Passing Along Untruths: Sheeple Of A Different Shepherd

It’s no secret to those who know me that I absolutely can’t stand internet rumors, especially the politically charged ones that get passed around Facebook.  I have to say, it’s been a rough couple of weeks on this front.

First there was the Obama Wants Marines To Wear Girly Hats falsehood, then there was the Tom Cruise Thinks Being in Movie Is Like War selective edit/misquote and now we have the Chris Hayes of MSNBC Is Disgusted By Veterans satire story being passed around.  The link to the original Chris Hayes story that appeared on the SATIRE page Daily Currant is here. For the record the “about” link to the Daily Currant clearly states it to be a satire site.

For extra fun check out the comments below the Currant Story. I wonder if the moderator is laughing at the idiots that post there, or are they happy that they got a rise out of them?  One things for sure, they are letting their advertisors know how much traffic the site gets. $$$$$

The real thing that drives me crazy is the how quick we are to pass these stories around on Facebook.  It’s tribalism at it’s worst.   And for what it’s worth, I gotta say that those friends in my news feed that pass this stuff around are the same ones who call their political rivals “low information voters”. 

C’mon….if your computer gets Facebook it also gets Google.  The more the story looks juicy and worth sharing, the more you should check it out.  If it only appears on the fringe sites, that should be a clue. If those fringe sites have the exact same story, word for word, that should be clue.  If the story only refers to something being “reported”, yep…..that’s another clue.

To make matters worse, when people are told that the info they shared is, in fact false, a frequent response is…..”So, that guy is still an idiot (or worse).” As if it’s OK to lie about people you don’t like.  Not sure if there was any fine print on the Tablets From Sinai, but I doubt it. False witness is false witness.  At what point do people start to feel bad for passing along bad gouge to their friends?

It appears, that at least in the world of Facebook Memes- there really are sheeple out there.  The scary thing is that they just don’t realize who they are.


Dr. Ben Carson: Too smart for the media

Dr. Ben Carson makes too much sense for the media.

First there was Dr. Carson’s speech at the National Prayer breakfast that put him in the spotlight for speaking truth to power.  The six weeks since that time has been filled with regular appearances on Fox News offering his opinions on the current administration as well as the state of the nation as a whole.  Now we have the Ben Carson apology tour for remarks he made on Sean Hannity’s show last week.

It was the last question of the interview and the answer took all of 40 seconds, but, that at least for now, is driving the news cycle. I actually didn’t know about the issue at all until I first saw him on CNN yesterday trying to set the record straight.  It was through this apology tour that I came away more impressed with Dr. Carson, and a little less impressed with the media as a whole.

First off, I wish Sean Hannity would have pressed Doctor Carson a bit more on his answer. I think given a chance to clarify at the time may have made this whole thing a moot point.  But, television works on some serious time constraints and I’m sure Sean knew there wasn’t any time for that left in his show. I think Sean thought it was a softball question that would illicit either a simple or at worst “canned” response.  Instead he got a guy that tried to cram his complex views into a tiny soundbite and ended up with an awkward answer and no time to make it better.carson-wolf

The remarks were quick to be picked up by the other networks raising questions about his potentially offensive views. It’s almost as if they were hoping to find him a homophobic religious zealot. I saw the apology tour interviews on CNN as well as MSNBC and it looked like both networks were at least prepared for something other than honesty and sincerity.  In both cased Dr. Carson stated that (a) it was a poor choice of words, that (b) he wasn’t comparing homosexuals to pedophiles, that (c) he understood how it could be perceived as such and that (d) it was not intention to draw that comparison. He then categorically apologized.  In an age where most guests try to spin their way out of trouble, Dr. Carson owned up to it.  Bravo, sir.  That is how you defeat an embarrassing situation.

In interviews both  Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer followed up Dr. Carson’s initial explanation with questions essentially reframing the original question, as if they weren’t expecting to get a real answer on the first try.   Mitchell, in particular, seemed flustered by the fact that she was likely not interviewing the scary homophobe she anticipated, and was now stuck with a set of questions that he had answered in the first thirty seconds.  Both interviewers came back around to the fact that it used to be illegal for different races to marry later on in their interviews despite the fact the question had lost mush of its relevance based Carson’s previous answers.  It was obvious they were not used to an honest guest and were not prepared for the interview to go a direction they had not anticipated. If you haven’t already done so, i encourage you to check out the links to each interview.  Blitzer’s was far better than Mitchell’s, but both could have been better

It turns out Dr. Carson seems more intent on protecting the English language than supporting any specific conservative social cause.  He keeps going back to the fact that no one gets to change the meaning of a word.  When he talks  about specifics though, he believes that all people, (including gays) have the right to form legal unions in order to facilitate the transfer of property and establish visitation rights. He went so far as to voice support for their ability to adopt children in the Blitzer interview.

It was telling that Carson admitted he needed to learn the art of handling the media. This is why everyone in the media missed this opportunity.  Instead of making sure they got to all of their prepared questions, they should have reacted to his statements with more followup questions. No one asked the question “How would feel about granting same sex couples 100% of the legal rights as married couples if we used/made up a new word to describe it (civil union, perhaps?).”  It looked to me like that was what he was trying to say, but his brain got tied up talking about compring oranges and bananas. Instead of trying to really understand Dr. Carson, both hosts instead moved on. I guess they had to make sure they found a way to go back to their questions about marriage laws of the early 20th century prohibiting multi-racial unions.

One thing I was pleasantly surprised with was the exchange when  Blitzer asked if the fact that other people in the media had made the slippery slope argument about homosexuals, bestiality and pedophilia, if that may have influenced Carson’s choice of words when answering the question on The Sean Hannity Show.  When Dr. Carson said that it may have been a “subconscious reason he choose those words”, that was some refreshing honesty, not typically seen in a news interview.

Dr. Carson is a smart, well read, man with a large vocabulary.  He is the kind of person who understands subtle nuances, and his point is that we shouldn’t expand the definition of a word just because we expand the scope of legal rights for a group of people.  When we invented the light bulb we didn’t expand the definition of the word candle, even though they both produce light and heat.  I think he just wants a different name.

So does this put him on the right or the left of the issue?  I have yet to see his explanation tour hit Fox News, if he does (or already has) I will be interested to see how they handle it, because, on this issue, he does not fit the conservative mold, at least not completely.   I also wonder if Dr. Carson isn’t going to go from darling of the right, to darling of the left.

Ben Carson is coming across as a libertarian, which is really going to screw up our media industry.  There are reports that he may go to work for Fox News after his retirement, although Dr. Carson was quoted as saying that there has been “more than one network” that has approached him about the idea.  I am curious to see how any network takes on someone with such diverse opinions.

In the end, I think he has genuine views and it is good to have him as part of the discussion.  I just hope the media machine doesn’t put him into a corner where only one side wants to listen to him, or worse yet, drives him away from the conversation completely.


***Update****  I saw a story on the Fox News website about Dr. Carson’s apology.  It focused much more on the fact that some students at Hopkins did not want him to deliver the commencement address this year.  It also mentioned that he said he was sorry for the comparison.  Interestingly, though, it did not say anything at all about his stated support for same sex couples to have legal standing under the law for things like property transfer and adoption, etc.




Other articles I found interesting when researching this post:

“How well does Fox News know Ben Carson”

“Carson Apologizes, Offers to withdraw from Hopkins speech”

“Does Ben Carson have a prayer?”

“Dr. Ben Carson should apologize to Obama” by Cal Thomas

My Congressman, Walter Jones (R-NC), blew it on this one.

Yesterday I learned that an Air Force Chaplain was receiving a Bronze Star for creating a Powerpoint about Muslim Cultures. I became aware of this thanks to my Facebook link to my elected representative Walter Jones (NC).  His Facebook post wasn’t just about this, though. Along with a link to his press release (that was really about a piece of legislation he had submitted in January about allowing  military chaplains to close prayers as they see fit) he posted the following status to draw attention to the press release:

“Yesterday I spoke out against the Air Force’s decision to reward one its chaplains a Bronze Star for preparing a PowerPoint presentation on how to respectfully handle Islamic materials.”

He based his Bronze Star outrage on a blog post from the National Review Online. It was a real stretch, though, to connect this to a piece of legislation he had recently submitted (House Bill 343) to allow military chaplains to close all prayers, even prayers outside of services, in the manner in which they choose.  For example, closing the benediction to a retirement ceremony or change of command with “In Jesus name” would be allowed.

I actually don’t have anything against most of the arguments individually, but I believe my Congressman made a poor decision to try to roll all this up into one bag. I don’t know what the primary issue is here.  Is it award inflation?  Is it HR 343? Is it a fight against political correctness? Aside from a little bait and switch with the headlines, Representative Jones also didn’t seem to have the whole story.

There absolutely has been award inflation over the past ten years.  Starting in about 2003 those of us in the military quickly learned that there was a difference between a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor and a Bronze Star without a “V”.  The majority of Bronze Stars awarded are awarded for administrative acts while in a theater of war and are frequently given as “end of tour” awards to senior members of the military.  We in the military have all learned that any award with a “V”, even a lesser medal, is cooler than a Bronze Star without jones

Also of importance, awards of this stature go through multiple levels of the Chain of Command before approval. This is why they take so long to be awarded.  This is the operational chain, by the way, not the administrative chain, so instead of being mad at the Air Force, perhaps he should question those at CENTCOM.

In regards to HR343; I believe this is a fine bill and see little to be offended by in it.  It’s short and to the point.  I assume no one would be offended if their unit was assigned a military rabbi for a chaplain who wanted to close a change of command ceremony with a plea to Yahweh for guidance and blessing.  I also think most military chaplains would have the professional courtesy to ask the guest of honor how they would like their ceremony to go.  So overall, I have no issues with HR 343, aside from the fact Rep. Jones is linking it to an issue that is both incomplete of all the facts and based on a small bit of xenophobia.

Walter Jones has impressed me in the past with his stance on some unpopular ideas, such as being against the continued expansion of drones, as well the war is Afghanistan.  Not an easy stance for a Republican, particularly one whose district includes Camp Lejeune, NC.  He’s also lost committee assignments due to taking a stance against his own party.  This why, despite my poor opinion of Congress as a whole, I continue to vote for him.

The original reporting about this Chaplain has come out with a clarification of the story to the point that the author now says regarding the traffic on the internet about this that, “Lt. Col. Jon Trainer, a NRO reader, has been in touch and convinced me that this isn’t quite fair”. They concluded stating that although there was nothing inaccurate in the original news story or the subsequent blog post, per se, they create “a misimpression about the centrality of the PowerPoint to Trainer’s Bronze Star.” And that they “wanted to provide this fuller context and take the opportunity to salute Trainer for his service to our country.”

Judging by the amount of “likes”, “shares” and “comments” of the Facebook post by Representative Jones, it would be nice to see him also come out with some sort of clarification.  Judging by the comments, it doesn’t appear his Facebook post did much to advance the cause of HR 343 anyway. It did strike an anti-Islamic nerve in many though.  If that was the intent of the post, mission accomplished.  If it was NOT the intent, but merely a “by product” or “unintended consequence”, it should be addressed. Silence on things like this is consent.

The fact that his Facebook post and press release highlight the medal and the correlation to Islam, as opposed to actual the actual meat of the press release (support of HR 343), indicates to me that Mr. Jones may have been more interested in reaching people through headlines and Facebook posts than in engaging in rational thought on this one.  The terms “low-information voter” and ‘Sheeple” like to be used by those on the far right to describe people they disagree with with.  In this case, it seems the shoe is on the other foot. People need to question the stuff that fits their particular cause as much as they question things that do not.  It’s true, there are a lot of low-information “sheeple” in this country…..and lots of different shepherds.

Maybe Representative Jones wasn’t really going for the bait and switch, maybe he was counting on people to just read the headline as way to validate their previously held beliefs. This is the kind of thing that leads to our tribal culture when it comes to politics.  It feeds into the us-vs-them attitude and plays on peoples emotions instead of their intellect.  I expected better from Representative Jones.

Palin’s Card Game: Where The Republicans Got Off Track

The photo below is being passed around Facebook and it struck me on two levels.

First, the caption is funny.  I don’t think anyone really believes the President “shoots skeet all the time”.  It’s a phrase he never should have uttered, and once printed only caused the media to question it.  This in turn put the President in the no-win situation of either walking back the statement or providing proof.  He did the latter (kind of) by releasing an awkward photo, only to take a good ribbing from his political opponents for it.  So the meme around social media is expected and warranted.  You get what you ask for, Mr. President.Cards

But the second thing that struck me was the picture itself.  I’m not sure exactly when it was made, but I believe it represents where Republicans went wrong.  Sarah Palin, placed squarely in the center of Republican heroes?  Really?

I assume this was painted at the height of her celebrity, which was only a few years ago. Her fall from relevance in this short time only proves why this picture fails. Efforts to force candidates into an alliance with political heroes of the past is dangerous.

Reagan, Eisenhower, Bush, Lincoln…..and Palin?  I don’t think so. Sarah Palin playing cards with Barry Goldwater  would be a more accurate portrayal of her historical significance.

In fact, Palin represents the movement within the Republican party that many (including me) feel is the primary cause for Obama’s election and subsequent reelection.  McCain’s move to choose her was the tipping point in my decision to vote non-republican for the first time in my life.  It was her wing of the party that most recently spawned the likes of Michelle Bachman and Herman Cain.  Their presence in the primaries pushed electable people like Jon Hunstman and Tim Pawlenty out of the picture far too early, and eventually became a drag on Romney he could not overcome.

This is not to say that the ideas of the far right are not genuine feelings.  I have many friends who honestly subscribe to a Tea Party philosophy because they genuinely believe it’s best for the country.  The ideas deserve a place in the discussion, especially on economic matters. I believe we need a government, but acknowledge it is bloated and inefficient.  I appreciate the Tea Party as a reality check on ideas, but don’t completely subscribe to their philosophy.  I, for one, look forward to a “return to normalcy” in the Republican party.  I’ve sat out the last two elections as far as the Republican party goes; voting Democrat once and, most recently, Libertarian.  I’d like to see Huntsman remain relevant, I would like to see more of Pawlenty, and I’s sure there are others out there.

But paintings of a polarizing, failed VP nominee, in the center of actual presidents, most of which where elected more than once?  That’s about as funny as Obama shooting a gun.