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Wanting to Believe

February 9, 2017

“… the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right?  Did you know that?  Forty-seven years.  I used to use that — I’d say that in a speech and everybody was surprised, because the press doesn’t tell it like it is.  It wasn’t to their advantage to say that. But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, from 45 to 47 years.”

Our President raised some eyebrows a few days ago with that quote above.  Numerous sources were quick to jump in with proof that it was not only wrong, it was waaaaay wrong.  Indeed the rate in 2015, the last year for which we have statistics, was 4.9 murders per 100,000 people while the highest rate over that time period was 10.2 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, down the block, Time Magazine tweeted that our President removed a bust of Dr. M.L. King from the Oval Office at the White House.  Very quickly snopes.com, the same source that gave me the statistic in the previous paragraph, revealed that story to be entirely false.

The common factor in these two episodes, other than the reality that they were both wrong, is the rapid spread through social media of people agreeing with them.  Even after they had been proven wrong this spread went on and on. Indeed, snopes.com was beseeched with complaints that they were lying from both sides of the political spectrum when their cherished respective sources were challenged, while, at the same time, were praised for exposing the other side’s story.  Can we say…hypocrisy?

The real story however is the way both sides wanted to believe the flat out lies they heard.  (In Trump’s defense, there is a possibility that he was not lying; that he simply did not know the murder rate and was only making it up.)  This pairing is just one of dozens of cases where it seems that nearly all of us want to, almost desperately want to, believe bad things about people we disagree with.  This overpowering need to believe that the other guy is evil to the core is the fertilizer that causes fake news to blossom.  Who should be the first people to refuse to do this?

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  James 1:19-20

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