April 26, 2019

Taking Truth to Power

Guest Column
By David Frederick | March 30, 2019

Truth is an interesting concept. Most people believe they have a pretty good understanding of it. Why wouldn’t they? Truth isn’t all that complicated. But on the other hand, when one hears the axiom that one man’s truth is another man’s lie, it muddles the water a bit. It should not; that axiom is unfounded. A statement or assertion is either true or it is not.  
Determining relative validity, however, does become more complicated in situations wherein truth is made conspicuous by its absence. In this regard, it is unfortunate but nevertheless a part of reality that ideas that are not true but are repeatedly asserted as true often become accepted as true.

Addressing this complication requires an operational definition of what it is that constitutes truth. Defined, “truth” is that which can be verified to be in accordance with fact or reality. That seems simple enough.

In political discourse, a significant problem occurs, however, when neither facts nor reality can be found to support a determined partisan belief or effort. The absence of truth leaves disinformationas the only alternative. The following example provides insight as to how an intentional disinformation effort, both significant in consequences and massive in size, was successfully weaponized to enact partisan-based legislation.

Over the course of the last several decades it has been the Republican Party’s mantra that taxes, especially those imposed on corporations and wealthy citizens are counterproductive. This is propaganda, pure and simple.

When juxtaposed against verified fact or reality, the Republican trickle-down tax-reform concept of economics has failed every test. Evidence spanning from 1929 to the present day indicate that highly skewed distributions of income and uncontrolled escalating national debt are detrimentalto economic well-being.  
   
Commencing January 21, 2016, the Republican Party acquired sufficient control of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government to enable the enactment of their core tax reform goals. On December 22, 2017, massive tax cuts were put in place for the corporate and wealthiest members of society. This was done with the sure and certain knowledge that they would result in a massive increase in an already soaring national debt.

One effectively used part of this disinformation campaign was to publically describe the bill as the Middle Class Tax Reform Act. Describing it as such implied that a primary intention of the Republican tax plan was to improve the financial security of middle- and working-class families.
As it turned out, it is difficult to imagine anything much further from the truth. This ruse was skillfully reinforced by propaganda bombarding working-class families with nonsensical banter stressing how fortunate they would be to receive these middle- and working-class tax cuts.

Misleading propaganda predicted that these tax cuts would enable middle-class families to buy bigger houses, drive newer cars, and afford to pay for their kids to attend college. That just wasn’t so. Eighty-five percent of the benefits went to corporations and the already rich. The leftovers went to everyone else.
   
The use of disinformation in the tax reform effort was further demonstrated by the Republican legislative majority’s refusal to reveal the actual content of the bill prior to its passage. Through the exclusion of all non-Republican members of the House of Representatives and Senate, from the process of developing, reviewing, and debating this bill, one-half of all American citizens were in effect disenfranchised respective to the tax reform legislation. What better way is there to demonstrate partisan power and disdain for the governed?

Today there is unfortunately little to no risk associated with elected officials, party-based politicians, and/or news media sources providing disinformation to the public. To set this right, legal measures need to be established.  

One means for increasing the risk associated with lying to the public is to expand the crime of perjury, from being a predominantly court-based issue, to include additional venues. The expanded concept would be public perjury.

To be effective, it would be necessary for public perjury to establish at least two additional categories of criminal offenses: First, to define as a crime “the act of any local, state or federal elected official, after having taken an oath of office, uttering or publishing disinformation while acting in the capacity of their elected office.”

Could such a law be challenged as violating the constitutional rights of elected officials? Probably not; it’s difficult to understand how a law prohibiting elected officials from committing malfeasance would be a violation of rights.

The second new set of offences would make it a crime for corporations, organizations, political parties, or individuals to utter or publish disinformation for public consumption while representing themselves as legitimate sources of news and/or information.

This aspect of public perjury would be more likely to have a constitutionally based challenge. However, there is no intent, right, or authorization included in the First Amendment that allows any person or organization to utter or publish false information intended to mislead the public and/or corrupt public discourse.

A grassroots effort can be an effective way to take that truth to power. Make it happen.
David Frederick, a centrist-based Independent, regards extremist political partisanship as a dangerous threat to the well-being and security of middle-class Americans. He further believes reestablishing coordinated grassroots truth-to-power messaging is a prerequisite for diminishing that threat. dcf13343@gmail.com
 

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