the medium is the message
Be nice. Nobody likes an asshole so don’t be one if you want to be liked by others. Be patient. Don’t rush into things unwittingly and unprepared. That being said, don’t be overly cautious or you won’t ever experience failure in your life, which would be the ultimate failure.
Be useful. Strive to be competent. Envision what sort of person you want to be then work each day to be that person. Change if you must. If you are unhappy, find the true source of that unhappiness and change it. Focus on the center and let everything else fall in place around that center. Accept that some things will fall away. Recognize the greatness in others. Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. Be someone that others can trust in.
Whatever life you are envisioning for yourself will go in directions, both good and bad, that you never foresaw nor anticipated. In the end, your success or failure as a human being will not be measured by the grades you received, what college your degree is from, how much money you earn or whether or not your life is traveling the precise trajectory you had planned. That’s not to say that all sorts of people won’t judge you by such mis-measured yardsticks. They will, again and again, and yet again. What’s important is that you do not fall into that worldly trap for if you do, it paralyzes you from growing and becoming the very best human being you can be.
Seek perfection, but seek it in the right places. Perfect grades are not perfection. That’s not to say that your grades and academic degrees don’t matter; rather, it’s to put them in perspective. They are landmarks on a path, but not the path themselves. You have been blessed with many talents and opportunities. Seize them, make the most of them, and don’t fret the small stuff.
“Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure [sic] that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered.”
—Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America
NATION, THIS IS NO TIME for debate and talking, talking, talking about gun control and arguing about interpretations of the Second Amendment. No more babbling and splitting hairs—it’s time to shut up and take action to protect our nation’s children from the atrocities being perpetrated upon them by gun-wielding lunatics.
America, it’s time to do what we do best. It’s time to fight fire with fire. It’s time to arm our nation’s citizens with guns in order to protect ourselves. Not only is this guaranteed by our Constitution, it’s the most logical thing to do in order to solve this scourge of escalating senseless violence that is tearing our country apart at the seams. Enough already. It’s time we all came together as one nation armed to the teeth. It’s time to arm every man, woman, and child with guns because it is the only way we can protect ourselves and guarantee “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”.
This nationwide effort to protect ourselves must begin in our schools with the arming and training of every school administrator and teacher. I propose a national firearms training program that is implemented and managed jointly by the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Education. Funding for this program, which will be known as the Gun Assisted Teachers (or GAT) program, will come from a mix of tax revenue and donations from a consortium of gun and ammo manufacturers as well as special-interest groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) who have, for many years, advocated this much-needed call to arms.
With GAT, firearms training will become an integral component of all teacher training programs. In addition to demonstrating mastery of the subject matter they teach, our nation’s teachers will also be required to demonstrate aptitude in firearms knowledge, including a yearly firing range test in which they achieve a minimum of 83 percent target accuracy.
Once we’ve successfully implemented the GAT program, we will then introduce guns into the curriculum beginning in the second grade. Students will be taught the importance of firearms as well as their central role in American history and popular culture. Playgrounds will be augmented with firing ranges so that teachers can train their pupils in the proper handling of firearms and prepare them to become expert marksmen and responsible citizens. Additionally, we will train our children in tactical skills with a particular emphasis on urban warfare. Along with the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), there will be a mandatory Firearms Aptitude Test (FAT) that students will be required to achieve a passing score on before graduating from high school.
Nation, this is no time for more gun control—it’s time for massive gun proliferation. Only when every American is armed and equally dangerous will we all be safe. God bless America and God bless the guns that will keep us free from sea to shining sea.
Civilization was built by the exploitation of human labor. There were those who did the exploiting and those who were exploited. That’s how things got done. It’s how empires were built. It’s the way things have always been and the way things would always have to be. That was the central theme of my colleague’s argument and I agreed with him all the way up until that last part: that this was the way things would always have to be.
His argument was tautological:
Human labor has been exploited throughout human history in the building of civilization, therefore, the exploitation of human labor is a necessary component of civilization building. Thus to advocate for the end of human exploitation is tantamount to advocating for the end of human civilization.
In all due fairness, he didn’t actually explicitly state that last part, but it was implied given that the context of our discussion was the Occupy Wall Street movement and the widening wealth gap in America. The fact that there is a wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots that has significantly widened over the past 30 years was not in dispute. In fact, there wasn’t much of a dispute going on at all. I wasn’t arguing with him. For the most part, I was asking questions and listening to what he had to say.
His point of contention was that the people who were protesting didn’t have the fundamental understanding that he had of “how the world actually works.” I found this line of reasoning quite fascinatingly wrong. It seemed quite the opposite to me: people were protesting because they understood quite clearly “how the world actually works.” Rather than accepting it though, as my colleague seemed to have done, they were fed up with it and were actively trying to change it.
My colleague’s argument went further: if people in the 99 percent actually understood how the world worked and how they too were benefitting from the long-established system of the world that rewarded the 1 percent who owned the corporations that made everything from automobiles to Zyban, they would be ashamed of themselves. He was right; they would be ashamed. In fact, I believe they are ashamed. They’re outraged too. This is precisely what the big stink is all about.
Whether or not you agree with all the principles and practices of the Occupy Wall Street movement, you should recognize and appreciate that at its core it is about seeking to change the way things are and not accepting that the status quo is the way things must always be. This is important because it is exactly that kind of desire in the human spirit manifesting itself in the physical world that has brought about monumental social changes such as, say, the end of slavery in America. Imagine my colleague’s same argument applied to that? It would go something like this:
Civilization was built upon slavery. There were those who were slaves and those who were masters. It’s the way things have always been and the way things will always be. The slaves should be thankful and grateful that their masters are taking care of them.
Now, one could argue that we’ve just replaced one form of slavery with another; that there are still masters and slaves, albeit wage-earning slaves. The problem with that argument, however, is that a wage-earning “slave” isn’t a slave in the same way that a person who was kidnapped, chained up, shipped like cargo to a foreign land, and sold to an owner, was a slave. While somedays we might feel like we are “slaving away” for the company or institution we work for, we are not slaves in the same way that actual slaves were slaves.
That’s because the world, in fact, is not the way it has always been. Overall, it’s rather a better place than it used to be. And it is a better place precisely because of the deep desire to make it a better place that burns at the core of our collective human spirit. That’s not to say that every human being carries that flame within them. Stalin certainly didn’t. He slaughtered millions in an effort to snuff out that flame and maintain the status quo. Powerful and wealthy men who benefit from the way things are have a tendency to not want things to change—unless of course that change benefits them—and they will go to great lengths to prevent any changes that may, whether real or perceived, be to their personal detriment.
I think we can do better than accept that the world is the way it has always been and will forever be based on the exploitation of human labor and the environment. To do so is to ignore the human need to improve the world we live in. To do so is to become cynical and accept being only 1 percent of our human potential rather than taping into the other 99 percent of what we could be. To accept the world in its current state is a complete failure of our humanity. We can do better.
Ignore the morons who were quick to call you a “moron” regarding your blog posting “Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?“ They’re playground bullies who never grew up. Your question sailed 10 feet over their collective heads while they were bent over and engaged in the act of delivering cheap-shots below the belt. They missed it completely. So let’s forget them and move on to your question: “Should The Times be a truth vigilante?” It is a seemingly simple question and I must confess that when I tweeted the link to your blog posting I somewhat flippantly added the hashtag #yes to that tweet. But the answer, I believe (and as you articulated in your follow-up posting), is far more multi-faceted and complicated.
Journalism’s first and most elemental principle is an obligation to the truth. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement; excepting, perhaps, Karl Rove. This is not some freshly minted idea, nor is it mine. Obligation to the truth is the first of the “Principles of Journalism” as outlined in The Elements of Journalism, a brilliant book by Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach that should be mandatory reading for all Americans. Certainly it should at least be read by all practicing journalists.
While “obligation to the truth” may be self-evident, people tend to disagree on what, exactly, “the truth” is. This is due, in part, to human beings being subjective individuals. We are subjective because we are constantly subjected to the beliefs, morals, and traditions of the culture we were born into. For better or for worse, we are indoctrinated into the culture we live within. For example, a Christian’s truth is radically different than an atheist’s truth. A Christian’s truth is rooted in the existence of God. An atheist’s truth is that God does not exist. This monumental difference fundamentally changes how Christians and atheists view the world. And it is our view of the world that shapes our actions. If that sounds like philosophy that’s because it is. Any discussion of truth is a philosophical discussion.
Journalism, however, is not philosophy. It is the practice of gathering and reporting news.
“News and truth are not the same thing, and must be clearly distinguished,” wrote Walter Lippmann in his 1922 book Public Opinion. “The function of the news is to signalize an event. The function of truth is to bring to light the hidden facts, to set them into relation with each other, and make a picture of reality upon which men can act.”
Truth in journalism, or “journalistic truth”, is not the same as truth in the absolute or philosophical sense. “Journalistic truth” is a practical and functional form of truth by which we can operate day-to-day.
Achieving journalistic truth is a process, a journey toward understanding of an event that begins with the first reporting of an event and evolves as new “hidden facts” come to light. A “fact” is an event or thing that is known to have happened or existed because it is verifiable. Verification is the key. In journalism, an unverifiable “fact” is not a fact and should not be reported. Verification is the essence of journalism. If you are not verifying the “facts” you are reporting, then you are not practicing journalism. In fact, you may inadvertently be engaging in an act of propaganda.
How do you verify a fact? From reputable sources. What is a “reputable source”? A source that can be trusted to provide you truthful information about an event or topic. How do you know if a source is a reputable source? By verifying the information a source provides you against other sources. Over time, you learn what sources can be trusted and which ones cannot. It is this discipline of verification that makes journalism such a pain in the ass, which explains why there is a withering supply of good journalism in a world of exploding information.
Truth is elusive. It is the Holy Grail of journalism that serious practitioners of journalism must pursue. And they pursue it by adhering to the discipline of verification.
Just like any other newspaper, The New York Times has had its share of failings in the discipline-of-verification department. Judith Miller’s articles on there being WMDs in Iraq during the lead-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion come to mind. She and the editors at the time took those “facts” emanating from the White House hook, line, and sinker. If The New York Times had been adhering to the discipline of verification, if they had been vigilant, then that would not have happened. If all journalists had been diligently (and vigilantly) practicing the discipline of verification, I’d argue that the Bush administration would not have been able to muster enough popular support to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq and it would never have happened. This is how powerful and important the discipline of verification is. As the “first draft of history”, journalism has the power to change it.
The New York Times and other news providers will continue to have lapses of judgement and outright failings when it comes to the discipline of verification and pursuit of the truth because of the simple and unassailable fact that news is gathered and reported by human beings who are just as prone to mistakes and failure as anyone else in any other profession. This is not a blanket excuse; rather, it is a challenge to those who have chosen to make journalism their life’s work and news organizations such as The New York Times that endeavor to report “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.