Ken Trainor’s ruminations on handling submissions to Wednesday Journal’s opinion pages centered on the interpretation of “facts,” notably in the context of the array of current digital media landscapes. Terms such as “alternative facts” and “fake news” are now part of a political lexicon that has led to extreme actions and outcomes.

Ironically, I write this submission as the U.S. marks the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, an unprecedented event in U.S. history. “Stop the Steal,” propagated to the point of inciting that deadly day, in spite of the hard fact that the election was legitimately conducted. Extremist, fact-denying members of Congress at this moment are creating chaos in electing a Speaker of the House, now in its umpteenth failed vote, a fiasco that hasn’t unfolded since before the Civil War.

Who voted for this?! Well, lots and lots of people did, although I doubt many of them were parsing their perceptions of what their vote would offer them in return, beyond dysfunctional governance. Working-class people need a functional system, but tens of millions of them vote against their own futures.

Critical thinking these days is practically a superpower! The “check it out” journalistic mantra isn’t much practiced by many journalists themselves. The mainstream media bought the lies that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq. Even before that abrogation of responsible reporting, it allowed the military to filter the deadly realities of the Gulf I attack led by President H.W. Bush. Shameful.

If the press and its practitioners can’t deploy critical thinking for fear of … what, doing their jobs? — where does that leave “factuality” for those who still rely on trusting needed journalistic reportage? It leaves such seekers of truth to dig for it themselves. Search non-corporate news cites that traffic in asserting hard, cold, facts and the proof of such assertions. Hold to an objective of “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable,” as stated in the book, Observations by Mr. Dooley, published in 1902.

Today newsprint in virtual, or hard-copy, form needs to find its backbone again. Recall it was two intrepid reporters from the Washington Post who brought down a corrupt President Nixon 50 years ago (he resigned to avoid impeachment conviction). Two years after another president of the U.S. incited a deadly, televised attack on democracy, he remains free to spew more lies while his hardliner offspring in Congress continue to create political Theater of the Absurd.

Until and unless the press and the public embrace critical thinking, and know how to separate a fact from an inference from a personal opinion, things will continue to get worse, not better.

And that, in my humble (but informed) opinion, is a fact.

Joe Harrington
Oak Park

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