Scrolling through Yahoo News last night, I came across the subject headline (sans “Or Not?”). It was an article published on the decidedly left-leaning Huffington Post. HuffPo and its writers are among the most critical of President Trump, so any expectation of objectivity I may have had was tempered. Nevertheless, I decided to give the link a click with “eyes wide open”. Unfortunately, what was really waiting for me was embarrassment and frustration.
After reviewing the entirely of the piece, I came to the conclusion and that any rational person possessing minimal critical thinking skills would reach: that the title was pure clickbait. That I fell prey to said clickbait was the aforementioned source of embarrassment. Trump is not issuing such an order. Then, you may ask, what is he doing? Simply, he is lifting restrictions enacted by President Obama following the tumult in Ferguson, MO and, later, Baltimore. Those restrictions affected police access to surplus military hardware in a few select categories. Again, Trump has not ordered anyone to give anything to any police department.
Regardless of my view of his action and the greater question it poses, my frustration is borne of this exercise in intellectual dishonesty. I would be less than surprised at this sort of demagoguery if it were written by an opinion columnist, and could maybe find it in my heart to forgive the deception – except that Ryan J. Reilly is a senior justice REPORTER at the Huffington Post. Maybe I am naive or set my expectations too high, but I expect a reporter to deal in fact, not slanted (at best), misleading, or outright false assertions.
For the record, I do have concerns about the militarization of local police forces over the last 20 years (this would be lengthy piece in its own right), not only in equipment and hardware but also attitude and philosophy, so the title was effective and sucked me in. 9/11 changed our way of life, no matter how much we pretend or believe otherwise. Part of that change was giving police departments access to this equipment under the guise of “homeland security”. It is not as if Donald Trump woke up one morning and had (what would be to him) a stroke of genius to transform our police into virtual armies.
The frustration I felt was derived from two things. First, there was the comment section, describing impending martial law or war on the American people. Did these people read the same article I did? Did they even read it at all? Both sides of the aisle have their myrmidons and lemmings, blindly following and spouting tired rhetoric and talking points, and the dedicated readership of HuffPo were all frothing at the mouth on this article. It was disheartening to see so many people willing to suspend the higher functions of their brains to join in the anonymous online mob, and yet another example of the breakdown of civilized debate and the polarized climate of the political sphere.
Secondly, and more importantly, articles like this one that are presented as news but are patently false only feeds into the Donald’s “fake news” narrative. I generally cringe every time I hear Trump use that phrase, “fake news”, but this time I would have to agree.
Way to go, Reilly – you just gave the lunatic more ammunition for that cannon of a mouth.