Fake News Is Not New News

Everyone is now decrying “fake news.” As if it’s a new phenomenon. I’m a historian; I can testify that fake news is nothing new.

Three decades ago, while working on my doctorate, I was immersed in fake news—from the 1790s. Newspapers of the era were sponsored by either Federalists or the Democrat-Republicans. The “news” in some of those papers was sometimes pure speculation, often made up just to undermine the political opposition. My subject of study was Noah Webster, who was editor of a New York City newspaper at the time. He stood out as one of the few who refused to succumb to the fake news temptation.

Read all the commentary on Abraham Lincoln during his presidency, then tell me that fake news has only popped up in the last campaign. I recall scurrilous stories about Ronald Reagan when he took office. He supposedly hated minorities; he sought to throw old people out in the streets; Nancy was taking taxpayer money to buy china for the White House (that’s “china” as in plates, not the country).

I hate to be the one to break this “news”—human beings lie, cheat, and slander other human beings all the time. It’s something called sin.

The latest example, apparently, is the report of a dossier about Russia that purports to show Donald Trump is pretty much owned by the Russians. Beyond that, there were hints of sexual improprieties. Those were only hints until a liberal organization called Buzzfeed decided to open the sewer.

Is everything in this dossier untrue? We don’t know. Is anything true? We don’t know. Why? Nothing has been substantiated. It was unethical in the extreme for Buzzfeed to feed the controversy without proof of the allegations.

Unfortunately for Trump, he has not done himself any favors by seeming to be almost buddy-buddy with Putin. He has made a number of statements that show admiration for the Russian dictator. He is the one who has created that impression, so if it’s not really how he feels, he needs to correct that impression as soon as possible:

Maybe Putin can do his part to help:

There also has been pushback against Trump in the arts. Some performance artists have decided to use the liberty this country provides to decline to perform at Trump’s inauguration (it’s a good thing they aren’t Christian bakers or photographers, for whom that liberty doesn’t exist). Well, who needs them? I’m sure Trump’s people can find substitutes:

Meryl Streep, at the Golden Globes, where Hollywood pats itself on the back each year, gave a short speech that, while not mentioning Trump by name, made it clear that she had contempt for him. Hollywood wants to think it is somehow the conscience of the nation.

Streep didn’t say anything unusual; these award ceremonies are always politically liberal. It’s just expected. Yet because Trump is going to be the president with the thinnest skin since Andrew Jackson, he couldn’t help himself—he had to immediately tweet that Streep is an “overrated” actress.

Now, while I disagree with everything Streep said, there is no way she is an overrated actress. When I know Streep is in a film, I know at least one thing about that film: the character she portrays will be handled wonderfully. She is an excellent actress.

Trump continues to hit back at anyone who insults him. Streep is only the latest in a long line of individuals and/or organizations to be called overrated, losers, etc. What if even the pope were to give him advice he doesn’t like, advice he considered insulting?

Let’s pray it doesn’t come to that.

On Rigged Elections

This election is rigged. That’s been Donald Trump’s theme for a couple of weeks. Is that possible? Accusations of a rigged presidential election are rare, but there are a few examples.

john-quincy-adamsIn 1824, John Quincy Adams won the presidency after no one got the majority of the electoral votes and the decision was thrown into the House of Representatives. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, was later chosen by Adams to be his secretary of state, considered at that time to be the stepping-stone to the presidency. Andrew Jackson, the loser even though he started with a plurality of the electoral tally, charged that it was a corrupt bargain. He lost the election, he said, because it was rigged against him.

What Jackson didn’t allow into his thoughts is that Clay, who undoubtedly used his influence as Speaker to put Adams in the presidency, felt that Jackson was unfit for the office and gave his support to Adams because he believed Adams was the better of the two men. That, of course, never stopped Jackson from thinking he was cheated out of the office and he held bitterness over it for the rest of his life.

rutherford-b-hayes-2The 1876 election was one of the most controversial in American history. Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but neither he nor Republican Rutherford Hayes had an electoral majority due to claims of voter fraud in some of the Southern states. This was after the Civil War and the rancor of Reconstruction.

A special commission had to be set up to determine the winner. It took until just a few days before the March inauguration to solidify Hayes’s victory. The only way Democrats accepted Hayes as the legitimate president was after he promised to serve only one term and bring Reconstruction policies to an end. Still, some Democrats refused to acknowledge Hayes as the legitimate president.

jfk-nixonThen there was 1960. Everyone knows John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon, right? Well, that’s not necessarily true. Most historians admit that voter fraud was so plentiful in Illinois and Texas that those two states should have gone to Nixon, thereby making him the next president.

Chicago has been a source of voter fraud continually; it’s amazing how many dead people vote there every time. Texas was Lyndon Johnson’s home state, and he made sure there were enough votes counted to gain the victory there, regardless of how many actually voted.

Nixon was aware of the fraud and many in his circle encouraged him to challenge the result. Tempting as that was, Nixon instead chose to step back from any challenge for the good of the nation. He felt it would be damaging to the country, especially at a time of Cold War tension with the Soviet Union, to disrupt the government in that way.

Most people don’t know about Nixon’s selfless decision; all they ever think about is Watergate.

So, yes, voter fraud might take place. In fact, I’m convinced it does on a regular basis. However, here’s the real question: could it be massive enough to make a difference this year, as Trump intimates?

First of all, it would only matter in a very close vote within a state. Consequently, you can dismiss any issue of damage to the Trump campaign in states that are going for Clinton by wide margins. California, New York, and Illinois are lost causes for Trump anyway. Even if we were to wipe out all of Chicago’s graveyard votes, he will still lose Illinois.

The only real possibility of voter fraud affecting this election would have to focus on Texas or Florida, yet both of those states are controlled by a Republican majority who will guarantee that Trump won’t be trumped by Democrat tricks.

Let’s be real. Voter fraud, while always a concern, is not going to be any kind of determining factor this year. The determining factor is Donald Trump, pure and simple. Well, he’s simple, at least.

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganHave you noticed that every time Trump loses, he has a scapegoat? Recall the Iowa caucuses. Why did he lose there, in his mind? Ted Cruz cheated. “Lyin’ Ted” cost him Iowa. That was his story and he was sticking to it. He pretty much used the same mantra wherever he lost.

Why? Because Trump believes he is a winner. Remember that he told Republicans he was going to win so much that they were going to get tired of winning. If he loses, it can’t be his fault; it has to be some kind of “rigged” election.

Much has been made of Trump’s comment in the last debate that he will wait and see if he will accept the results of this election. Some feel he is destroying the American electoral system by saying that. I don’t go there. I know there can be fraud, and I use 1960 as a prime example.

However, what really bothers me is what it reveals about Trump’s character. His ego is so huge and vast that he cannot even imagine losing due to his own uneven temperament, lack of knowledge of the issues, and moral turpitude.

He’s also preparing the context for his loss. You see, he didn’t really lose; the election was stolen by “Crooked Hillary.” By the way, she is Crooked Hillary, but he’s “Delusional Donald.”

He will never accept the hard truth that he is his own worst enemy. Rumors abound that once he loses, his next venture will be a media network to promote his views (whatever they may be next year).

Lose he will, and probably “bigly.” And it won’t be because of voter fraud. It will be because he is the worst candidate the Republicans have ever chosen as a standard-bearer.

The Remedy for Racial Discord

Someday, we may be able to leave the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case behind us. I know I’m tired of it. Yet it depends on whether others are willing to let it go or whether they are more invested in promoting racial disharmony. We are supposed to be citizens of the United States; we should all be identified as Americans. But what do we see? There is a concerted effort to divide us by ethnicity, gender, age, and whatever new category the culture masters deem appropriate. Just look at a typical focus group or discussion panel on television:

Our Panel

It’s becoming nothing short of ridiculous. People are people. Yes, there are cultural differences, but the basic makeup of each person is the same. God created us all in His image: we all have an intellect, emotions, free will, and a conscience. Further, we all have identical needs: love, security, etc. Yet we insist on harping on the differences. For some people, it’s like an industry. That’s why I’ve criticized Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who probably wouldn’t have much of an income without their talent for fomenting discord and promoting grievances. Unfortunately, we’ve now seen that rise to the very top of our government:

 Perhaps One Day

Wake up. We are no longer living in a segregated society. Although pockets of discrimination will always exist, simply because of man’s sinfulness, one of the few improvements since the 1960s has been in the area of race relations and opportunity for all. At least, that was the trend until this administration decided to turn up the heat on racial discord through its statements and the actions of the DOJ.

Let’s keep this in mind: we will never achieve a perfect society; problems between individuals and groups will always be present. Those barriers come down in the proper way only by first acknowledging our common Creator. Real love for others will be manifested only by mirroring the love of God as demonstrated through His Son. Yet with all the new attacks on Biblical Christianity—which should be a redundant description—our future as a nation is uncertain. And any disintegration of Biblical foundations will lead to even worse race relations.

The remedy is simple, but the resistance to it is massive: acknowledge and be ashamed of sin in one’s life, repent of it, and turn to the One who laid down His life to bring reconciliation across the board—with God first, and then with others.

The Zimmerman Verdict

Zimmerman TrialI deliberately held off saying anything more about the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin media event until after the verdict had been reached. Now that Zimmerman has been declared not guilty by the jury—that includes both the second-degree murder and manslaughter charges—here is what I take from the drama that has mesmerized a large number of our citizens for weeks.

First, it appears the jury did its duty. This was no snap decision; the six women that comprised the jury took plenty of time to go over the evidence and be sure of the facts. They didn’t allow the emotionally charged atmosphere to influence their decision. They are to be commended.

Second, this never should have been a national media event. If the media is really concerned about violence toward minorities, it should begin to investigate Chicago, which is on pace to set a record for murders. Ah, but that is a city with a mayor who used to work in the Obama White House, so that’s off limits, I guess.

Third, George Zimmerman was a registered Democrat, who presumably voted for Barack Obama. He has a multiracial extended family, which includes blacks. He also had been serving as a mentor for a young black man, taking him out to play basketball and help raise money for his church.

Sharpton-JacksonFourth, considering Zimmerman’s background and actions on behalf of blacks, there should have been no racial component to this story. This was turned into a racial incident by at least three culprits: the Florida prosecutors; the media; and the habitually outraged crowd led by such worthies as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Fifth, President Obama never should have interjected himself into this story. He blatantly played the race card by saying that if he had had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon.

Sixth, America in 2013 is not Selma, Alabama, in 1963. It’s time to get out of the time warp. Things have changed. There are other reasons than racism for the problems in the black communities. I would start with the destruction of marriage, whereby 70% of black children are born out of wedlock and have no father in the home. This is the root of the problems, aided and abetted by a federal government that promotes the obliteration of the family by its policies.

In summary, George Zimmerman was made to look like a monster; Trayvon Martin was continually portrayed as an innocent teen set upon by the monster. Neither image held up under scrutiny. Now it’s time to move on.

But will that happen? Many news outlets are now reporting that the Obama DOJ is preparing to bring Zimmerman up on federal charges. As I’ve noted previously, Eric Holder’s DOJ is operating as anything but a department that seeks justice. Rather, it seeks revenge, and refuses to grow past the 1960s mentality of pervasive racism as the cause of all evil.

But if Obama, Holder, and their ilk are making their decisions based on race, who are the real racists?

George Zimmerman is going to have a hard enough time as it is—if he’s not assassinated first. The threats of violence toward him are real. He will have to live his life always wondering if he and his family are safe. I’m not saying he didn’t make mistakes in his encounter with Trayvon Martin. Yet a jury of his peers reviewed all the evidence and judged that he acted in self-defense. That verdict should stand.

Will our federal government, with its race-based politics, allow it to stand? President Obama’s reaction to the verdict didn’t offer an apology to Zimmerman for pre-judging him. In fact, his statement didn’t even mention Zimmerman’s name. It instead exalted the memory of Martin, and coupled that with a comment about curbing gun violence, which, in Obamaspeak, means greater gun control measures.

For the Obamaites, playing politics is a never-ending game.

Presidents Without Knowledge

George Washington 21794

Reporter: President Washington, could you please comment on the rebellion brewing in this country over the excise tax? We hear rumors that you are going to be sending troops to deal with that, and that you yourself may be leading those troops? Is that true, sir?

Washington: Sir, as you should know, that is an ongoing investigation. It would not be proper for me to comment on that at this time. Please do not believe all the rumors you hear.

Thomas Jefferson 21803

Reporter: President Jefferson, is it true that you have been holding secret meetings with French representatives with regard to a vast tract of land called Louisiana? Why would you have any dealings with an egomaniac like Napoleon?

Jefferson: Surely you realize it would be a breach of diplomatic etiquette to comment on this. Besides, I personally have no knowledge of any such secret meetings.

Andrew Jackson 41832

Reporter: Is it true, President Jackson, that you are threatening to hang Sen. John C.  Calhoun over South Carolina’s attempt to nullify a tariff passed by Congress?

Jackson: I have made no public statement to that effect. If anyone ever said anything of that sort, I assure you I would be outraged and would go to the ends of the earth to bring that miscreant to justice. Now get out of my way. I have to go the general store. I’m short on rope.

Abraham Lincoln 81864

Reporter: It has been reported, President Lincoln, that Gen. Sherman, having taken Savannah, sent you a telegram offering the city as a Christmas present. Is that permissible, sir? Can a general give a president a city for a present? Wouldn’t that be highly improper?

Lincoln: I can assure you that I will put my top people on this immediately to investigate whether Gen. Sherman ever made such an outrageous offer. I can affirm, though, that I have no personal knowledge of any such telegram. If anyone in my administration is hiding it from me, they will be dealt with. Now, please excuse me; I have a war to win for the people.

Woodrow Wilson 21917

Reporter: President Wilson, now that we have entered this Great War, your administration has pushed for a sedition act that can be used to muzzle reporters. We’re told it may allow the government to imprison and fine anyone who dares to criticize the war effort. Is that true?

Wilson: Absolutely not. My administration respects the Constitution of the United States. An integral part of that Constitution is the First Amendment, which guarantees a free press. Reporters should always be free to pursue a story or express an opinion. Now, what did you say your name is? For whom do you work? Are you in any way involved as a conspirator against your government?

FDR 21945

Reporter: Now that you are back from the Yalta Conference, President Roosevelt, can you tell us what was decided behind those closed doors? What did you, Churchill, and Stalin agree to? Surely you must be aware that rumors are swirling about how much you gave away to the Soviet Union. Would you please comment?

Roosevelt: I can assure all Americans that I would never “give away the store,” so to speak. I can vouch for Stalin personally. He is a great friend of the United States. We want to support him sacrificially—give him everything he needs to help spread his brand of democracy. But why are you seeking information of a secret nature? Are you from Fox?

Bill Clinton-Esquire1998

Reporter: President Clinton, what’s this we hear about the Oval Office being used for rather unpresidential purposes?

Clinton: If that were the case, I would be very angry, even angrier than you or the American people. But as you know, this is an ongoing investigation so I cannot comment on it. Besides, it’s not as if the Oval Office is part of my administration. Yes, it’s in the house where I live, but I rarely go there, and when I do, you can be sure it’s for official business only. I’ve put my best person on the job of looking into this. Attorney General Janet Reno is absolutely trustworthy. I can attest she has followed my orders to a “T” in all those other investigations into the bogus scandals of which I have been accused.

Obamessiah2013

Reporter: With all these scandals swirling around your administration, how has this affected your ability to do your job, President Obama?

Obama: Scandals? What scandals? Job? What job? I have no knowledge of either. I have no knowledge of anything. I am clueless. Where are my golf clubs?

Martin, Zimmerman, & the Rule of Law

Yesterday the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case, Angela Corey, came to the podium with her team and revealed the result of their initial investigation into the shooting. They concluded there was enough evidence to officially charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Corey, before she got to the bottom line, did a fine job of first schooling the media and anyone else listening with respect to the rule of law and how it works. She explained clearly the rights of both victims and those accused of a crime, and injected a bit of sanity into the circus that has erupted around this case.

She said Zimmerman had voluntarily turned himself in to the authorities and is now under arrest. The justice system can now move forward to evaluate the evidence and ultimately determine the extent of his guilt or whether he should be exonerated, given the circumstances of the incident. Zimmerman will have his day in court rather than being lynched by irate race-baiters.

And there have been a multitude of those.

We’ve seen Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson on the scene—two individuals who live by inflaming racial disharmony. The New Black Panthers also have taken center stage, publicly placing a bounty on Zimmerman’s head, with some calling outright for a race war in the U.S. Yet what about race? Who is Zimmerman? His parents are mixed—one white, one Hispanic. Yet he is continually referred to as white. Is this purposeful to make it a racial issue? By the same logic, one could call Barack Obama white. Has anyone ever done that? No, because that won’t fit the narrative.

By the way, Mr. Attorney General Holder, why the silence when the Panthers called for a bounty and that Zimmerman should be killed without regard to the rule of law? Aren’t you the chief law enforcement officer in the country? But then again, Holder was the one who intentionally dropped the investigation into Panthers who stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia back in 2008, intimidating voters. So why should we expect anything else? He’s also the one who is suing states for having laws requiring photo ID’s for voting. For him, everything is race.

There’s also the question of why this event has been nationalized. It was a local incident, but the media have run with it and turned it into the civil rights case of the new century. Yet the media conveniently ignore certain statistics. According to a 2007 report from the Department of Justice, 8000 to 9000 blacks in America are murdered each year. On first glance, that might seem to point to widespread racial hatred. Hold on, though. The report goes on to say that 93% of those murders are committed by other blacks. So where is the real problem?

Perception is not always the same as reality.

The media, as I mentioned above, are complicit in this. One glaring example is what happened with the “selective editing” of an audio tape of Zimmerman describing the incident to a 911 dispatcher. It was edited by NBC to make it sound like Zimmerman was a racist, when in fact the entire recording shows that he only mentioned Martin’s race when asked by the dispatcher. Journalistic integrity is becoming all too rare nowadays.

The employee who did the so-called selective editing has been dismissed, but that person was only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Expect more of the same in the future.

Will sanity now prevail? Will the courts of justice now be allowed to take over and execute the law? Will the circus subside? We’ll see.

A Tale of Christian Martyrdom Well Told

I used my Christmas break to do some reading for a new course I’m developing: The American Republic, 1789-1848. The ideas and resources for the course are coming together. One of the books I’m definitely planning to use for this course is An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears by Daniel Blake Smith.

As a Christian conservative who deeply appreciates the Biblical grounding of our earliest generations, I’m always alert to those who may try to undermine that understanding of the era. Yet both my Christian commitment and my training as a historian requires that I maintain integrity and put truth-telling ahead of what I would like to believe. In the case of the Cherokee tribe, the negation of Biblical principles by President Andrew Jackson and the government of Georgia, in particular, was abhorrent. The term “travesty of justice” is aptly applied to this event.

I would normally be suspicious of any book that simply bashed American policy, but Smith does a superb job of showing the complex nature of this entire situation. He does, with justice, reveal the bad attitudes, racism, and greed that was at work to force the Cherokees from their homeland. He also fingers those who named the name of Christ, yet allowed racist views to influence them. Whether some of these individuals were true Christians is unlikely.

But what shines through the book and its tale, for me, was the genuineness of Christian love the missionaries to the Cherokees had for this persecuted people and the authentic Christian faith of some of the Cherokee leaders. This is where the book departs from the traditional interpretation, and does so convincingly. The two most prominent Cherokee Christians were John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. They have come down to us, in most treatments of this event, as the “sellouts” who negotiated a bad treaty with the U.S. government that forced the Cherokees out of their land. Some accounts simply refer to them as businessmen just out to make a buck.

Smith disagrees. The Cherokee nation was split over the issue of removal. The chief, John Ross, held out to the end, trying to change the government’s mind, without success. He’s usually hailed as the hero of the tale. Smith, though, points to his stubbornness in the face of a done deal, and to the traditional Cherokees’ devotion to the land rather than to the survival of the tribe. It was Ridge and Boudinot who saw the handwriting on the proverbial wall and sought to place people’s lives over land. They wanted to help their people prosper in a new place, and they acted with the best of motives and with integrity.

Boudinot, in particular, worked with missionary Samuel Worcester to translate the Bible into the Cherokee language. Both Boudinot and Ridge suffered accusations of treason, and both eventually were murdered by the traditionalist Cherokees for helping uproot their people from their ancestral land. This was an early cultural war as missionaries and Christian Cherokees attempted to bring truth to these people. In effect, their murders were martydoms for the cause of Christ.

I highly recommend this book as a corrective to the simplistic interpretation too often placed on the Trail of Tears. No one is whitewashed in this account; those who were responsible for the tragedy are clearly named. Yet there is a sense of magnificence and redemption in the story as we read of those who gave their all for their faith.