an agenda.  The exception to this rule is a world-renowned expert who readily provides their credentials on a regular basis.  Regardless, the old Russian proverb of “trust, but verify” holds especially true here.

Check, recheck, and re-recheck:  It sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to post a meme on Facebook or Twitter which shows a “historical fact” that is, in actuality, false or misquoted.  Some of the greatest misrepresentations of history have actually come from the current Confederate Battle Flag debate – too many to list.  But there are two assertions where are based entirely in rumor and propaganda:  the slaves openly fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy from the start of the way (Pres. Jefferson Davis was flatly against it and didn’t authorize it until 1865, just months before Lee’s surrender) and Civil War surgeries occurred without anesthetic (also false – chloroform was widely available).  On the flip side, surgery was a risky affair because camp hygiene was abhorrent (modern concepts of hygiene weren’t widely employed until the early 20th century), and slavery was not the reason the Civil War began (but it was a contributing factor to why the South was so hellbent on independence).

Watch the so-called “myth” websites:  Many of these websites are steeped in propaganda and sources which are not even credible enough to be considered anecdotal, and they are also where so many memes and misinformation originates.  Also, some of these sites are actually owned, operated, or sponsored by groups who either are, or are associated with, known hate groups.  A great example of this “rabbit hole” is an article on the website VeteransToday, which actually contains some useful information for our fighting men and women.  Unfortunately, this particular article, which claims to “bust” myths about the Civil War, is written by an individual who is active contributor to the Georgia Heritage Council’s website, a site which offers links to sites such as the League of the South, a known hate group.  This isn’t liberal or conservative – this is fact, and many agenda-driven individuals do their best to obfuscate.

If you can’t trust your gut, don’t send or post:  It’s easy to feel a sense of “electronic courage” when posting something like “If you don’t like it, move” or “Get out” or profanity-laden comments.  This exercise of “freedom speech” does not absolve one from the consequences of said speech.  Employers, advertisers and others who have a say in your fate, one way or another, can see this information and often it ends up in the hands of a decision maker.  Remember, the Supreme Court did rule that businesses can terminate someone’s employment based on what they post online, that the freedom of speech does not absolve one from the consequences of said speech, that it only protects someone from government reprisal.   There is great truth in the question “Do you talk to your momma’ with that mouth?”  Apply that sensibility to the internet as well.

Last but not least…

Know at how to locate at least one primary source:  A primary source is personal papers, first-hand accounts, interviews with the individuals involved, photographic records, or official records such as a journal, log entry, or ledger of some sort.  Second-hand accounts, rumors, newspaper features such as anniversary editions, and papers from those who reference those sources are not primary.   The personal correspondence between Common Sense author Thomas Paine and publisher Ben Franklin would be consider primary – the opinions of a South Carolina legislator who cites Thomas Paine, despite its historical significance in its own right, is not primary.  A website which cites Common Sense and that legislator isn’t even secondary in the true sense.  Read the primary source, make your own judgment, and discern accordingly.

It’s easy to make mistakes which haunt someone online because they want to state an opinion.  If you don’t know that much about a subject but have a passionate opinion, that’s fine but please, be civil and show some semblance of knowledge on what you are talking about.  It’s easy to get caught in the backwash of someone’s agenda, and history rarely judges such individuals kindly.