This probably sounds heretical coming from a guy born, nurtured and trained in the news business. But why would anyone pick up a newspaper, turn on a TV and watch a news show, or even peruse social media today?
What death wish do we all have?
Ten times a day — at least — there are opportunities all throughout the social spectrum that make you close your eyes and shake your head in disgust or dismay. If I were to put it in graphic terms, picture a line whose intentions were to proceed at 180 degrees from Point A to Point B. Now, picture it with the entire middle sagging so low that it’s scraping the ground.
That’s us in 2018. There is no middle. No common ground on anything important. And there’s no sense of perspective.
Earlier this week, in the town of Andover, the high school yearbook was confiscated so a quote from a graduating senior could be expunged. The quote in question — that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth — is attributed to Hitler propagandist Joseph Goebbels, though some seem to feel Vladimir Lenin may have said it too. Either way, it’s not very good look. It’s understandable that the administration was nervous about having one of its students quoting one of the true point men of Nazi atrocities in the yearbook. And it’s also understandable that rather than be tasked with the problem of commenting on something that confrontational, the administrators took the drastic step of confiscating the yearbooks and expunging the quote. When you factor in other reported incidents at the school that would appear to be definitely antisemitic, the school is justified in its apprehension.
History has proven Goebbels to be among the most evil of the evil, and his boast that the incessant repetition of the same lie could convince anyone to endorse anything certainly bears that out, especially when you consider the “final solution” of the holocaust.
There’s no way of knowing what motivated the boy to use the quote. Either he was channeling his inner white supremacist or he was sounding alarm to what he sees as a big problem in our society today: that it’s not OK to go around repeatedly spreading lies about people. I hope that’s what his intentions were.
You and I might be horrified at the idea of a high school kid quoting such a virulent racist in the high school yearbook. It is horrifying. But I’m not sure I agree with confiscating the yearbooks and expunging the quote either.
Let’s talk about it. Because the issue is not only real, but it has made a most unwelcome re-entry into our politics.
When I was a senior in high school, and about to graduate, I wrote a column for the school paper — which, appropriately enough, was called The Paper. It was hardly confrontational. It delved into my feelings about a place (St. John’s Prep) that I didn’t always love, but grew to realize had ultimately changed my life for the better (that feeling has only grown through the years).
I had tried to submit articles to The Paper over the previous four years, but somehow, my style of writing and the editors’ didn’t mesh. This one was going to be published, though. Finally.
However, a few people used their final issue of The Paper to issue some pointed going-away salvos to the administration that, I guess, crossed some kind of a line, and the publication was, not to put too fine a point on it, never published. My pearls of wisdom ended up on the cutting-room floor. Thankfully, I got over it, but if left me with an indelible belief that censorship of any kind should be used extremely judiciously.
The quote in question is a perfect capsulation of what is going on in politics, and in life, for that matter, in 2018. We don’t just challenge points of view anymore, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. We challenge facts. If the facts don’t jibe with our version of reality — gleaned by collecting “information” off our favorite, often-slanted, websites — we call it “fake news.” And because we’re so enamoured with our own go-to sources, regardless of how slanted they are, and of the dubious motivation behind some of them, we believe them, no matter what they say, and no matter how ridiculous it is.
It’s just as likely that the boy was expressing his concerns about this as it is that he was being anti semitic or white supremacist. We don’t know.
But let’s just consider the quote, without factoring in its origin. It is a cautionary tale of where we’re heading in this country if we can’t accept facts as facts, can’t distinguish truth from lies, and keep voting in “leaders” willing to sacrifice truth for self-serving propaganda.