The Straight Scoop

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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coffee cup and laptopI ate my eggs and potatoes with a glad and generous heart. The waitress kept coming by and topping off the coffee. They even had WiFi, a bit unusual for a small town cafe where the sight of laptops was on the rare side. It’s the kind of cafe that still has the individual stools up at the counter across from the grill. Some people prefer to sit there even when tables are available. One gentleman did for sure.

If someone is a bit hard of hearing they occasionally speak a bit louder, not knowing that their stage whisper can rattle the windows. Add some emotional agitation to that and you might as well give them a megaphone: Now hear this! That’s how it was for the older gentleman in the brown work shirt with the twin front pockets.

“Did you hear why Rand Paul was filibustering?” It really wasn’t a question. “Because Obama wants to use drones to assassinate American citizens, right here at home!” Everyone within ear shot, which would be everyone within a square mile, paused and looked up. “Yep, it came right from the Attorney General. The government will just kill its own citizens as it sees fit. They are just dumping our constitution. Just like that!”

In a setting like this the waitress behind the counter assumes a kind of facilitator role, before anyone else chimes in, if they do. “Really?” she said. “Now where did you hear that?”

“Well right on the news,” he said with confidence. And with that everyone around went back to buttering their toast.

“Right on the news” is an interesting phrase. It’s especially of concern today because it matters a great deal what “news” program one happens to be following. It may not be “news” at all but rather commentary, extended op-ed speech draped in news-like surroundings. That is one of the challenges of today – discerning truth from fiction in a multi-source environment.

For instance, I actually listened to the statement of the Attorney General as regards the use of drones. His statement was exactly opposite that of the loud man at the counter. The fact that any statement may be twisted and manipulated by a “news” program for its own political purposes is familiar to us now. In addition, any citizen may listen to that “news,” turn it another 90 degrees, repackage it with absolute authority, and spew it to Liza Mae at the coffee bar. It might be patently untrue, but that doesn’t stop anybody. The lie has assumed legitimacy. Say it often enough and it becomes “true.” And that’s how politics roll today.

I didn’t comment from across the room. To tell the truth I might not have even if I were sitting on one of the revolving round seats at the counter beside him. Some things ring as untrue even to the uninformed. I suppose that’s why the collective group around him just changed the subject to the weather. That’s one of the endearing things about a small town. They know that opinions come and go but the sun always comes up.

While they are talking I check out the hearings for Brennan as new CIA chief on CNN. The waitress comes by again and checks on my coffee. “Top that off, honey?”

  1. Audrey says:

    A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a Professor at MU who has often been called to do local and regional political commentary. He gave me a guideline that helps me discern what to do when someone tells a bald faced lie whether it be political or otherwise. It is like you say, if someone tells the lie often enough it becomes TRUE, and that becomes what is then told over and over. That is what Professor confirmed. if the lie is told often enough it becomes the prevailing opinion.
    So I changed from my silent, no response behavior both in person and in print. When I get one of those outrageous lies on email…I suggest they visit Snopes. Or, like the waitress did, ask where did you hear that? Of course you have to judge the circumstances and decide if there will be any benefit or if the assembled group will listen to what you have to say. I believe you chose correctly to remain silent in those “foreign” circumstances …especially since the crowd didn’t bit on his bait.

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