Thursday, October 16, 2008

Some things are not negotiable

I set out to write a column about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful corner of the world. I was reminded of that over the weekend, when our roads were clogged with tourists in search of a little piece of something we take for granted every day: the splendor that is the North Fork. I spent some time this weekend interviewing people at a couple of local corn mazes, and more than one remarked on how lucky I am to "actually" live and work out here.

Yes, that's true. We are blessed to actually live and work here.

We take it all for granted. The natural beauty of our surroundings, the provision of basic necessities, the love and support of family and friends, the right to live our lives in peace and freedom.

Another thing we take for granted is truth. We don't appreciate the innate value of truth, how precious it is, or how central it is to our way of life.

As I reflected on the things I intended to write about, the things we take for granted, I couldn't get thoughts about truth out of my head. I've been bombarded with untruths lately, and shards of truth twisted into untruths, all masquerading as truth. If you've got an e-mail account, you know what I mean.

Perhaps because I'm a newspaper editor, I am treated to more than my fair share of e-mails that purport to disclose the "truth" about Barack Obama that the "liberal elite media" refuses to report. Some of these messages pour in from all corners of the country. Some originate from right here on the North Fork. Obama is a Muslim. Obama is not a U.S. citizen. His Hawaiian birth certificate was forged. Obama refuses to salute the flag. Obama won't wear a flag pin. Obama's education was paid for by radical Muslim organizations that are using him to infiltrate the U.S. government, so they can overthrow it.

I knew that sooner or later it would come down to a matter of biblical prophesy: Obama is the anti-Christ. And I quote (from an e-mail that arrived in my inbox Tuesday night: "According to The Book of Revelations [sic]: The Anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal ... The prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, he will destroy everything."

Never mind that the Book of Revelation doesn't even mention "the anti-Christ," or that Islam didn't come into existence until more than 400 years after the Book of Revelation was written during the first century A.D. Why bother with truth? As Huffington Post blogger Chez Pazienza observed recently, "the truth is negotiable." In this Internet world we live in, where the proliferation of "information" is easy, instantaneous and free, it is the lie, he observes, that has value. Especially in politics.

Mr. Pazienza puts it quite eloquently: "Whereas once there were a select few sources of information, and those sources were generally deemed credible by all but those on the furthest fringes of the public, now anyone can be his or her own news source. And while ... the rise of citizen journalism and hyper-connectivity has been good for the ethics of media as a whole, it's also created a treacherous wasteland of journalistic mini-fiefdoms, each spouting its own version of reality and together making it impossible, at times, to tell honest, well-researched fact from made-up crap conjured out of thin air to further an agenda."

I've had enough of the "made-up crap conjured out of thin air to further an agenda" to last a lifetime.

Truth really is not negotiable, you know. And truth should never, ever be taken for granted -- just because you see it on TV, or online, or in print doesn't make it truth. The next time you get a scurrilous e-mail, think before you click "forward." Research its claims. Like nature, good health and the love of your family, truth is precious -- and fragile. Don't take truth for granted.