Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is reportedly considering the development of tools that would help America’s children discern truth from lies and know when they are being fed “disinformation.”
The Washington Times, which first reported the story, says a department spokesperson declined to give details, but that more information would be revealed “in the coming weeks.”
Mr. Mayorkas might want to start by fact-checking his recent claim that the U.S. southern border is “closed.” He made the statement when news pictures showed waves of people crossing the border. Should kids believe him, or their “lying eyes”?
Should anyone, regardless of political party or persuasion, be comfortable with government telling especially children what they can believe and whom they can trust? This is what totalitarian states do. It’s called propaganda.
We are already inundated with political correctness, cancel culture and woke-ism. TV networks spend more time delivering opinion and slanting stories to particular points of view than what once resembled — if not objective journalism — then at least fairness.
The list of government officials who have lied is long and dates back to the Founders of the nation. Some lies could be defended on national security grounds. Others were used to cover up wrongdoing or enhance the image of the one who lied.
In recent years, we recall President Clinton’s denial of having sex with Monica Lewinsky, President Obama’s claim about his health care program:
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” President George H. W. Bush’s “Read my lips, no new taxes,” assertions by the George W. Bush administration that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, Richard Nixon’s lies about Watergate, the lies told by Lyndon Johnson, members of his administration and generals about how we were winning the war in Vietnam (Johnson had pledged during the 1964 campaign not to send Americans to fight in Vietnam, another lie), and the CEO of R.J. Reynolds telling a congressional committee in 1994 that “cigarette smoking is no more ‘addictive’ than coffee, tea, or Twinkies.”
The Washington Post reported in January that by the end of his term, former President Trump “had accumulated 30,573 untruths during his presidency — averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day.”
I could go on, but you get the point.
George Orwell was prescient when he wrote in “1984” about Newspeak and the Ministry of Truth. We have already achieved the former in what we are allowed to say, or not say, lest we be smeared with nasty rhetorical stains. Let’s revisit the Ministry of Truth for those who haven’t read the book or need a reminder.
The Ministry of Truth was related to Newspeak in that it had nothing to do with truth, but propaganda by another name. Its job was to falsify historical records in ways that aligned with government policies and its version of those events. It was also tasked with defining truth, which sometimes resulted in “doublespeak,” or contradictions, that served the purposes of the state.
Truth has become subjective and relative in modern times and is now personal. You have your “truth” and I have my “truth.” Even when they contradict each other, it doesn’t matter as long as we both feel good about it.
This flawed notion has contributed to our cultural decline.
Try this experiment if you want to see how far we have moved from objective truth. Go to any popular definition website and type in “truth.” They assume truth exists and can be discovered.
The truth is supposed to set us free, but if we can’t recognize or define it, we will be in bondage. Secretary Mayorkas should reread Orwell’s novel and then abandon any plans to indoctrinate schoolchildren.
• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (Harper Collins/Zondervan, January 2020).
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