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President Calvin Coolidge did not believe in grand rhetoric and dramatic oratory when making his points. Rather, he was fairly straightforward in speaking directly with the American people, believing that communication (in the 1920s, by radio) of ideas and facts was what mattered. Coolidge was successful both in his outreach, and his tenure in office.

Facing a net of 99 percent negative news coverage, President Donald Trump has taken to direct communication with the American people through social media in an unparalleled way by clashing with news corporations and presiding over fake news awards. Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake has declared Trump to be Stalinist in his attitude toward the media.

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While one can question the tactfulness of awards for fake news, one cannot honestly compare a kind of public expression of disapproval regarding news outlets with something like the literal violence orchestrated by the state against news outlets (such as during the reigns of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and others), or the severe contemporary repression and control of the press (such as in North Korea). If this was the case, the American press would not have had the ability to openly question the president’s health based on his appetite for McDonald’s.

Likewise, President Trump is not the only one who uses the term “fake news.” Americans of all political persuasions are using that term, sometimes with merit, sometimes without. Cross-referencing, research and simply being objective will help Americans in their pursuit of the truth and in their decision-making. Simply labeling something one disagrees with as “fake news” does not. At the same time, lies, untruths and exaggerations in the news media are as old as our country itself (and older, for that matter). Somehow, despite this, the United States has survived and prospered, free and independent.

What accounts for this? I honestly believe that Americans, at large, are good people and, given the facts and evidence, make the right decisions. The public can, of course, be lied to and can be misled — but the American system (thanks to the brilliance of the founders) is self-correcting. Overreach and excess can be curtailed and rolled back. Separation of powers can be restored. Better paths can be taken. Trump, to the chagrin of many on the left, is doing just that, from federal land redesignation to returning DACA to Congress to empowering the military against terrorism to paving the way for health care reform to creating more favorable conditions for the market economy.

There is an inherent danger as well in exaggerating circumstances for personal gain and political traction. The more terms are thrown around carelessly, and the more actual history is warped for present convenience, the less power these words — and what they represent and mean — will have. Can you think of a Republican candidate for president, or a Republican president in recent times, who was not referred to as a Nazi or a fascist? Despite the favor of state control on the part of Nazis and fascists, and the emphasis against too much power in the hands of the state by Republicans, that does not stop the comparisons from being drawn for political purposes. These terms ultimately lose their actual meaning, and this is what proves dangerous because what should be a clarion warning becomes only background noise, rejected or ascribed as mere “fake news.” Should a real villain arise someday, who will actually believe the warning? There is also such a thing as over-saturation: In an age of constant contact, it is the man who speaks selectively who is heard loudest.

We also see this in the #resist movement that has coalesced in opposition to the president (a movement which loosely, loudly and routinely throws around the term “fascist”). In the minds of “resisters,” they are part of a heroic effort to stop the perceived rise of a totalitarian government, while in Tehran, heroic human beings have been killed for opposing an actual totalitarian government. As such, too little is said about the protesters in Iran while the #resist movement remains prevalent in the United States. There really is no comparison between the two. And yet the reality remains obscured by partisanship.

The discussion we are having about real news is symptomatic of a deeper search for truth. The American people are restless, challenged and upended about who they are and what they are meant for, having been ceaselessly castigated for years by those with ulterior political intent. This search for truth, this desire for love of wisdom (philosophy), and attempting to understand what is true and what is not true, and how it is we know what we know (epistemology), does have a purpose. This search for answers is ultimately a search for God in an age that would rather do without Him. Finding God means finding truth and understanding that there are absolutes. Those absolutes are found not only in our faith as creations of Divine Will, but in eternal principles, as Coolidge called them, enshrined in our founding documents.

Disagreement is possible without cruelty. Different opinions can indeed be drawn about the same sets of facts, though ultimately, one opinion will be wrong. Discovering the truth requires listening and understanding as well as questioning. Knowing God means knowing truth; and knowing truth means Americans can make the right choices. That said, perfection is impossible. Mistakes will be made. But we have a political system which anticipates a need for correction because it recognizes human beings are imperfect. That includes where it comes to finding the truth. Fake news awards and fake news are therein not a mark of tyranny, but rather a revelation that we are actually seeking truth. And that itself should be comforting.

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