Not long ago a Republican friend of mine asked me to read a book. Being the bookworm I am, I took him up on the offer. The book was Spygate: Exposing the Obama/Clinton Deep State Criminality. I do love a good read, and I often look for books and articles that will challenge my political conclusions. This book presented just that challenge.
I started out writing down some things wrong with the arguments the book presented. Here are a few examples from the first few pages:
Deliberately Distorted Information:
- Why did the book say Alexandra Chalupa (a Democratic party consultant) was paid $412,000 over 12 years? Why not say $34,000/year? Seems like they wanted to make it sound like more money than it actually was.
- Chalupa did try to tell the DNC this stuff about Russia even though the book says she did not. The DNC ignored her warnings; the book makes her into a bigger deal than she is.
One-sided or Incomplete Information:
- Why did the book say Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasn’t investigated? The Podesta Group (one mentioned as not being investigated) was actually investigated, and Tony Podesta was referred to NY prosecutors by special counsel Robert Mueller; clearly her campaign was investigated.
- Paul Manafort (Donald Trump's campaign chairman) was super sketchy, and a tiny bit of research would have found that. Why did Jared Kushner (Donald Trump's son-in-law) refer him to work on the campaign?
- Trump hired a corrupt, pro-Russia campaign manager. Did he not do a background check before putting him in charge? While this doesn’t prove Trump colluded with Russia, it’s either that or President Trump shows a great lack of intelligence. Either way, it’s not good for the United States.
Book Used Good Sources:
- NY Times, The Atlantic, NBC News, Politico. Few if any right-wing sources. No Blaze, or Breitbart.
I noticed that after several hours of reading with deep research and intensive internet searching, I was only on page 20. At this rate, it would take me a year to finish the book. So, I just continued to read without taking the time to write down discrepancies or logical holes in the book. Reading that way, it was an easy and fast read, which is a little disquieting in itself. It would be easy with this kind of book to manipulate a trusting person into thinking this book is telling everything, when it most certainly is not.
After finishing the book, I started to take a philosophical approach to this information age we live in. One would think that with more information, people would come to a consensus. For example, when I was growing up my friends and I would quiz each other on various trivia. We’d wager a nickel or so on who was right, then go ask a grown-up to tell us what was true. Now we wager nothing, because we all have the information in our pockets. We all can look up the truth or fiction of anything, anytime.
This deluge of information hasn’t helped us in the political realm, however. Despite anyone anywhere at any time being able to look up information on Donald Trump and his dealings with Russia, his sickening quote about groping married women, his escapades with porn stars, his making fun of military families who’ve lost their children in battle, his call for keeping an entire religion out of the United States based on their religion, his antipathy towards immigrants, his racist and criminal background in his real estate businesses (and those are just things I came up with off the top of my head), Republicans still elected him president.
This reminds me of Paul’s words to Timothy about those of us living in the last days; specifically, that we would be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
With Facebook and other social media news outlets reinforcing our proclivities, we fail to see how our conclusions can be wrong. We can read entire books composed of narratives leaving out opposing positions, then go to our Facebook news feed and read news articles that back up our suppositions. For all we know, everyone in the world is getting the same information. In reality they are not. Indeed we each live inside our own bubble of information; leaving occasionally to argue with a Facebook friend, only to come back to the safety of our confirmation-bias-reinforcing information shelter.
Lehi counsels, it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If I am only reading what I agree with, no opposing viewpoints being rendered, then I will never come to the truth.
Recently a friend of mine reached out asking for political research process and how to get informed, unbiased political information. My advice was:
- Read. A lot. Check whether what you're reading is opinion or not (of course everything is biased somewhat, but at least non-opinion pieces try to take out the bias).
- Read legitimate journalists and news sources that have a lot of history and are cited by multiple other news sources (AP, NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and NPR for national information).
- If you don't like reading, find some good podcasts like The Daily or More Perfect.
- Start reading biographies and histories of notable people to give ideas on the culture and events surrounding the big turning points in the country.
- Involve yourself with local politics (go to a community council meeting or city council meeting) and engage in meaningful discourse with those who are there.
Of all the things I think I needed to know, this book taught me that someone can take good information from good sources and still come to incomplete or one-sided conclusions. It also taught me that I should look at my own biases and sources to make sure I am not falling into the same trap.