The recent rash of articles surrounding the idea that a nightly television personality may have, over time, perhaps become the victim of some kind of neurosis, speaking irrationally, brings up an important subject. When must we demand truth from media and prohibit irrational speech or speech based on objectives that are antithetical to society’s interests?
Several issues are quite clear. We should not allow irrational or mentally ill people on television as either substantive commentators or newspersons or, worse, objects of ridicule. Totally irrational people posing as logical, truthful observers and communicators have huge capability of causing harm. If we were to allow commentators on television, for example, to say that injecting children with vaccines designed to prevent some sudden dreadful disease and thereby causing a very high percentage to die we would take every measure to remove that person from the media immediately. But before that could happen we might well see physicians killed by viewers influenced by what they may think are noble motives. That is an example similar to what has already happened. People who are unbalanced, taking the word of a television personality with no credibility, authority or legal responsibility. Then being influenced by that television personality to go out and kill a physicians because they have been told that a certain practice is “murder.” People murdering because they were falsely influenced to believe that they should murder to prevent murder. This is a media-society relationship gone mad.
We are now in the twenty-first century. This is the century of the further development of immediate world-wide conversation, of the ability to create life that can be easily nurtured to 100 years and beyond, of a science that can study the most minuscule particles of the human body, resulting in techniques for the body to ultimately repair itself. It is the coming age of portable information and communication personally portable from the highest mountaintop to the deepest ocean to the far reaches of space. It is the age of vision into the very origins of the universe.
In order for all of us to share and participate in these literally wondrous events, we must constantly, relentlessly seek the truth. We cannot return to superstition, or fantasy, or myth because if we did, we would regress, not move forward. For example, we must face the truth that the earth is warming at this time and seems to be on a path to further warming. There is very strong evidence that this will create very serious results for mankind in many areas. We must all be open to a continuing search for the truth about what is causing it. Is it the injection of pollutants into the air? Is it the natural cycle that may have resulted from solar activity? Does it require immediate action? Or will attempts to reverse the trend be useless? We desperately need to know those answers. The continuing search for that truth, could be funded, for example, by an oil industry or a coal industry. There would be nothing wrong with that. But the goal must be the truth. It cannot be to simply accommodate the interests of an industry at the cost of lives and the environment that we all need to survive…let alone thrive.
If a search for the truth causes some to become superfluous or if it causes some to lose their jobs or professions because the inexorable movement of technology and science dictates it, then we must not mask the truth or inhibit that progress. We must have a society that embraces those changes and embraces those individuals and makes compensatory adjustements for them. We need compassion, civility and the participation of all citizens at the same time as we progress. That must be an absolute principle if we are to progress. Society must take note of adverse consequences to individuals and plan always with the needs of human beings equal to that of the advancement of society.
Political parties and their interests, industries and their interests, social groups and their interests, and powerful individuals and their absorption with greed…all these are temporary, foolish motivations and we must overcome them as a society. We must always seek truth. Truth about life. Truth about climate. Truth about health. Truth about human diversity. All this is more important than whether a certain group elects a leader. It is more important than whether an absurdly wealthy man adds another piece to a financial empire. Truth will make us great, give us knowledge, make us free, enhance our future. The more we lack of truth in what we learn, daily, weekly, over time…the more we will be sentenced to conflict, poverty, agitation, disease, devastation of the physical world and early death.
Truth will free us all. The avoidance of truth may benefit some, but it will create disaster for others. There is no pre-determination about which individual will benefit from altering the truth or who will be hurt by it. Life is long and truth is immutable. If you are helped by a lie when you are ten, that same lie may kill you when you are fifty.
So truth should be our goal. Where truth interacts with mass media, another phenomenon of the twenty-first century that has begun to expand geometrically, we must focus with laser-like attention. Just as the traffic of vehicles that fly in open air from one city to another must be controlled or there would be chaos and death, so must we regulate and control the words that move with light-speed from point-to-point, from the individuals relating them to those receiving those messages. Those messages, those words and images, are perhaps much more damaging in the long run than the actual intersection of two airplanes filled with human beings. Most Americans today have lived in a time when a simple message of hate, merged with mass media, contolled the minds of others and resulted in the murder of tens of millions.
We cannot let the selfish interests of literally only a handful of individuals ruin the future of the country, the relationships of well-intentioned individuals, and daily life in a complex society. We cannot allow a tiny group with enormous power to pursue their interests by spreading hate-filled words to influence and divide one group from another in this country. If Lincoln was right, Lincoln the Republican, that a house divided against itself cannot stand, then we are standing at this very time on extremely shaky ground.
Harm could come to individuals and the lives of those who cause the harm would also be ruined forever, turned into years and decades of agony and remorse and isolation. Because of what? Because of some politician’s stray accusation, or a preacher’s over enthusiastic condemnation of something that he considers a “sin,” or a spiteful billionaire’s influence on a maladjusted commentator to spread false and dangerous rumors about his enemies?
Is that what we are? If not…if we see ourselves as a nation ethical, progressive and aggressive in our pursuits of free enterprise, then should we not begin by simply telling the truth?