You’re Not Always the Decider

Don’t let the news media make you crazy.

The Timothy McVeigh trial was difficult for me.

I won’t go into all the things I thought and felt. They are too private. But I will say that it engaged me and put me through a considerable emotional torque. Ditto for his execution.

One thought allowed me to maintain an even strain through that experience: I didn’t sit on that that jury, could in no way ever be asked to sit on that jury, and that meant I didn’t have to decide. 

Maybe it’s because I spent so many years in a job where I had no choice about deciding — and taking the consequences of those decisions. I know first hand that having to decide is not all that great. In fact, it can be one of the most miserable things that ever happens to you.

Perhaps that’s why I find such peace in looking at each new faux outrage that is being hyped on our news-free news stations with the simple knowledge that I don’t have to decide. Should his wife leave him because of his infidelities? That’s her call. I don’t have to decide. What did he know and when did he know it? I’m not on that jury. I don’t have to decide. Is this person more evil than that person? Was the jury right?

I don’t have to decide.

People who are so eager to decide often don’t realize that deciding is not all that easy when you actually have to do it. It’s ez-pz to declaim while sitting on your sofa that I woulda/they shoulda/how come they didn’t? But in real life, the whole thing is more nuanced and difficult by powers of ten.

In the first place, what passes for news these days is not news. It’s just sensation-creating entertainment and public-opinion-shaping propaganda. What that means, in layman’s terms, is that you can’t believe it. The one thing you know when you are watching agenda-driven/side-taking/propaganda-ridden “news” is that you are not getting anything like a fair presentation of the facts.

These news people have taken a side, and they are presenting the facts (such as they are) which will support that side. They are not informing you at all. They are convincing you. They want you to decide, and they want your decision to be the one that will benefit the “side” that they have taken on the story.

To make things worse, they are operating from a long-term agenda. This shaping of the way they cover events isn’t based on a one-off I-like-this-person, or I-feel-sympathetic-to-that-viewpoint kind of approach. It is part of a long-term arc of bias that consistently shapes every story and decides which stories are to be covered based on how they support the agenda that the news network is putting forth.

Hence, you have “liberal” news outlets, and “conservative” news outlets. Everyone knows it and even the news outlets themselves acknowledge it.

Think about that. They tell you right up front that the “news” they are serving up is biased toward one viewpoint or the other. You know going in that you are not going to hear the truth or all the facts or even all the stories that comprise legitimate news. You know when you flip to a certain channel that you will get a predigested dose of propaganda that is designed to serve one set of political puppeteers or the other.

So why, my friends, do you allow them to get you upset? Why are you all in a lather about the “facts” they’ve given you, when you know — and I mean absolutely know — that these facts have been edited, massaged and carefully chosen to shape your thinking rather than inform it?

The only saving grace in this is that you don’t have to decide. You can, and for your sanity you should, sit back and let them rant without allowing yourself to be hooked into ranting yourself. Because it’s not your call. You can’t decide.

And that, if you will accept it, is a sanity-saving blessing.

There are plenty of things that each one of us has to decide in this life. If you are really feeling the desire to make decisions for many other people and you think you have a calling to it, I suggest you run for office. I am saying that sincerely. We need, desperately, to have honest people who can’t be bought or controlled in public office. I do not care if you are an R, a D, or an Independent. If you’ve got the spine it takes — and you would be shocked what a strong spine is required — to go into that arena and stand firm, then by all means, do it.

But be forewarned. It’s not all pretty inside those halls of power. If you truly go in there and do what you think is right, you’re going to take a beating.

As for those of us who sit on the sidelines and watch, our job is to help the honest ones survive that beating.

And to not allow ourselves to be blown around like chaff in the wind by the propagandists who are callously trying to use what they call news to persuade us to support them in their own ends. Just sit back and watch. And remember two things: They are trying to persuade you, not inform you. And you don’t have to decide.


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