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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bill Thompson: True or false? You decide, not the government

As long as we’re cracking down on people and ideas we don’t like – bye-bye Trump tweets, bye-bye Parler – how about a crackdown on morons in Congress?

Take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – please!

Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, says what this country needs is a “media literacy” commission to come up with a way for the government to stifle what the New York congresswoman calls “disinformation and misinformation” running rampant in the media.

“We’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea during an Instagram Live discussion Jan. 12, saying she feared for her life during the previous week’s Capitol riot and blaming media misinformation for contributing to the violence.

“I do think that several members of Congress in some of my discussions have brought up media literacy because that is part of what happened here,” she said. “It’s one thing to have differentiating opinions, but it’s another thing entirely to just say things that are false, so that’s something that we’re looking into.”

The problem here, other than the obvious concern that AOC hasn’t read or heard about the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is that one person’s misinformation is some other person’s truth. Ocasio-Cortez says we can have differing opinions but we can’t say things that are false. Unfortunately, as I have learned from years in the opinion business, people who disagree with your opinion are often inclined to dismiss your opinion as falsehood.

Nancy Pelosi says Donald Trump is crazy. I say Pelosi is crazier than Trump. I say AOC is an idiot. I’m sure AOC and her supporters would say that isn’t true.

Is somebody lying here, or do we have just a difference of opinion?

Hyperbole is not meant to be taken literally and it is protected under the free speech/free press provisions of the Constitution. Trump’s claims of fraud in the presidential election strike most reasonable people as preposterous and untrue. But if that’s what Trump believes, he has a right to his opinion. The way to counter his claims is by providing information to the contrary – which the mainstream media have done to a fault.

We simply cannot allow the government, or a government-designated commission, to decide what is true and what isn’t. If AOC doesn’t know that she needs to go back to the high school in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.,  that unleashed her on the world in 2007 and get herself some remedial instruction in civics.

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Bill Thompson
Thompson is a native of East St. Louis, Ill., where he developed a lifelong love of the St. Louis Cardinals (all-time favorite player, Stan Musial; runner-up, Lou Brock). He’s been editor of daily newspapers in Illinois, New Jersey and Maine, where he spent four teeth-chattering winters in-between two of his three stints with the Fort Worth Business Press. But Thompson’s favorite job over the years has been riling up readers with opinion columns and editorials on topics ranging from politics to sports to curious shenanigans at City Hall. A newspaper in Pennsylvania once marketed him as “the man you love to hate.” He wrote columns for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1987 to 2001, when he left in the first wave of buyouts and layoffs perpetrated by a now-defunct company called Knight Ridder. He still misses that job. He doesn’t miss Knight Ridder.

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