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Words from Winterbilt

Where do you get your news?

Shannon Bohrer

"The only security of all is in a free press." - Thomas Jefferson

(2/2018) It’s February, one of my favorite months of each year. Our founding fathers, several of which were born in February, created this country that has endured foreign wars, our own civil war, economic collapses and other internal differences. There has been a lot said of late about the current acrimony and how our democracy is being tested. February is a good month to reflect on the wisdom of former Presidents about our differences. Their words and advice could be valuable.

A lot of our current differences are related to what we know, what we believe and how we perceive our government and our elected leaders. The term "fake news" is very popular with many sides pointing in the opposite direction. Our leaders decry that their opposition is lying and that major news outlets are full of fake news. A large problem with this perspective is that most news (not all of it) on major news networks – is not fake. It may not be the news you like, or want, but most of the major news networks reporting are based on factual information. Certainly some news programs display biases, some liberal and some conservative, but that does not make them fake.

I have questioned people about this topic of "fake news" and many respond that the news networks cannot tell the truth. In response I always asked, "Then where do you get your news?" Sometimes I get quizzical looks, sometimes I get "radio" and sometimes I am asked "Why do you asked this?"

I do find it strange that so many of our founding fathers spoke about the need for a free press and how that relates to our free country, and yet today we have politicians and talking heads that decry the corruption of our free press. To blame a free press with corruption and creating fake news is a strategy for fascism. ‘Don’t believe the government and don’t believe the press, but believe me.’ That was Hitler’s message.

While we are told that we should not believe the press, it is our free press that ensures all of our freedoms and holds those in power accountable. That is not to say you should believe everything the press says or prints, you should be a sceptic and question the news. Sometimes news stories do have a slant that may not fit your beliefs. Sometimes the news is not fake, but just an opinion with which we do not agree.

"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost" -Thomas Jefferson

Several years ago, President Putin invaded Ukraine. It was a violent invasion of a sovereign country by a larger neighbor; Russia. The world decried the invasion – and the United States created sanctions against Russia. One of the major news networks, reporting on this event, stated that "Putin was a real leader, not like our president, Obama." I was sort of shocked that a major news network would think that a dictator that invades sovereign countries kills its opposition leaders and killed members of the press, was a real leader. But – they have a right to free speech and they have a right to their opinion, not matter how wrong it was. Opinions are not necessarily fake news, but their intent to impugn President Obama was obvious.

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." - George Washington

Recently the same news network that talked glowingly about Putin has accused the FBI of being politically motivated trying to unseat this president. The network made a comparison of the FBI to the Russian KGB. Again, this is an opinion and they have a right to their opinion. However, in defense of the FBI, they are a premier law enforcement agency that is respected around the world. That is my opinion. Fact; the KGB has been responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, dissidents, reporters and anyone that questioned the leaders authority. The KGB never protected citizens’ rights, but the FBI has and continues to do so.

Saying that President Obama was not an American citizen was frequently talked about by the same news network. That was not an opinion - that was fake news. After the President’s birth certificate was released the network continued to question the president’s birth place – knowing the truth. Our current President also questioned the former President’s birth place, doing so for over six years. That was fake news.

The term "Fake News" is used by those in power to discredit and hide reality – the reality being the truth. The "Fake News" has fostered numerous conspiracy theories, who can forget "Pizza Gate." It has added to our differences or different perspectives. From my perspective, the problem is not that the purveyors of fake news exist. The real problem is that the purveyors of fake news now run the government.

Creating fake news that divides us and covers the truth, also known as alternative facts, and then decrying the real news when the facts are reported – can only last so long. We may not like the news we hear, but without it - our freedoms will diminish over time.

"Freedom of conscience, of education, or speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

So, where do you get your news?

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer