Trust No One

Trust No One

There is a Yiddish saying that a man comes into the world with an oy! and leaves with a gevalt! For those unacquainted with that language, a “gevalt” is a hard-to-translate term, though it generally might mean something like “Help!” or “Robbers!” It’s a word that represents a throwing up of the arms in the face of life’s ridiculous indifference, when all a man can do is just yell to the universe even when it won’t do anything at all to help him: kid, you’re on your own.

This is the point we’ve reached in our country: one big gevalt. Quite frankly, it is difficult to figure out anything straight or factual in this economic crisis and presidential election. You can read two polls on the same day saying the exact opposite thing: Barack Obama is ahead, McCain is ahead. Newspaper columnists have added to the overall confusion with their recitation of what sound like talking points, but when you check out other news outlets, you’ll find someone telling you how wrong a columnist is and why.

There is so much confusion, obsfucation and overall stupidity going on in our land, that one feels like throwing up his arms and just giving up. Good news Web sites like (left-of-center orientation) have become unabashed, bipartisan shill machines dedicated to electing Barack Obama and smearing John McCain. (definitely right-of-center) makes it clear that its purpose is to expose “liberal media bias,” pointing out information that is lacking in stories files by New York Times reporters—whom does believe as giving a true account of anything?

This political season has descended into a type of Red Scare hysteria: I myself have received e-mails from normally rational people, all about vilifying Sarah Palin as a deeply stupid woman and the Whore of Babylon, throwing in the people of her home state, Alaska, under the bus for good measure. It seems that people on the left—who generally hold themselves as much brighter than their Red State counterparts—are succumbing to a mind-numbing smear campaigns that mirrors precisely what they claim to loathe in others.

And despite what many people might object to, there does seem to exist a bias in major news outlets when it comes to covering the presidential candidates. That just makes it even harder to discern what an issue is really about, because I just do not believe anything that I am hearing. Everything has gotten so confusing, ridiculous and asinine that my reflex is to consider every news article or on-air report with deep suspicion. You might consider that a healthy measure, but my real concern is, who else out there is being skeptical and who is accepting that what they read and hear as True?

What is even more astonishing (really disheartening) is that if you compare the meta-commentary of right and left-wing partisans, you will quickly discover they are saying the exact same thing. The readers at and are mirror images of one another: two communities are talking right past each other, employing the same tactics, Web links, name-calling and disgust with the opposition. And when you think you can no longer be amazed, you realize that all of the anonymous posters seem to be experts at just about everything, including running presidential campaigns. If I had a dime for every expert opinion (and declaration that “My candidate has just sealed the election!”), I could spend more time writing and less at my day job. Everyone has turned into a Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Mark Levin, and they all have Web sites or an inordinate amount of time to make reader comments all day long. This is informed discourse in a liberal democracy?

Gevalt! Gevalt! Whom do we trust? Whom can we trust? What do we perceive as a fact versus a talking point? Take, for example, a talking-head roundtable on “Anderson Cooper 360,” where the host throws out a (paraphrased) question: “Did John McCain help or hurt his campaign by suspending it to go to Washington for the bailout crisis?” Three people and they all stated “hurt” and left it at that. Now, what is this based on? Their personal opinions? Is the viewer supposed to take their word for it because one person is a former Mike Huckabee strategist and the other two are reporters? If the purpose of a news program is to provide news, why no follow up? Is it too much to ask “why?”

This swarming chorus of noise has just made things worse, since people are being bombarded with so much, that it is difficult to separate fact from opinion, and the lines between those two are muddied on a daily basis. And of course, with a 24-hour news cycle, there is a tendency to repeat the same thing over and over again to the point where someone might believe whatever claim to be a fact. That is, by the way, the secret of talk radio’s success.

In this case, it is not news at all but propaganda. Whether it comes from the left or the right, everything is propaganda. And if you believe that the solution is to merely shut it all off, you’ve missed another salient point about life in the 21st century: propaganda cannot be dismissed and it never sleeps. It will always be there in some form or fashion ready to mold your opinion, and possibly send you to the reader’s comment section of a left or right-wing Web site. The problem is, most people think they are too smart to succumb to propaganda, but if those e-mails pillorying Sarah Palin are any indication, then we are all beggars to our own demise.