June 23rd, 2018

Do your homework and be willing to debate those with different views

By Letter to the Editor on March 15, 2017.

Re: “Beware the influence of NGOs,” March 9,and “Fake news, bias, or both?”, March 10

It’s been a good week for witch-hunts. The fertile imaginations of both Barb Taylor and Paul McLennan have found villains to blame for misleading people like me; that is, people they disagree with. Unbelievably, some of us doubt the effectiveness of hardline policing, unregulated big business, unrestrained exploitation of natural resources, and other causes promoted by local voices of the extreme right.

Clearly, millions of otherwise normal citizens are being misled.

Ms. Taylor thinks she has found the cause of this worrisome state of affairs (“Beware the influence of NGOs”). It’s the evil influence of non-governmental organizations, NGOs for short. Churches, service clubs, community groups, think tanks, political lobby groups — that sort of institution. Especially suspicious are those receiving funds from billionaire George Soros, once a poster boy for successful entrepreneurship who has, according to Ms. Taylor, turned left and gone over to the “Dark Side.”

In a triumph of guilt by association, Ms. Taylor has figured out — bear with me — that Justin Trudeau is bad. George Soros would like to influence Justin, so George must be very bad. Soros supports a number of NGOs, so they are clearly really bad. So, therefore, their ideas and causes are extremely bad. All this, however, is hidden from public view because news outlets like CNN, CBS, The New York Times, and the Washington Post “mislead and divert with half-truths/lies/scamsÉ”

Mr. McLennan takes up the refrain (“Fake news, bias, or both?”). The basic problem, he claims, lies with the journalists who work in media organizations. Reporters, analysts and news writers are, he says, overwhelmingly “on the left of the political spectrum.” Ninety-four per cent left, according to Mr. McLennan, who as usual fails to supply any supporting evidence for this amazing figure. These misguided journalists suppress news and ideas from the “Righteous Right,” thus producing a poorly informed population that is only capable of “parroting media propaganda.”

There is another possibility. I, and many thoughtful people of my acquaintance, actually follow Mr. McLennan’s advice to “filter the bias.” We “seek alternative sources that provide a different point of view.” We “question, and verify what politicians and the media say” — including the writings of Mr. McLennan and Ms. Taylor.

When we do this, many of the ideas promoted by Mr. McLennan and Ms. Taylor come up wanting. They are grounded in hearsay and distortion, not verifiable information. Their conclusions are based on ideology, suspicion and generalization, rather than careful logical reasoning.

If only Mr. McLennan, Ms. Taylor, and others of their political persuasion, would abandon witch-hunts and accept the challenge of intelligent debate about ideas that differ from their own. No villains required. No gullible people falling for bias and “fake news.” Just concerned citizens, doing their homework, and challenging each other with different views of the best path for our society.

David Gue

Medicine Hat

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