Friday, July 2, 2010

Check Your Facts!

I always like Leonard Pitts. He is a reasonable columnist who always sees it like it is. In his Tribune's July 1st column, he talks about elusive facts. He says:

"We all know that President Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya.

And that there will soon be enough Muslims here to take over the country.

And that Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower collectively deported 15 million illegal immigrants.

We all know these things — if by 'we' you mean certain conservative bloggers and the gullible people who believe them and if by 'know' you mean, 'take as gospel, even in the absence of evidence.' Otherwise, 'we' don't know anything of the sort." Here is a link to his full column.

That rung so true to me because just that day I had driven home from my home state, Wisconsin, as I dropped my niece home in Green Bay. I was shocked at what was available on the radio...Christian stations and Rush Limbaugh. My home state has gone to Hell in a handbasket!

Since I am Jewish, I chose Rush. I thought, "Well, I should hear the other side every so often." He was just like Pitts' column. He made all kinds of assertions that didn't hold up. For example, he ranted on and on about Chicago politics (being sure that Obama will go to jail), forgetting any of the Chicago Republicans who have been convicted...and they're many. The most recent and egregious is probably ex-Governor George Ryan, who is in jail as I write this. But, remember, most listeners aren't from Chicago, so they wouldn't know. He screeched and squealed (by the way, his stumbling on words is very annoying) about the Chicago Democrats being crooked. And it went on from there. He actually seems to think that Richard Nixon was a Democrat! And, you should have heard his tirade about Elena Kagan, Obama's Supreme Court nominee. He made fun of her, using terms from Jackie Gleason, "humina, humina, humina." First of all, how about a little respect? But secondly, has he heard tapes of himself? "Abbbbbout" Etc.

But I worry that Pitts is right. People listen to Rush and believe him because he has publicly made the statement. It must be true, they think. Yet, his entire rant about Chicago was false.

Of course it's not just Rush. People tend to believe what they hear or what they read without checking the facts. Recently a columnist I respect, Steve Chapman, wrote a very misleading article about handgun control, for example. He listed two...TWO...examples of homeowners who successfully deterred intruders by killing them with their guns, and that was his "proof" that handguns make you safer. Forget the accumulation of facts, such as this. But, again, his readers will take home that handguns save lives. Ridiculous!

Be careful when you hear or read something. Check the facts.

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