DAVID’S DESK #119 – DISCERNING NEWS
Since my last “David’s Desk”, a friend has died at the age of 117. We’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship for the past thirty-three years, but this past year, we’d gotten close again. The death came as a shock.
What died is our local newspaper, the Issaquah Press, which first started business in 1900. It was not like the New York Time or the Washington Post, but it was the voice of the community, a common source of news about what was happening in our town and in the region. When it needed to do so, it was also a source of good investigative journalism, keeping our local politicians and developers on their toes.
We shall miss it.
The death of newspapers is all too common these days as print journalism struggles to keep up with competition from all the digital media now available. It takes attentiveness to peruse a newspaper, taking time to think about what we’re reading rather than just responding to a tweet. Not everyone is now willing to spend that time.
What struck me this past month was that the death from financial anemia of our local paper came just as there was so much discussion and concern in other media about the proliferation and impact of “fake news.” While newspapers have certainly been instruments of propaganda, and I’ve personally seen instances where reporters and editors have gotten their facts wrong or misinterpreted what is happening, on the whole newspapers have been a valuable source of accurate information. Newspapers at their best can be an antidote to fake news. When the Issaquah Press died, I thought, “Well, there’s one less resource we have for finding the truth or for being informed about the issues of our community.” There are some roles and needs that digital media just don’t fill.
Thinking about the ease by which propaganda, misinformation, fake news, and out-and-out fabrications can now be generated and distributed to millions of people through digital media every day reminds me of a friend of mine back in the late Fifties and early Sixties. She was a terrific psychic and I remember her saying to me, “David, the time is coming when people will be challenged to distinguish between truth and lies, facts and illusion, and everyone will be living in their own private bubble of information.” With the arrival and growth of cyberspace over the past three decades, I’ve been watching her prophecy come to pass.
Finding truth is always important; decisions and actions based on falsehoods or misinformation can have damaging consequences. The first step towards truth is to be open to it, even when it means changing our minds. If all we look for is information that will confirm our own beliefs and biases, then we filter out anything that threatens or contradicts those opinions, even if it’s true and what we believe is not. We need to be willing to step beyond our private bubbles of information, as my friend put it so many years ago. Discernment becomes a survival skill in a world filled with daily attempts to manipulate our consciousness to someone else’s point of view.
My criteria for separating “true news” from “fake news” or propaganda, whether from the Left or the Right, is how much the source of the information wants me to see a limited, partial point of view that will engage me emotionally and stir me to conflict of some nature. It tries to convince me, stir my emotions, and bend my thinking, with no regard to my own sovereignty. It does not want me to think for myself but to accept without question the information and perspective being handed to me.
These days, everyone wants to turn me into a follower, it seems, even very worthy causes. In some cases, I’m OK with this, but I still want to choose out of my Sovereignty to support that cause. I do not wish to be coerced because they’ve made an emotional appeal or are trying to frighten me by telling me all the awful things that are happening or that will happen if I don’t support them.
When presented with news or other information, I ask myself if it adds to my understanding and compassion, making it easier to make connection with someone different from me, or does it seek to divide me from others, creating a feeling of “us” vs “them?” Does it make me resilient and more capable in my life? Does it enable me to engage the world in a loving and hopeful way? Does it open possibilities.
There is no doubt there are frightening things happening in the world. I can understand the desire to build walls around ourselves for safety and to filter out any information that threatens us. But our safety in the future does not lie in fortresses or the mentality that creates them. It lies in how we can communicate, understand, and cooperate with each other for our mutual benefit and the benefit of the earth around us. The future belongs to the collaborators, not the separators. Fake news denies this and works to keep us separate. The good news is that we can choose otherwise.
Would you like the opportunity to meet David Spangler in his first public appearance in many years, alongside an international group of spiritual teachers and explorers? Join us on July 28-30 at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington for Gaineering: A Lorian Summer Conference. Click here for more information.