Social media has made a mockery of truthfulness in journalism and news. One might make the argument that there is a bias with every news organization. There is probably a lot of truth to that idea; however, there are many journalists and writers that make a serious attempt to be objective in the facts that they report and in how they report them. Closer to the truth is this observation: people tend to analyze viewpoints that are different from their own by using their own vantage point as being more objective and centrist than it really is. In other words, someone from the far left will look at a centrist news organization and see them as more conservative than they really are. One need look no further than social media to see that this is true. I just read the following Facebook post this morning:
“I heard tonight on FOX News that the ratings have dropped on a lot of the News Stations that promoted Hillary Clinton and lambasted Donald Trump all through the election process. The PEOPLE have spoken, by not tuning into their shows. I for one have not watched anything but Fox News. And I won’t!! I’m just glad to hear that there are others who feel the same way as I do. That’s what they deserve for being unbiased.”
I know this person. She is a nice lady with good intentions. She has lived a sheltered life. She goes to church every week, is a good neighbor, and very generous with the people in her life. But she really believes that FOX News is unbiased and that all the other major news outlets are left to a radical extreme.
Worse than the angry rants, half informed opinions, and sheltered ideas of individuals on social media is the emergence of false news organizations. Some are self-described satire; others are downright full of false information with no disclaimer. People post links to their sites and memes and believe every word of it. The dumbing down of American seems to be reaching an all-time serious level. Newsprint is disappearing. At least newspapers were held to certain standards of decency and truthfulness, even if their coverage was slanted.
Turning a Blind Eye
During the Trump campaign, I heard many evangelicals defend his candidacy on the grounds that “we are electing a president, not a pastor.” I am not sure where this argument began. It was spoken by evangelical leaders like Jerry Fallwell Jr. and David Jeremiah in their defense of Trump support. Countless evangelicals defended their support of Trump using similar logic throughout his campaign.
Interestingly, evangelicals were not so eager to overlook moral failings when it was President Bill Clinton on trial. Richard Land, the former president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said that Clinton had “lost the moral authority and the trust necessary to govern. He has fallen below the threshold of what is necessary to be able to effectively serve in office.” Liberty University President Jerry Fallwell urged members of Congress to vote for impeachment. I was in a conservative seminary at the time; the leaders of that school repeatedly lambasted President Clinton for his sins and called for impeachment. They pointed out that character does matter. They said, “What a man does in his private life affects how he will lead in his public life.”
Bill Clinton’s dirty laundry list pales in comparison to Trump’s in many ways. While in office, Clinton cheated on his wife and lied about it under oath (according to his accusers). Bad stuff no doubt. He deserved shame and rebuke, possibly even impeachment. However, Trump has also had multiple affairs while married with each of his three wives. His current wife is a former stripper. In the same year their son Barron was born, Trump bragged to Howard Stern that he would have no problem “banging” 24 year olds. His comments on women have made him one of the most famous sexists of our time. Yet, we elected a president, not a pastor, so all this can be overlooked.
His reputation for lying is also unprecedented. What Bill Clinton did was shameful, no doubt. I think many men would have felt pressure to lie under the circumstances. Yet, it was still absolutely wrong. But Trump’s habitual lying makes Bill Clinton look like a Sunday school teacher by comparison. His lies and exaggerations are so well-documented and so numerous that it is pointless to reiterate them here. How we can trust such a habitual liar to lead the free world, when we could not trust Clinton is beyond me.
I know that there will be those that argue that what Bill Clinton did was worse because he was in office. I do not see a big distinction here. But even if that were the case, at what point does a person lose the moral authority and trust to govern? Based on my current observations, it must relate to which party a person is a member and the rest of their political platform. If the platform is acceptable, then we can overlook a multitude of sins. This is textbook hypocrisy at its worst.
If Clinton’s sins were enough to get him impeached then Trump did not lose the moral authority and trust to govern, he never had it. If Trump lies under oath while in office, will there be an outcry among evangelical leaders to impeach him? If he has an affair, will evangelicals believe that he has “fallen below the threshold of what is necessary to be able to effectively serve in office.”?
I am in no way insinuating a verdict on Clinton’s sins. Did he deserve impeachment? The vast majority of Republican delegates and senators believed he did (although a few disagreed with their peers). Interestingly, 45 out of 45 Democrat senators voted “not guilty” on all charges. Leaders from both parties made their decisions based on how the outcome would affect their own party. At least one side, if not both, did not truly look at the facts of the case and cast a vote based on truth. They voted for their party.
I use the Clinton case to further illustrate the point that evangelicals that enthusiastically supported Trump are not being as objective or concerned with morality as they think they are. I do understand the argument that some evangelicals made concerning the appointment of Supreme Court justices. There were those who reluctantly supported Trump because they felt that the country would move in a better direction (or less damage would be done) under Trump than Clinton. But those who cheered at rallies, put signs in their yards, stickers on their bumpers, and proudly demonstrated their support all over social media, well, that group of evangelicals is an enigma to me.