Our modern world likes to brag about how much progress we have made and how much more civilized, rational, and moral we have become as time has passed. Technology has advanced at lightning speed, which exacerbates this perception of our superiority to days gone by. Yet, in many ways, it can be argued, we have devolved into less civilized, more irrational, and increasingly amoral societies. The irony is that our complicated technological advancements have fueled this thesis. The underlying issue here is an age-old conflict between Reason and Romance, Fact vs. Feelings.
Recent events in the sphere of U.S. politics underscore this premise. Once upon a time, not so long ago, civilized society would have considered it treasonous to accuse our Commander in Chief of being a ‘foreign agent’ or a ‘mafia boss.’ Yet these insults are among the milder descriptions that have been passed around on social media, internet blogs, and (most concerning of all) mainstream media about American President Donald J. Trump. Freedom of speech has always been a hallmark of our society, as has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Public figures are abusing that right to free speech when they are allowed to hurl completely baseless accusations around as if they were stone-cold facts. They do this without so much as blinking (literally- have you ever seen Adam Schiff blink?) when it is has been established that it was all a farce. Something is fundamentally wrong with our society. The issue at play has nothing to do with whether we like Donald Trump, or even whether we agree with his policies. This is about upholding justice and not allowing anyone to be falsely accused of something without due process and a fair trial. A cornerstone of free-societies is the presumption of innocence. This is a fact the Democrats have conveniently forgotten for three years now.
Perhaps the most alarming part of the way recent events have played out, is that the media and even the intelligence community have been hi-jacked to serve as a propaganda circus side-show to further political interests. There was a time when no respected journalist would utter words that made them appear biased toward anything but FACTS. Yet, media has increasingly become a tool to amplify the feelings of the masses, by appealing to our most base impulses and throwing all sense of fairness, honesty, and even rationality out the window. The childishness coming from elected officials in Washington is a disgrace to our country. It is a dishonor to the morals on which our great nation was founded when public servants are unabashed in their disrespect for the office of the Presidency. It takes nothing more complicated than a simple change of the channel to recall what real journalism looks like in action. Many Local news stations still practice real journalism, while the media giants like CNN, MSNBC, and ABC all flaunt their blatant bias’ and seething hatred for the current Government Administration with flagrant pride. One recent poll reveals that over 67% of Americans believe the mainstream media knowingly broadcasts false information.
The question I want to know is when and how did people become so gullible? When did rational, intelligent people stop thinking for themselves and begin mindlessly soaking up and regurgitating whatever garbage their favorite media outlets tell them about the ‘facts?’ Is it the rise of social media that in true Pavlovian fashion has conditioned the masses to respond to certain stimuli and ‘like’ only specific posts? Is it the risk of being digitally ‘dumped’ by business acquaintances and ‘friends?’ Social media has unarguably created an echo chamber for each person, by continually reinforcing the things they already think and feeding them more of the same. Like a drug, we keep going back for more. I say we, but in large part, for myself, there is a massive disconnect from what I see happening around me and my own life. It’s not that I am somehow ‘immune’ to this mass manipulation scheme. It’s merely a by-product of a conscious decision we made almost two decades ago to unplug from the America we grew up in, and begin our life adventure in a tiny Caribbean nation named Belize.
Nearly two decades ago, my wife and I decided to leave behind the comforts of the ‘Modern American’ lifestyle and forge into unknown territory. Over the past decade and a half that previously untamed wilderness (and I mean that literally- we bought RAW land and built our home from scratch!) has become home. At the same time, the once familiar reality of ‘Modern America’ has become almost unidentifiable to me. I have changed, and so has America. The America I left behind was a free country founded as a Democratic Republic. The America I have come back to now is a fractured society, teetering on the edge of becoming yet another failed socialist nation, and so altered by the digital web that entraps it, that it’s scarcely recognizable to me. I left a young ignorant liberal, who had never actually voted, convinced that capitalism and its evils were eroding the natural world at an alarming pace and that someone had to take a stand for change.
With that lofty goal, my wife and I carved a life and a farm complete with off-grid hydro-electric power, out of the raw rainforest of Belize. We opened our home to visitors and volunteers from every continent except Antarctica! We grew our farm into a learning center call the STAND Center, a clever (I thought!) acronym for Sustainable Tropical Agriculture & Natural Development Center. Over the next decade and a half, we learned and taught everything we could about sustainable living by DOING IT! In the course of that time, Belize grew increasingly more violent and unsafe as the influence of Drug
Cartels strengthened. As our family grew (we now have seven children) and we matured and began to see the value of faith and conservative principles, we reevaluated the way we saw our world. At the same time, we realized that the murder rate in Belize wasn’t just ‘high’- it was classified as a ‘war-zone’ by the U.N. standards of murders per capita. Compared to the homicide rate in basically Anywhere, USA – it was unfathomable! We thus decided to pack up our crew and begin to set down roots in America again, at least for half of the year. But MY OH MY, how things have changed!
In late 2018, we first returned to the USA intending to buy property in Florida, a safer and more developed, almost tropical alternative to Belize. Being unplugged in Belize, we knew nothing about the chaos going on politically in America. We did know Donald Trump had been elected and found it an amusing thought. He seemed like a rather unlikely candidate, after all. It was shocking, however, to hear Donald Trump was (according to CNN and the Democrats in general) a ‘foreign operative’ who had (apparently -as they claimed) ‘rigged’ the election in 2016. Still, the more we began to pay attention, we saw that while most of the media was banging that gong in tune with one another, there was a single media outlet that was pointing out what a ridiculous and unverifiable claim that was! Fox News stood alone in their insistence that these accusations were a political propaganda show. They rightly insisted that without a proper investigation, which presented clear evidence, such accusations were unfair and unwarranted.
Most of the media exuded this unreasonable hatred of Donald Trump, and from a completely outside perspective (please don’t hang us now- but we have NEVER voted in any election including the 2016 election!) it seemed primarily based on one thing: HE WAS AN OUTSIDER! This guy was not a politician, and he had not bowed to the Gods of the Democratic or the Republican party. In short- he wasn’t part of ‘The Club!’ Suddenly, facts no longer mattered; it was all about feelings. They felt disgusted by him; thus, he was an illegitimate president and MUST be impeached at all costs! The feelings were dictating the facts, and this is a dangerous predicament. It’s what makes teenagers such loose cannons, the fact that they have not yet figured out the difference between how they feel about something and the basic FACTS of said thing. They FEEL like driving their new car (or your old car!) to the red line, “just to see what would happen,” so the FACT that it will burn out the engine is unimportant for the moment.
To bring this around full circle, if we want to pass on to our children, the moral and intellectual achievements that have always set America apart as a beacon of democracy to the entire world, something must change in the way we regulate information in our society. If not, we will continue to regress to the point of becoming a puddle of emotion devoid of all sanity. Our complicated technological advancements have brought to the forefront a severe problem with our information-rich and data-driven environments. They are increasingly being used to manipulate our perspectives, and yes, even our votes. How can any rational person look at the way this political carnival has played out over the past three years, and see it any other way than as a blatantly orchestrated attempt to undermine the results of the 2016 election?
Ironically there seems to be a parallel between the smear campaign against Trump and the one still being carried out against Netanyahu. It is not for me to decide his guilt or innocence, but champagne? cigars? favors for publicity? These seem like minor issues! I am not arguing that such things should be totally ignored, but the bigger picture here is about policy and the nation of Israel has demonstrated in the two elections already held this year that Netanyahu is who the people of Israel want to pursue their policies, so is it any coincidence these charges which are almost EXACTLY the same charges being drummed up against Trump are coming out now? One false accusation could be your standard dirt slinging, but claim after baseless claim can not be a coincidence. Democracy is not supposed to be about acknowledging the President as having been duly elected if we LIKE him, it is about all agreeing to recognize the duly elected President because the people have cast their vote. It is the sovereignty of the voters being challenged here, not Trump. That may be the case with the Israeli elections as well. However we may feel about Donald Trump, if we allow the media smear campaign that has gone on for the past three years to continue unchecked we are choosing the path of least resistance, and we will lose the free and fair democracy our founding Fathers bequeathed to us. Media and our devices will have crossed the line from being tools for our use to becoming tools by which we ARE used. We cannot afford to get this wrong...America... the world is watching!
Forest & Andrea Acker