Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Finding the truth matters

By Michael Hout

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(Mark Goebel/ Flickr)

In 2008, a woman at a Minnesota town hall said to then-presidential candidate John McCain that she “can’t trust Obama” and that “he’s an Arab.” McCain’s response spoke to his character: “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

While many on both sides of the aisle have had frustrations with Senator McCain, it is accepted, at least by all but the most extreme, that the Arizona statesman is a good man, if not a great one. But should it take a great man to rebut nonsense? Increasingly, it seems, fewer and fewer of us prioritize truth over what we perceive to be to our respective political benefit.

In recent weeks, Amherst College experienced a smattering of headline-making incidents. First, there was a noose found on their football field, later determined to be the action of non-students. In response, flyers were disseminated throughout the small, liberal arts campus which read, “This is our campus, not the Klan’s,” and featured a black fist. Here’s where the trouble starts.

While the flyers were everywhere—I take classes at Amherst and saw many of them myself, even removing one from the lap of the iconic Robert Frost statue directly across from the library which bears his name—Republicans on campus said they felt targeted because the flyers were found outside of their meeting.

Conservative sites quickly clung to the story, looking to students who could validate that the group had, in fact, been targeted—including at least one alumnus, a friend of mine, who no longer lives anywhere near Amherst. What was sought was confirmation, not truth.

Just after this, on Sept. 11, students from a more progressive sect of the campus populace decided to adorn Valentine Dining Hall with a banner which quoted Howard Zinn: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

The president of the Amherst College Democrats—a group that I, once upon a time, co-founded as National Chartering Director for College Democrats—excused the spectacle, calling it a “more a comprehensive understanding of the tragedy of that day.”

Three Amherst alumni were killed on 9/11, and anyone familiar with the college knows that a great many of its students are either from New York or move there shortly after graduating. The insensitivity of displaying a banner like that on what is, in essence, a day of mourning for the United States, is difficult to put into words.

However, the truth was distorted here as well. Breitbart, for instance, in a piece written by Daniel J. Flynn, said that the banner “remained unmolested above the dining hall during the day,” essentially implying that it was there for a lot longer than it was. When I was finished with my English class on the campus, which let out at 10:50 a.m., the banner had already been lifted out of sight. Again, however, partisan outlets made the judgment call to speak to those who would validate their predisposed notions, instead of those who could tell them the facts.

Of course, I do not wish to give off the impression that conservatives are the lone actors in this newfound surge in factual avoidance and ignorance. There have indeed been numerous cases of such activity propagated by the left, such as the unverified 35-page, anti-Trump dossier published by the left-leaning site Buzzfeed in January. Fortunately, in this case, a significant concert of American media condemned the action, with even Chuck Todd lambasting the act as an example of genuine “fake news.” But I digress.

Without any baseline consensus on what is factual, real progress can never occur. The left and right are both increasingly guilty of this disturbing trend in our discourse, one wherein caricaturing one another serves as a substitute for any actual, rational discussion. In spite of the sizable ideological crevasse dividing us as a nation at this particular moment in time, we ought to be able to at least agree on one fundamental point: whether in Amherst, Massachusetts, or Washington, D.C., the truth matters.

Michael J. Hout is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment

One Response to “Finding the truth matters”

  1. Nitzakhon on September 29th, 2017 8:26 am

    The problem is that Leftists are closed-minded ideologues incapable of assimilating anything that doesn’t already match what they “know” is true.

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