Truth Will Out – The Reality of Fake News and The Need To Support Public Schools

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. “
– George Orwell

“…, and the truth will set you free.”
– Jesus, John 8:32

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
– Polonius, Hamlet, I, iii

In a society that craves logical fallacies, utilizes half-truths and white lies, and endorses double-speak and propaganda, it is easy to see how those who do not have the time and energy to actually investigate every claim that appears in their sensory range to fall prey to what they may perceive.

There is a need to check sources, but when so many claims are being thrown around, it is hard to put in the effort to validate them all.

If people do not possess enough natural filters to mesh ludicrous falsities from facts, then they can become victim to being hoodwinked, duped, deceived, misled, cheated, and deluded among other things. And if people repeat something that is incorrect enough times, then it can become belief making speculation become gospel.

Check out this video.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/12/01/cnn-anchor-stunned-trump-supporter-newday.cnn

Sorry. There is no substance to these people’s claims. But they live as those claims are truth and they based their decisions on them.

In America, we have many rights. We have the right to life, liberty, and happiness. We have the right to bear arms, vote, and gather.

We also have the right to be wrong.

But I think we also have the obligation to be diligent in looking for the truth. That means one does not need to automatically believe that what every snake oil salesman says is truth. And it reinforces the fact that we so need a strong public education system that not only prepares students with a knowledge/skill set, but allows them to be prepared to have those filters in place that allows them to sift the lies from something that may actually have validity.

Strong public education helps to curb society’s appetite for bullshit, and we certainly have had a smorgasbord of that very bullshit with the Fake news that has become a rather hot topic of late because of its role in the recent presidential election.

A November 24th report by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” highlights how easy it seemed to be to allow falsities to become digested by an eager audience that did not have its filters in place.

“The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of Web sites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_propaganda-8pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory)

Wow! And I am sharing this blog post on Facebook. And just this morning, there was this on CNN.com.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/russia-fake-news-reality/index.html

Sure, you could claim that this is just “main-stream” media trying to douse the celebratory fires of Trump’s presidential victory, but where is the burden of proof?

If experts in a field are saying that something is happening, I am more apt to believe them because of their expertise. It’s a filter, so to speak. If 95+% of climate scientists say that global warming is happening, then I just might take their word for it. It’s just like what Tommy said in the iconic movie Tommy Boy: “You can stick your head up the bull’s ass yourself, but I’ll take the butcher’s word for it.” Therefore, if experts are saying that the use of fake news was prevalent in the 2016 election and had an effect on it, then I am apt to believe it.

tommyboy

The fact that fake news is a reality and actually dictates what many call the truth in and of itself is a strong indication that we need strong public schools Nothing screams more loudly for the need to have strong support for our public schools so that truth can be more easily obtained, more easily sensed, and more valued.

With the rise of technology, the sprawl of social media, and the exponential growth of knowledge, those in power have relegated our public schools into industrialized test-taking factories that simply measure how well students take tests. It has made critical thinking a national deficit. Nothing allows for the breeding of fake news more than that.

There’s nothing fake about the need for strong public schools.

And if you ever read Hamlet, you will realize that Polonius is an ass.

 

Willful Ignorance Is Not Bliss, But Rather Mean – McCrory’s Orwellian Contradiction

News that Gov. McCrory’s office asked public school leaders this past summer to find ways to cut their budget by as much as 2 percent should come as a surprise in an election year where he has touted his commitment to public education and a creation of a surplus in our current budget.

But it is not really a surprise. It’s actually consistent with the McCrory doctrine.

Billy Ball from NC Policy Watch released a report on Oct. 11th entitled “McCrory administration asks schools to submit plans for $173 million budget cut” that outlines the governor’s request. It is a very illuminating piece of journalism – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/10/11/mccrory-administration-asks-schools-submit-plans-173-million-budget-cut/.

Ball also includes a copy of the memo that makes the original request. It is complete with annotating highlights that show the rather “benign” fashion McCrory’s office makes the entreaty. Here is a link – http://ncdp.org/wp-content/uploads/mccrory-budget-cuts.pdf.

budget.png

In a year where Opportunity Grants have been further financed to the tune of almost $900 million dollars over the next ten years, an educational endowment fund set up by the lieutenant governor for an amorphous plan, an expansion of unregulated charter schools, and the creation of an ASD district that pays an out-of-state company to run schools, news of this “budget request” is like a kick in the groin of a person already compromised.

This request for cuts is tantamount to asking a starving person to share his food with someone who just ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Some of the more disturbing parts of Ball’s report comes here:

“Among the choices, school board members could confine the cuts to a single spending category or spread it across the department’s spending plan. Either would have major ramifications for the state’s educators, forcing the state to possibly shed thousands of teaching positions, career and technical educators or teacher assistants.

Both proposals would also drain millions from funds designated to benefit at-risk students, special needs children and low-wealth counties in the state, according to Price.”

When the terms “at-risk students”, “special needs children”, and “low-wealth counties” are used in a proposal that involves budget cuts, then serious ramifications are certainly about to take place.

Does the governor not choose to understand if he is to be a champion for public education he does not continue to siphon money away from the very students who need the funds for resources? Ironically the very charter schools that he allows to grow and the very private schools that receive vouchers do not have to take these “at-risk” of “special needs” students.

Does the governor not choose to look at the school performance grades that his administration has rubber-stamped and see how schools in low-wealth counties suffer from poverty? If McCrory is touting a “Carolina Comeback” this election year, does that allow him to selectively forget that nearly 1 in 4 children in NC live in poverty?

Apparently the answer to these questions is a “Yes!”

I am reminded of a poem by Thomas Gray entitled “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” written in 1642. The last stanza reads,

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.

The next to last line contains that very famous saying “Ignorance is bliss.” While people may quibble over the true meaning of the poem, I have taken it to mean that there is a time in our lives (youth) where we are not cognizant of many deleterious forces in the world. We are ignorant to them; therefore, they do not bother us or cast a cloud in our reality.

But what McCrory is practicing here seems to be feigned and willful ignorance. That is a completely different matter. That denotes a willful disassociation with the consequences of his actions.

In a year where he is touting a budget surplus, Gov. McCrory is being willfully ignorant of how he seems to be financing that surplus – by taking away from the very people he should be serving.

In a year where he suggests that we take money from the disaster fund to finance fighting for an unconstitutional law like HB2, he is practicing willful ignorance – http://fusion.net/story/332612/mccrory-transfers-disaster-funds-to-defend-hb2/.

McCrory has stated that one of his favorite books is George Orwell’s 1984, the dystopian novel that eerily depicts the power of an authoritarian government. One of the most iconic quotes from the book says,

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

Antithetical? Contradictory? Paradoxical? Propaganda? You can have great discussions in an English, civics, or social studies class about the meaning of this quote.

But those types of discussions will be harder to have when $173 million dollars is cut from the public school system that already has been stripped bare.

Maybe ignorance really is not bliss, but a reason to teach more awareness. But willful ignorance is pure neglect.

And Orwell surely was not saying that ignorance really is strength. What he was saying is that feigned ignorance is a sign of weakness.

Gov. McCrory’s Orwellian Freudian Slip

When Pat McCrory began his second gubernatorial election campaign, Charlotte Magazine ran a feature article in its April, 2013 issue entitled “Pat McCrory is the Right’s Man for the Job”. In it, Michael Cooper quoted, “He’s a fan of George Orwell’s 1984.”

In a WRAL profile from January 14, 2008 (McCrory’s first campaign run for governor), 1984 was again listed as a favorite book.

Even a January 12, 2015 profile on the governor by Margaret Duke on EdNC.org, 1984 was listed as McCrory’s favorite book.

Maybe the governor simply enjoys reading dystopian literature, but the connection between his deeply held republican principles of less government intervention in the lives of citizens and the warning of Big Brother watching us at all times is very clear.

Running two gubernatorial campaigns that tout how he will strengthen state’s rights while keeping the federal government at bay resonates with many in North Carolina. The governor has worked in his term to not expand Medicaid. He has been an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act. He has even opposed Common Core, not necessarily because of what standards it offers, but that it has federally mandated features.

Sounds like he is protecting us from Big Brother. It would then make sense that he lists 1984 as a favorite book.

However, I wonder if the governor ever read Orwell’s other great book, Animal Farm. Granted it is a simpler text, but its message is still very strong. If the governor has read 1984 and declared it a favorite book, then one could assume that Animal Farm has been read and its meaning digested.

Animal Farm is an allegorical fable that Eric Blair (George Orwell was his pen name) uses to comment on the rise of Soviet communism, its assault on individual freedoms, and the absolute corruption of those who grab power. In it animals take over a farm from their human owner and immediately set up a utopian society in which all animals are equal. They even come up with a list of commandment for all to abide by. They read as follows.

THE SEVEN COMMANDMENTS
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.

However, as a few consolidate control of the farm (in this case, pigs), abuses of power occur. Think of it as redistricting of sorts. What happens throughout the book is a rewriting of the commandments. Those who retain power get to write the rules. They also get to rewrite the rules. Think of the Voter ID Act and the HB2 bill that targets the LGBT community among other things.

In Animal Farm, the rules get rewritten so that those in power can get more power. Eventually toward the end of the book the seven commandments read as such:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
    2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
    3. No animal shall wear clothes.
    4. No animal shall sleep in a bed – WITH SHEETS.
    5. No animal shall drink alcohol – TO EXCESS.
    6. No animal shall kill any other animal – WITHOUT CAUSE.
    7. All animals are equal – BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

These rules and “revisions” of four of those rules are made in secret and through an undemocratic process.

Concentrate on that last commandment – “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” It’s almost like it says, “All citizens of North Carolina are equal, but those who are not LGBT or have an acceptable form of identification to vote are more equal than other North Carolinians.”

Think of a special session that the North Carolina General Assembly recently convened. Now think how great literature truly mimics life. The HB2 Law was brought to the floor, further revised by those in power, and signed by Gov. McCrory within a matter of hours. In the book Animal Farm, newly revised “commandments” were constructed in secret sessions and then introduced under a farce of “protecting the public” and “common sense” without any explanation – in a matter of hours.

The governor’s defense of the HB2 law has been nothing more than smoke and mirrors, avoidance of questions, blaming the media, and red herrings. That just like it was in the book when the pigs in control refused to explain themselves. They were simply more equal.

If asked what your favorite book is, it should be assumed that the book had a profound impact on how you view life. That book may have taught you something that guides your actions and decisions to this very day.

It is not a far-fetched idea for a republican governor of a southern state to pick one of Orwell’s books as a personal favorite in light of his public political ideology and how government can affect lives of people so widely.

But is it not ironic that he and other GOP leaders maybe use another Orwell novel as a playbook on how to seize more power?