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The fibs come from all sides

Sep 3, 2013 - By Randy Tucker

From "news" to entertainment, what's wrong with the truth?

I found a 1943 Army Air Force survival manual in a pile of old books at the Army surplus store in Riverton back in high school. The AAF emblem dominated the page, and the contents contained a variety of survival techniques ranging from fire starting to evading capture if shot down over enemy territory.

The inside cover featured one of those protective pages that books once contained. This semi-transparent page shielded the photo of then-President Franklin Roosevelt. It didn't protect him from everything, though, because across his face someone had scribbled "horse's ass."

In short, it was a study of the American political system in microcosm. The man was elected by the people four times, brought us out of the Great Depression, and at the time of his death was on the verge of winning the most dangerous conflict we've ever faced as a nation. But he was still reviled by some. Such is the nature of Americans as expressed in one of the key components of our most important constitutional amendment, the first.

Distrusting the president at such vehement, public levels is a fairly recent occurrence. It coincided with the arrival of televised mass media and exploded mushroom-style with the advent of the Internet.

Now, talking heads can bring in a distinguished political science professor, put him on stage with a crackpot that believes the Holocaust was a contrived conspiracy, and both are viewed as equals by many mindless viewers. Such is the slant of many unscrupulous types in the modern electronic media.

While much of televised news is charged with extreme bias, nothing can compare to the drivel often produced by Fox New. I prefer to call the station "Faux News," as in fake news, because it deals much more in commentary than in actual, factually based news stories.

It's laughable when the commentators refer to studies conducted by "a major university" in news segments rather than simply reporting, "Stanford scientists say" or "Researchers at Michigan State report that..."

Instead, they follow the guise of supermarket tabloids, the same ones that reported Hillary Clinton abducted by aliens and Elvis spotted at a convenience store in Butte, Mont.

While Fox News dominates the extreme right slant on television and the bloviated voices of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk crowd the AM radio airwaves, nothing can compare with the opposite, left-wing slant coming out of Hollywood.

Movies and television play fast and loose with the truth.

The latest showpiece comes in "Lee Daniel's: The Butler." The story purportedly tells the true-life story of Eugene Allen, a man who served in the White House under eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan. The real Allen and the movie Allen share a few actual commonalities. Both were black, born in Virginia and served as butlers in the White House. That's where reality ends and Hollywood takes the reins.

The fictional butler watches his mother raped, his father shot in the head, and loses a son in Vietnam while another son fights for civil rights in the riotous 1960s. None of that actually happened. The real butler was hired under Truman, not Eisenhower, as depicted in the film (my only guess is that Democrat and Republican alike both claim Truman as one of their own) and was not the target of blatant racism by Ronald and Nancy Reagan, but actually invited to state dinners during the Reagan years and widely admired by both the president and his wife.

That just doesn't sell in Hollywood. How could someone who is the poster child for the right wing actually treat a minority with respect? It just doesn't play well.

The same people who portray every father as a bumbling idiot, mindlessly kill hundreds of people in the space of an hour, and portray single mothers as the only people with their act together on the screen just couldn't take it.

Which begets the question, what's wrong with the truth? Why do the so talking heads lie from the right while Hollywood does exactly the same thing from the left?

Perhaps the answer is that those on the political extreme have no regard for the intellectual abilities of Americans as a group. Why else would they think us so easily duped?

The final Clinton years saw the rise of the Internet, and political life hasn't been the same since. Niche "news" comes in every political variety, and you can find a website or cable outlet to fit your particular viewpoint and never need to worry about the facts.

Ideology and the cult of celebrity rule the day. Advertisers knew this long before the news media did, but it all plays the same these days. Tell the people what they want to hear, don't bother with the facts, and they'll always come back for more.

It works selling yogurt, tires, batteries and toilet paper, so why not politics as well?

I ask once again, what's wrong with the truth?

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator. He farms in rural Riverton.

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