Here on this island off the coast of Rhode Island, the weather is highly changeable. The winds and currents bring different climates daily. While storms surge in the South, we feel the movement in the water and wind here as the knock-on effect in full force.
This morning I awoke at my usual 6:30 and went to sit and watch the fishing boats go out, probably hunting stripers off the southeast point. However, this morning was a wall of fog, so I could not see the next house let alone the ocean. The world was a gauze curtain of soft gray. It morphed and moved a bit and peeks of sky came and went until, around 8:45, it began to blow northwest and away.
As I sat and looked at that fog, it made me think of this election season, not only what has been happening but what is coming hard and fast: the fog of disinformation that has become part of our political landscape. And it is every bit as illuminating as this fog, which is to say it is not illuminating or informative at all. It obscures, tricks the eye and mind and puts our little boats, ourselves, and our votes, at risk.
I say this on behalf of both candidates. I am not talking about which person to vote for. I am talking about the worry that has been growing around our process and the terrible influence of foreign agents and provocateurs. It should be of greater concern than I think it is.
Social media is a tricky thing and it is addictive for many of us. It is largely open for anyone to say and claim anything, to edit video and present it as truth, to say both what is true and what is blatantly false with little or no verification or pushback for lies. We should all be concerned.
As social media replaces fact-based, fact-checked media, it is gaining traction as a well of knowledge. It is certainly not that.
No matter which party or PAC or provocateur, it seems to me that we are being bombarded with information that has no basis — or little basis — in the real world but resembles more “reality based” shows on TV where we are meant to believe that what is said and done is not scripted (when it is), spontaneous (when it is not) and paid for by interested parties, which reality TV surely is.
We will never go back to the “good old days” of Walter Cronkite, and though I miss Huntley-Brinkley and their ilk where fact and good interviewing set up our dinner discussions, those days are over. We must now insist on more watchdogs at our news gates. I don’t mean censorship, but I do mean that we should know who is writing the script, who is paying for the show, where the “facts” come from and have fact checking as a part of all news.
Editorials belong on a separate “page,” if you will. Facts are facts albeit with ways of interpretation, but the sky is either blue or it is not. Storms are hurricanes or they are tornadoes or they are showers — one should not be confused with the other. The further we get from proper definitions of what words mean, what a fact is, the further we get from controlling our own choices. A choice based on falsehoods is a con game and not a good way to pick a car or a candidate.
I am hopeful that whoever wins our Senate, House or White House that we as citizens will start insisting that bloviation, obfuscation and fog get lifted and people are held to account. It does mean that “we the people” have to do our due diligence and homework a bit more but so be it.
Outside powers or inside powers who choose to lie and obfuscate should be banished in the best of all possible worlds, but barring that I will take a strong law that helps us keep everyone in the land of less fog and more clarity of fact.
Now as I gaze out the window I see the houses, the ocean and the sky as they are — it is now up to me to decide what my choices are with this day. Before, it was the fog that made all the choices.
We are smart enough, good enough, wise enough to bear the facts and decide. No fog please.
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.