Need a resolution for 2017? Try more skepticism, less cynicism

It’s 2017, and so far the best thing that can be said is it’s not 2016.

This past year was one many people would like to forget, for a number of reasons. There were the deaths of icons from Muhammad Ali to Arnold Palmer, from Merle Haggard to Prince, from Antonin Scalia to John Glenn. There were the terrorist attacks on commuters in Brussels, the gay community in Orlando, Bastille Day revelers in Nice, Christmas market shoppers in Berlin. The sniper shooting of police in Dallas. The continued butchery in Aleppo.

The good riddance to 2016 was worthy of fireworks. (AJC Photo / David Barnes)

The good riddance to 2016 was worthy of fireworks. (AJC Photo / David Barnes)

And there was that little election we had. Regardless of how one feels about the result, it was inarguably nasty and divisive, a contest to see which candidate’s glaring flaws would be most easily ignored. The 2016 election featured computer hacking; claims of “rigging” by both sides; disgusting attacks, especially of the anti-Semitic variety, on social media; friendships ended over political Facebooking; and the advent of “fake news.”

None of us can stop the grim reaper or the evil in man’s heart. But we can do something about our poisonous politics. If you’re looking for a resolution in this new year, try more skepticism and less cynicism.

These are not the same thing. Skepticism is wariness of the truthfulness of an assertion; cynicism questions the motives of the one who asserted it. We need more of the former, less of the latter.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the fake-news phenomenon. How many times lately have you been a part of a conversation that went something like this:

Person 1: Did you see that story about Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton being a foreign agent/serial killer/drowner of puppies?

Person 2: No, where was that?

Person 1: NewsYouWontBelieve.com.

Person 2: Umm …

Never in history has there been so much information so readily available to so many people. Yet, increasingly, we will eschew the slightly hard work of checking the veracity of what we read or hear if it aligns with our prior beliefs about the subject, whether good or bad. “Too good to check!” used to be the sarcastic response of journalists to a sensational story that surely would fall apart under scrutiny. More and more, it’s the actual mantra of “news” consumers.

Skepticism keeps us from falling for stories about people on “our side” that are too good to check. Cynicism makes us unwilling to believe anything good about the other side. They only harden us in positions that the facts, and ultimately we, cannot defend.

Of course, part of the reason for this development is just how widespread is our cynicism and how selective our skepticism. We no longer confine our knee-jerk distrust to this or that political party, or this or that politician, but this or that news outlet. The New York Times wrote it? Liberal claptrap! That was reported by Fox News? More like “Faux News,” amirite?

Never mind that the Times broke many of the big, early stories about Hillary Clinton’s private email server and conflicts of interest at the State Department. Or that Fox News anchors went after Donald Trump harder in the debates aired on their network than most anyone else.

If you’re going to be skeptical of the disagreeable things you read, just be sure to extend that wariness to the items that fit more neatly with your perspective.

This lack of skepticism toward too-good-to-check stories from unvetted sources seems to be worse on (but hardly exclusive to) the conservative side of the spectrum. So let me put this 2017 resolution in Reaganesque terms: Trust, but verify.

Reader Comments 0

76 comments
stogiefogey
stogiefogey

I only recently started paying attention to ajc "news" article bylines, had never noticed that ajc is really just a conduit for New York Times material with a smattering of AP and other sources mixed in.

So going forward my occasional exposure to the ajc (Sunday only, coupons ya know) will be the sports and business sections only, the rest will line the bottom of the parakeet cage.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"This lack of skepticism toward too-good-to-check stories from unvetted sources seems to be worse on (but hardly exclusive to) the conservative side of the spectrum."


Are you standing in front of a mirror? 


Does SOME of this exist on the conservative side of the spectrum? Sure. But this stands as a broad-brush baseless assertion contrary to my experience and observation, and likely that of most conservatives. 


Sheesh, Kyle, are you starting to believe everything your paper publishes? If you do, wow, check your footing. Suggest you might want to be a bit more skeptical of those AP "news" dispatches.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"Regardless of how one feels about the result, it was . . . a contest to see which candidate's glaring flaws would be most easily ignored."


Ah, the epitome of cynicism.


No, that is NOT what this election was about. It was about the ongoing voter rejection of a visibly destructive political and socio-economic course, about people rallying in support of a candidate who who believes like they do our Federal Government fundamentally exists to equitably serve its people (all of them), not to divide its citizenry politically along racial, economic, and social class identities and serve Government to its favored segments, selling off the interests of broad segments of the citizenry for the personal political and economic benefit of themselves, their Party, and their backers.


It was an election, truly, about the need for change, rejection of blatant corruption and over-the-top political favoritism, with very hopeful (if skeptical) undertones and expectations.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

So long, merrick garland.


Hello SCOTUS slap full of cons.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

It will always amaze me that the liberals never pushed Ginsburg to retire and let obozo install some 40 year old moonbat in her seat.


They're just not that smart.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

lena dunham would have been a perfect fit for y'all and that big black robe she'd be forced to wear would have been a blessing for the rest of us.


Now you're gonna get stuck with Ted Cruz sitting in ruthie's seat.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

What did I tell you?


Megyn Kelly Is Said to Be Leaving Fox News for NBC


Your source for the news before it even breaks.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@bu22 You don't think that qualifies as this: "Yet, increasingly, we will eschew the slightly hard work of checking the veracity of what we read or hear if it aligns with our prior beliefs about the subject, whether good or bad."

?

There were reports out there disputing "hands up, don't shoot." They were ignored/dismissed by the protesters.

bu22
bu22

@Kyle_Wingfield @bu22 Those reports got drowned out by NBC, CNN and other MSM pushing the "hands up, don't shoot" story 24 hours a day non-stop.  Supposedly "responsible" media were irresponsible.  Thus the cynicism.  You were as likely to find truth in National Enquirer as on CNN these past few months.  The only difference is that one imagines aliens who speak English manipulating everything and the other imagines aliens who speak Russian manipulating everything.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

  In a wide-ranging request for documents and an-alysis, President-elect Donald Trump's transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security last month to as-sess all as-sets available for border wall and barrier construction.


Probably thinking about tearing it down, I'm sure.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 This lack of skepticism toward too-good-to-check stories from unvetted sources seems to be worse on (but hardly exclusive to) the conservative side of the spectrum.


Its a blowout. Like Georgia vs Hawaii Kyle.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The New York Times wrote it? Liberal claptrap! That was reported by Fox News? More like “Faux News,” amirite?


Again the problem really isnt here. Its a Breitbart where they report Muslim prayer rugs were found on the border. When they know damn well no such thing has happened.


Its how many Trump voters after the election said the President told illegals they could vote. When of course he never said that.





Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Person 1: Did you see that story about Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton being a foreign agent/serial killer/drowner of puppies?


Trouble is this mostly happened on the right. The fake news folks as much said it. Trump voters were much easier to fool and thereby make money off of . 


Hell they still think he is going to build a wall LOL

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Eye wonder @AndyManUSA#45 If you remove cnn's fake news from the report, eyeball, which has nothing to do with cutting U.S. jobs, you will get right back to my original comment that Ford is cancelling plans to build a $700 million plant in Mexico because -


"This is a vote of confidence" in Trump and the economy, said Fields. We are "encouraged by pro growth policies, particularly reform around tax and regulatory policies."


Deal with it.



Rockstar67
Rockstar67

Most of the Deplorables dont have the vocabulary to read the NYT or WSJ.

Eye wonder
Eye wonder


 Nothing constructive can be brought about through cynicism. 


Oh, but the irony!

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Though frisking the AJC's liberal bloggers tends to push me towards cynicism, I am and will forever remain a skeptical optimist, Kyle.

Nothing constructive can be brought about through cynicism. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

 In a wide-ranging request for documents and analysis, President-elect Donald Trump's transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security last month to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.


The team also asked about the department's capacity for expanding immigrant detention and about an aerial surveillance program that was scaled back by the Obama administration but remains popular with immigration hardliners. And it asked whether federal workers have altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties.


Steamroller.


MAGA #45


http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-border-trump-exclusive-idUSKBN14N0TY?il=0

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

At the start of the last Congress, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) pushed for a rule change to stress that people being investigated by the OCE could not be denied their constitutional rights and had a right to counsel. According to media reports, Pearce raised the objection because he felt a staffer in his office had been treated unfairly.



Apparently, liberals are against due process rights. 


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/01/02/house-republicans-vote-to-rein-in-independent-ethics-office/?utm_term=.2daaba848bdd

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@AndyManUSA#45 I guess Trump is against due process rights too or is Trump wrong?  He is against removing the OCE (at least right now)

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

There is no fight. Republicans have the votes. The only person stopping it is Trump.

lvg
lvg

Cons off to a great start in the House- abolishing the  independent ethics committee. Anarchists and tea heads want to do their dirty business with nobody monitoring their behavior. Time to bring Shady and Gingrich back to help cultivate the swamp.

mgunter
mgunter

Left keeps losing on so many fronts. White House, Senate, House, Governorships, State Houses, and local governments. All on Obama's watch with all major news outlets including th AJC working for th Left. Liberalism will never let th truth get in th way of their narrative. I think it's gona be a contentious 8 years but really big fun for all us Deplorables!

MarkVV
MarkVV

@mgunter Liberalism will never let th truth get in th way of their narrative.

Quite a funny comment about left losing to the party that won the White House with a candidate who, in Kyle’s words, “lies because the truth is not just inconvenient to him, but meaningless and even irrelevant.”

lvg
lvg

@mgunter Yeah lets see how popular you deplorables are after four years of a fascist psychopath and traitor running the clown show with the anarchists and tea heads running wild in the House.. Go for it!

bu22
bu22

@lvg @mgunter You are in denial.  Hillary lost.  The psychopath who gave our state department secrets to the Russians and several other states and encouraged the anarchists who shut down Trump political rallies and hired people to incite violence was Hillary.  So you are confused.  Your fascist psychopath traitor lost.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

What leads often to cynicism is when a news organization labels opinion as fact. For example, saying that Trump lost the popular election. That is not true as there wasn't a popular election. The fact is that he recieved fewer votes because he focuses on winning the electoral college.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV @ChessMaster  Well here is a fact. Hillary Clinton lost Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan and that cost her and the Democrats the election. The "blue wall" crumbled get over it. The popular vote in a handful of blue states meant nothing, nada in the final outcome.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@ChessMaster I do not know if anybody wrote "popular election;" what I have read is about Trump losing the popular vote, which is true. 

On the other hand, there are people calling an opinion a fact, like you when you claim that it is a fact that Trump received fewer votes because he focused on wining the electoral college. There is no way to know that (that that was the reason for his loss of the popular vote), therefore it cannot be called a fact. 

bu22
bu22

@ChessMaster Even the AP is now mixing opinions with fact in their stories and selling it as fact.  Cynicism is because journalists are trying to manipulate opinion or are simply too stupid to understand the difference between opinion and fact.  Judging from the meltdown on the left, clearly some of it is stupidity, not dishonesty.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@ChessMaster The problem is that you dont appear to be able to actually decipher fact from opinion.  


It is a fact that Hillary recieved 2.8M more votes.  That is objective and cannot be disputed.


It is your opinion that Trump only lost the popular vote because he focused on the electoral college.  That is subjective and cannot be proven in a definitive way.


You are the problem.  You created or believed an opinion simply to validate your own opinion.  You proved Kyle's point.

Mandingo
Mandingo

Trump......America's D-bag in Chief. Is this what you are talking about Kyle ?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Oh yeah, the ny times, they just love them some Donald Trump. Never twisted even just one of his words, nevah, evah. Wouldn't even think of doing it, no way, no how.


And the ajc? Nary a left winger in sight. Most mainstream publication in all of the whole world. We're talking unbiased city here.


sarc/ off


MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle’ s advice is a good one. And when the issues are real “fake news,” there should be no hesitance in rejecting them, no matter which side they hurt.

As one can see from some examples in this and the previous thread so far, however, fake news are not the only things one should deal with not just with skepticism, but with denunciation. Check the following insanity of political extremism from AndyMan, which he felt compelled to bestow on us not just once, but twice:

For instance, the knowledge that 95% or more of what you read in the ajc is nothing but left wing mind pollution.

It is the kind of mindset that makes such nonsense possible what creates a fertile ground for fake news.

lvg
lvg

Excellent article. NY Times is only newspaper that interviewed the Orange Clown -elect after the election and published every word  without alteration. Clown -elect could not squirm from best journalists in the country and after trying to BS them about his narcissistic hallucinations,and he  admitted that 3/4  of  his campaign promises were pure BS with his minister of propaganda sitting next to him and Rancid Peanuts. Now the new dictator says he will curtail the press because they mangle his sentences.   Question is will the conservative reporter for the AJC buy the BS and derangement  flying out of Clown-elects mouth and his tweets?


NY Times  nailed Hillary on her server, e-mails and many other blemishes. Lets  see some real reporting from the AJC about all the wonderful things the GOP is not doing like fighting our no. 1 adversary in the coming year.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@lvg  "Like fighting our no. 1 adversary in the coming year." Wow, I thought Obama, told Romney, that would be so much cold warish from back in the 80's. Afterall, Obama told Medvedev, to tell Vladimir, (they were on a first name basis back then) that once reelected he could do more. Now who was the Russian lap dog? Bwaahaahaa.

lvg
lvg

@SGTGrit @lvg Only a moron would not realize a lot of war mongering and civilian deaths were caused by the fascist leader in the Kremlin after 2012 to which a bipartisan Congress and the President responded  with sanctions which have crippled Russia's economy. Only traitors like Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort,  Trump and you would make this into an issue about Obama as our President. Country sure does not come first with the Obama haters!

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@lvg @SGTGrit  Oh please, the Obama sanctions haven't done do diddily squat in stopping the Russian aggression. The Obama lead from behind strategy has emboldened not just Russia but all of our many adversaries.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@MarkVV @SGTGrit @lvg  Well clearly you have no clue as to its meaning. Obama and Hillary (reset) Clinton were kissing Putin's Russia where they pass gas and lost but so did the country.

lvg
lvg

@SGTGrit @lvg "Obama sanctions" were a bipartisan act of  Congress. Russian cash reserves at an all time low so Trump will cure that problem real quick for his campaign manager  in the Kremlin.


Why don't you go full birther for old time sake?

MarkVV
MarkVV

@SGTGrit @lvg Apparently you have no idea what the "lap dog" expression means, if you suggest that what Obama told Medvedev made him one.