The great theorist Albert Einstein echoed Scripture, specifically Luke 16:10, when he said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.” This notion that one’s respect and handle on the truth is indicative of his or her greater character is not a new idea, but rather one that has been repeated time and time again. While one might think the words of Einstein should still ring true in our age, there is a war currently being waged on truth, and the battleground is our capital.
On Jan. 24, the U.S. President issued a media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), blocking them from issuing any press releases or social media posts. This blackout was immediately followed by a washing of the department’s website that removed any information on climate change and how human activity is negatively affecting our planet’s integrity. Contracts coming out of the same agency were indefinitely ceased on Jan. 24, contracts that would fund research into climate change, carbon emissions, clean energy and reducing our nation’s environmental footprint. Research: the quest to expand knowledge and find truth—was brought to a halt. Also on Jan. 24, our president issued an executive order that allowing construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines to restart, a decision that represents a massive step backwards when it comes to technological innovation and efforts to conserve environmental integrity. American citizens reached out to the EPA demanding explanations for what these actions meant, but the gag order denied the flow of truth.
The President has stated that the free press and media in America is “very, very dishonest.” The American press is protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, a constitutional freedom that some other developed countries are not afforded. It is the responsibility of the press to pry, to investigate the actions of the government and to act as a channel between that body and the citizens. Outlets who understand this fact and have been exercising this right are being called out by members of the administration as the bad guys in this situation. Last week, Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon went so far as to say that the media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” He continued his rant by saying the press is “the opposition party.” Besides being highly offensive to the members of the press who have fairly covered this administration and many before it, statements like these villainize those responsible for promoting and protecting truth. It is an obvious ploy to take the voice away from those who serve the American people, and give it to those who control the people.
This villainization becomes problematic when those who claim to have the truth instead tell lies, like how the recent inauguration was the most watched inauguration to date. That is a lie, and has been corroborated by several independent agencies. When the White House Press Secretary tells lies, and a counselor to the President attempts to disguise them under the intentionally misleading phrase “alternative facts,” it is clear that the war on truth is going to be a bloody one.
When Colonel Jessep bellowed “You can’t handle the truth!” at Lieutenant Kaffee in the classic film A Few Good Men, he wasn’t only spouting one of the most memorable lines to come out of American cinema, but also using truth as a measure of a person. He was pointing out the weakness and inferiority of Tom Cruise’s character, insinuating that if he were a better man, then he could handle, understand, be worthy of the truth. It is a fundamentally Christian goal to be worthy of handling the truth. In 2 Timothy, Paul prescribed “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Just as Paul taught that there is a real God, there is a real truth. There are no “alternatives.” Walter Williams’ Journalist’s Creed states that “a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all.” Truth does not have a political agenda.
One need look no further than the Nixon administration to see that a president’s relationship with the media greatly affects the legacy he or she leaves behind. As this current administration continues to damage relationships with the press, it should keep in mind that burning bridges are bright, and may inadvertently shed light on the real, non-alternative, truth.