I’ll tell you if you have spinach stuck in your teeth, and I’ve got your back if you forget to zip up, have toilet paper trailing your shoe, or there's something fluttering from a nostril. So, listen up, because I need to whisper something in your ear. Some of you have been sharing propaganda on your social media timelines, and the cool kids are laughing behind your back.
This nation did a remarkable thing during World War II. We were thick in the fray, mobilized, and set as a united community against a clear evil. Citizens rationed food and metals; they stepped outside their comfort zones to volunteer or learn new trades to help the war effort; they took strongly to the idea that we are all responsible for preserving democracy and justice. From this mindset of savvy patriotism and sacrifice sprang the famous “Loose Lips Sink Ships” motto, a message spread in what we’d now call “viral” fashion across the country on posters, radio broadcasts, and billboards. The message was ubiquitous, and the meaning was clear: We are ALL responsible for information flow, especially when we are beset with disinformation and propaganda campaigns designed to destroy us.
I don’t post political messages on my social media. It’s not that I don’t have opinions—I have strong ones—but I refuse to invest even a minute in the time-sucking rabbit-hole that is online political hyperbole. I prefer to spend my time writing and calling people such as my elected officials, supporting good political candidates, and fighting for the Constitutional rights of all. That said, my resolution for 2020 is to speak up when I see a post (left or right) when I know the message is not true. I’m taking this on as a vital civic duty, and I invite you to join me.
We’re going to be inundated over the next eleven months with lies manufactured for the sole purpose of spreading dissension and libeling democracy. We are at war, and all of us are going to receive enemy fire in the form of hate-speech and fear-mongering. This will be especially true the closer we come to November. Our enemies are challenging our resolve and principles, mocking our ability to tell fact from fiction, and reveling in the glory of our infighting.
Nearly eighty years ago this nation embraced the idea that we were living in a world where sacrifice and discretion was simply what Americans had to do. The people of that Greatest Generation saw it as their patriotic duty, and most rose to the challenge. Their lips were not loose because no one wanted to be the person who gossiped within earshot of an enemy spy. Perhaps our new mantra should be something like, “The Truth and Nothing But…the American Way." (Calling all marketing experts and artists out there…we need you working on this right away.)
I am married to a journalist of extraordinary ethics who tells fair-minded stories on a daily basis. She is compelled by her principles to report facts and nothing but facts. It is her mission, and we’ve never needed professionals like her more than we do right now. That said, social media has created a platform for all of us to be citizen journalists. Being able to spread important information that has bearing on all our lives is perhaps the most vital aspect of this new tool we call internet (aside from photos of puppies and grandchildren). Great tools, however, should be respected and used judiciously, lest they become more perilous than useful. Subsequently, all of us must rise to the example set by our predecessors some four score years ago, and to accept as imperative our collective role in preserving peace, justice, and democratic principles.
I look forward to seeing you all on the social media but, for goodness sake, check yourself in the mirror and do a little research on sites such as Politifact, Snopes, Open Secrets.org, or FactCheck.org before you share a political meme. After all, you might just have spinach in your teeth.
Hug your family for me, and keep those puppy and grandchildren photos coming. 2020 is going to be AMAZING!