Snake-oil salesmen came to town in the old days to tempt the risk-takers and those desperate for easy remedies, but that was before they awarded college degrees in how to hornswoggle the locals.
The past four or five years has proven that America still has a sizeable population of people with an appetite for easy remedies, and salves for old wounds, real and imagined. The most vulnerable are those who want simple verification for whatever it is that ails them, or at least justification for their opinions.
Those who enrich or empower themselves at the expense of that population have little concern for consequences.
From the corrupt lender to the medical quack to the seedy ambulance chaser to the lowest of them all — the preachers and politicians who promise salvation based on hatred of the Other — there is always an audience, and disciples who are willing to spread the word.
And now they have social media and the internet at their disposal.
I believe in faith. But not all the prophets and disciples, nor the tactics they use. That’s what editors are paid to do, and it’s a bigger job as information comes faster and with more fury from all directions.
This is what I tell those who send me some new truth, a revelation akin to a burning bush tip from some mystical source deep within the non-system, like Q-Anon, for example: Don’t read it.
But it doesn’t have to be something as off-the-wall as claims of a deep state conspiracy of government insiders who are engaged in cannibalism and the international sex trade. It can be as simple as partisan politics gone off the rails.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a member of the roster of Nepotism Inc., justifies the president’s lies; the reaction of the media checkers amplifies the publicity, and that’s all that matters, he says.
Shows you something about the place of ethics on staff.
I was raised to be aware that you are known by the company you keep. And you are wise to always consider the source of any information that seems to be unusually tempting, salacious, or damaging to others.
Why is this story out there? Who says so? Who benefits and who is damaged by it? And most important, what facts verify the truth of it?
It is amazing to me how many people can continue to believe what they are told even after the individuals putting it out there have demonstrated an inability to make any public statement that is not self-serving.
It confounds me that few people seem to have any idea about the history of demagoguery and the damage it has done through history, especially since this nation was supposed to have provided all the safeguards people need to avoid the poisonous effects of political takeovers by absolutists from either the Left or the Right.
I get email. I spend the least time on those with attachments from social media shortcuts for depth of reason.
Freedom of information is not our primary concern anymore. We need more freedom from too much information.
I forgo Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube attachments designed for shock, giggles and/or entertainment. These and the media plants from politically-motivated sources pushing a wings' agenda do not get my time. I recommend the traditional gatekeepers of public information.
Generally good sources are the much-disparaged “lame-stream” mainstream media like the Associated Press and most major metropolitan newspapers, most community papers, Public Radio and TV, NBC, CBS and ABC and to a lesser degree, Fox, especially on local market channels.
Use the new media if you like; go to one of the fact-checker sites — AP has a good one — and you’ll see all the announcements and remarks out of the White House, followed by the truth. According to Kushner, it’s OK to read that the president is setting records for lying, because it’s part of the strategy to amplify the confusion and give people something to talk about.
Maybe enough will buy the snake oil.
Dean Minnich has been an editor and columnist and served two terms as a county commissioner. His column appears on Thursdays. His email address is email@example.com.