Last week, a respondent on the Daily Press' Facebook page challenged the newspaper to go a week only posting "positive" news. With all the negative information coming to the fore, that instinct is understandable – but it's also alarming.
Many people want to bury their heads in the sand these days, and their numbers seem to be growing. When TDP shares the daily COVID-19 report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there's usually at least one individual who wants to sway how the information is presented. Although all timeline observers can click on the link and go directly to the OSDH website to get all the data they want, they would prefer TDP give them the figures up front – and in the way they want to see it.
For instance, some want TDP to emphasize the number of recoveries, rather than the number of new cases. Others say only the deaths related to COVID-19 should be reported, because stating the rising number of positive cases serves to instill fear in the public. And some continue to demand the identities of infected people, although HIPAA precludes the OSDH from revealing that information.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. The original intent was to prevent the government from censoring material or otherwise imposing its will on how news is presented. It's been understood since 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, that the Fourth Estate is charged with being the watchdog that hold government in check. However, that presentation depends on the good judgment of those in charge of the "press" – which means the government, powerful individuals, and the general public can make suggestions, but shouldn't interfere to render the information incomplete, given a certain spin, or downright false.
But what happens when people do not want the truth? It's becoming more apparent that this is the case for a shockingly large percentage of the public. They want only "good news," because the truth, when it's negative, is too painful for them to face. But in seeking only the silver lining within the clouds, these people are not consumers of news, but rather of propaganda they choose for themselves. And what that ultimately means is these selective viewers and readers don't get the information they need to cast savvy votes at the ballot box, protect themselves from harm, or enjoy diversions they would otherwise find meaningful.
It's like the Three Wise Monkeys who "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." The monkeys are living in a parallel universe where reality is only what they make of it, thereby rendering them ignorant to the hard facts. They are spurning legitimate information and trying to bend the sources of that data to their will. If news sources in any given country acquiesce to that pursuit of blissful ignorance, that country is doomed to fall.
An individual doesn't have to have an extended formal education to pursue facts. It's incumbent upon all of us to seek the truth, even when it's not pretty – whether it's at the ballot box, at a large social gathering while a pandemic rages, or in one's own home.