Where Can We Get Honesty?
By: Bill Schoettler
October 23, 2022
The Los Angeles Times, one of the major newspapers in the country and the publication that serves the City and County of Los Angeles, one of the great metropolises in the world, has begun a 3-part series on urban crowding, urban sprawl, and urban problems. With brutal honesty and demonstrating investigative reporting, the paper recounts how Mexican immigrants were solicited for manual labor and systematically restricted to poor/miserable living conditions while the county officials protected the sacred residential areas of the white supremacists. The newspaper reports the centuries-long process which has produced the largest overcrowded living conditions in the entire country.
There is an interesting parallel that I see to the general conditions being faced by our country in multiple areas.
Let me begin by pointing out that the deplorable conditions described by the Los Angeles Times were brought about by the government bodies of the City and County of Los Angeles. And supported by the State. Even the Times acknowledged that citizens supported the government during this process, so the responsibility can be spread broadly.
But a realistic evaluation of the process would suggest otherwise. The citizens elect their representatives to protect the citizens, to provide for the common good, and to monitor and control all those services and activities that are involved in daily life. We have regulations concerning virtually every aspect of our daily lives from construction to policing to personal safety, and everything in between. These regulations were promulgated by the regularly elected officials who wrote them. And, accepted by the people who voted for those officials.
The question then arises, how do we monitor and supervise those elected officials who control these activities? While we can vote in regularly scheduled elections, we then face the issue of for whom we should cast our ballots. The sources of information to inform the public on this subject, the subject of which candidate will be honored by our vote, are limited.
Here’s the rub. Most of us who are of voting age spend our daily lives working, and when we have “free time” we seek to spend it enjoying our families or other personal-choice activities. So where do we find information about the conduct of our elected representatives? From those who report on such activities.
I depend on the sources of news that are broadcast over the radio, the television, and writing in papers and magazines. I can hear a broadcast, read an article, and then discuss the supplied information with colleagues, friends, and family. Then I can form an educated and informed opinion that will govern my vote.
BUT, and this is the real issue, the sources of information must be reliable and honest, and what is supplied by such sources must be inclusive. That is, the reported information must contain both welcome and unwelcome information. While such information can (and inevitably will) contain the opinions of the reporting source, real editorializing (defined here as efforts to influence and direct the thinking of the audience) must be labeled as such.
The LA Times is now reporting an uncomfortable condition that exists in the City of Los Angeles. The condition, overcrowding, and resulting problems affect not only the citizens but are universal conditions that exist elsewhere in the country. The City of LA may be unique in the severity of its problems but similar conditions exist in most major cities.
Solutions are regularly sought, regularly discussed, and regularly ignored by politicians. Sweep the problem aside while we focus on real problems such as climate change, white supremacy, the Jan 6 “revolution”, proper pronouns for the underserved population, and other such irrelevant issues. I say “irrelevant” because these identified issues have been around for centuries while the subject of overcrowded living conditions and true population integration are more pressing and demanding of solutions.
What you and I and everybody who votes need are sources of information that are comprehensive and reliable. I can form my own opinions if provided with accurate facts. If the provided information is accompanied by identified opinions I can compare my opinions with the editorializing.
But when I am told what to think, how to think, what to believe, I strenuously object. When my sources of information are controlled by and limited by and parceled out by those who seek to influence my opinion, I object. When I am told half the story or even if the story is not revealed, I object. If asked whether I believe or accept the significance of something I require all available information. To ask whether I like black or white, does not provide me a basis for understanding the relative merits of any alternative. If shown both black and white, I can then evaluate the relative merits and make an informed choice. Otherwise, I am not provided a real opportunity to make a decision.
This country was founded on the principle that each citizen should be free to make independent choices. I won’t argue that such principles have been uniformly honored, but it is such principles and the attempts to honor them that have provided the world with the only example of a nation so founded. If we deny these principles we deny our foundation and what has followed therefrom.
Independent reporting, honest investigation of the conduct of elected officials, and reliable recounting of facts together are the fundamental sources of informed opinions of the electorate. The denial of these sources, the manipulation and withholding of facts will ultimately bring about nothing but anarchy as the electorate realizes the truth is a commodity that is for sale.