The American Double Standard: The Rapids and The River

The United States is experiencing a coup (defined as a sudden appropriation of leadership or power). The coup may be slower than sudden, but citizens no longer know exactly who is exercising power in the country or how their policies might differ from the public voice of power.

There has been surprisingly little outcry in the country about this precarious state of affairs. At the same time, the New York Times published a story about how the United States government gave advice to Venezuelan military about how to conduct a coup. The article does not even mention the fact that the United States itself is undergoing its own slo-mo coup.

Apparently a military takeover in Venezuela is chaos and in the United States it’s … democracy?

With loud roaring and huge cacophony, the rapids fell from the mountains. Everything ran from them. Horror followed in the rushing waters’ path. The countryside trembled with its sweep. No traveler dared pass through so powerful a barrier. 

A lone traveler saw some bandits. In his pressing need to get away, he was forced to cross beneath the falls, to put the menacing waters between him and them. It turned out the rapids were nothing more than sound and fury without depth. So our traveler encountered no worse fate than his fear.  

The success made him bold. And as the same bandits continued to chase him, when he came upon another river, whose watercourse was the very image of sweet rest, gentle and peaceful, he assumed his crossing would be as easy as they come. No cliff edges to climb down, just pure, clean sand.

He steps in. While his horse has been more than adequate to keep him away from the bandits, not so the dark current.

Off the two went to drink from the River Styx; two unhappy swimmers, crossing to the shadow land, to rivers beyond ours.

 Quiet people are dangerous. They are not like others.

The United States claims to be the model democracy. Possible Russian election interference is such an assault on this image that the country mounts an enormous investigation into meddling. Yet the United States is the reigning world champion in covert international interference. Venezuela is only the most recent example. Even as the US sows chaos with its covert international interference, it cries foul when it experiences even the slightest ripple from a foreign breeze. The Russian breeze, by the way, doesn’t seem to have changed a single vote.

The American press is a mirror and magnifying glass for the country’s double standard.

The quiet New York Times presents itself as a bastion of measured rationality in a cacophonous time of fake news. That paper (and it is but one example) cannot see its own implicit bias, the significant lacunae in its reporting. The publication begins with the idea and ideal that American democracy in its current form is perfectible with a little tweaking, better than any other current political design and built on a moral agenda (i.e. that the US is a force for peace in the world). The result is that its stories perpetuate this limited view.

To read the NYT and think that’s all the news that’s fit to print is to be pulled under by a current of incomplete facts and bias. Sure, Fox news is worse. But so what? Just because there’s worse examples doesn’t mean the NYT can’t do better. But really, it’s up to each of us.

As we ride our steeds in search of truth and understanding, in search of a higher ideal for a more just society, avoiding the banditry of fake news is the easier part. The hard part is girding ourselves with the knowledge that enables us to see beneath the smooth surface of supposed rationality, to where the currents of lethal subjectivity threaten our clear thinking and the potential for change.

To avoid the rapids and the river, we need to read widely and diversely. Seek out information from a variety of sources. Get international perspectives. Get niche perspectives. Follow the money. And finally, to bring us back to a wise American, Thomas Paine, gut-check everything against common sense.


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