'Big lies' worse than 'fake news'

This article originally appeared in The Detroit News.

Both Donald Trump and Barack Obama have spoken out against “fake news,” a term used to describe media coverage that lacks fairness, balance, or basic facts. The problem, though, isn’t simply fake news. The problem is that we are living in the political era of the “big lie,” and we are worse off for it.

So what’s a “big lie?”  While politicians and journalists may make up salacious stories or launch partisan attacks, sometimes out of whole cloth, these stories tend to focus on individual circumstances or personalities.

Big lies are rooted in something much deeper and pervasive – they infect our media and politicos’ basic understanding of the world and how it works, and in doing so, affect the way they report, communicate, and govern. They become the cement that keep rigid ideologies inflexible.

Here are just a few of the big lies infecting public life:

Differences of opinion equal hate speech. 

Perhaps the most pervasive, and the most chilling to our constitutional liberties, is the idea popularized by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that dissent equals hate.  Each year, SPLC publishes a list of so-called hate groups spread across the United States and the press gobbles it up, reporting on the presence of local organizations that “hate” other local residents, publicly ostracizing them, and attempting to drive them from both the market square and the marketplace of ideas.

Of course, SPLC doesn’t corner the market on this big lie.  Just look at what happened to Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, after he tweeted an image of himself eating at Chick-fil-A. The blue checkmark crowd assailed him, forced a robust apology, and reinforced to the world the big lie that ideas that differ from theirs are hateful.

Let’s all agree to celebrate dissent. 

Democrats are the party of science. 

This is a favorite of the liberal intelligentsia, and is echoed again and again, typically unquestioned, on social, new, and traditional media. When the Democratic Party ends its bizarre and monolithic refusal to accept the settled science of human biology, or accepts, finally, that human beings are, scientifically, human beings, no matter their size or geography – yep, even the really small ones – they can begin to lecture the rest of us about their embrace of science, but not a moment before.

Additionally, when the Obama administration released an evidence-based report on the failures of Early Childhood programs, radical Democrats were quick to ignore and bury research that failed to support their narrative.

The Marshall Plan fallacy. 

Bigger government and more intervention aren’t the way things get done.  But don’t tell that to the central planners in local city halls, governors’ offices, or in Washington, D.C.  Got a problem?  They’ve got a “Marshall Plan” to solve it. And that plan will rarely work. 

Don’t believe me?  Remember “Cool Cities?”  Michigan’s film incentive program?  The would’ve-been $4 billion give-away to Amazon? The QLine, the People Mover, and SMART mass transit? 

When you hear “Marshall Plan,” grab your wallet and vote nay.

There’s no problem in our education system that won’t be fixed with bigger bucks.

There are plenty of problems in the state’s public education system, but generally speaking, money isn’t one of them.  According to state budget figures, state spendingon K-12 education (not including local and federal dollars) increased by nearly $2 billion – up to $12.9 billion in 2017-2018, since 2011.

At the same time, an analysis this spring by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan found that Michigan teachers are the highest paid in the nation, continuing a 20 year trend.

What have parents and students gotten for it?  Poor scores, low graduation rates, and thousands of families fleeing traditional districts for charter public schools which, coincidentally, deliver higher scores at significantly less expense.

Let’s all agree to become skeptical of what we think we believe and make sure we advocate based upon reality, not just our wishes.   

Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.

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