We live in a nation that has, because of technology developed just within my lifetime, made available to us access to virtually all information in our world. Facts and subject matter that used to be known only to scholars are now reachable from our homes and businesses. We have no reason not to be the best informed population that ever lived. And live that way.

But we are not. And the evidence is overwhelming. It fills the pages of our increasingly poorly edited and disappearing newspapers. We are inundated daily by increasingly poorly produced broadcast news. And evidence of misinformation … or disinformation … disguised as fact pollutes much of what we read on the Internet.

Though we have easy access to facts, it is becoming harder to find them because of deliberate efforts of some to distort or twist them to serve their own purposes. We’ve had to develop services to check and double-check the accuracy of much of what is being passed off as “fact.” So, being really informed, despite the availability of so much data, has become harder; not easier.

The evidence of susceptibility to phony facts is at play in our nation’s political system. Phony not because I don’t see things the way some who use this disinformation do. Phony because facts aren’t there. You might say that’s been the case since the first politician. But not the way I mean. It’s been greatly accelerated in our time.

I’ve coined a phrase for it. “Deliberate ignorance” meaning that, although the correct information is readily available, some chose to use the bad information or the lie. And they’ll back up their fraudulent claim with “fact.”

For one proof of this thesis, go to the opening page of Ridenbaugh.com and read an entry by Prop. Randy Stapilus entitled “Uneasy Nullification Debating” dealing with just one day’s debate in the Idaho Legislature. Go ahead. Do it now. Then come back. I’ll wait.


Notice how little FACT is used by these backers of an already legally discredited nullification concept. And notice how much phony “fact” you find. It leaves you with a single choice. Either that legislative body is dominated by liars or good, honest people have accepted bad information as “fact” and have based their votes on it. Those are the only two answers. My guess: a little of both.

I’d prefer to think they’re good people with bad information. But with the real, accurate facts available, why not use them? Why not take a little extra time to check out what’s real and what’s not before you stand on the floor of a legislative body and have your name attached to lies kept for posterity in the public record of those proceedings?

Our national congressional debate transcripts are rife with more of this. Health care “death squads.” “Birther” challenges to the legality of Pres. Obama’s citizenship. Statistics … like the 200,000 government hires in two years under the Obama administration … are used by “leaders” and accepted as fact by followers though there is no fact there. And on and on and on.

The average person works harder these days, producing more than a counterpart only a few years ago. Yet with the available flow of more information more easily accessible now than ever, we are hard-pressed to have the time to be as well-informed as we might be. As we should be. As we must be.

This “more-information-less-time” conundrum is fertile ground for hate radio and ideologues. Whatever their twisted logic … for personal wealth, celebrity or ignorance … they feed into the same information pool as real fact; contaminating the other sources of news and information we rely on. A twist of fact here, a little lie there and soon it’s a verbal meatloaf of jumbled “facts.”

Then, those who would venerate these con artists … or who believe them in their own ignorance … mix that pollution and regurgitate it as “fact.” The nullification debate in the Idaho legislature is a classic case in point.

I’m a firm first amendment supporter and will continue to be. Free speech is essential to our democracy. But it must be free, factual speech. The late Sen. Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”

Those who practice “deliberate ignorance” are a danger to us all.

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