Listen carefully to the questions posed in congressional hearings, on news shows and during interviews. People are asked whether they believe “X”, or even what they believe another person believes, e.g. “Does the President believe that North Korea is a nuclear threat to our homeland?”
That questions would flunk a Journalism 101 exam, and would violate the rules set by the Equal Employment Occupation Commission. Yet questions about what someone believes are posed daily on the record and before Congressional Committees. These questions are unprofessional at best and not legitimate for an interrogatory. They have become all too predictable; while the questioner is simply unprofessional, lazy or sloppy.
We have the right to be “a reasonably well informed citizenry,” one of the hallmarks of a democracy. We have the right to a factual, reality-based platform of information. Congressional and media interactions both should have this as their serious and professional purpose. Derive useful information. Provide us with a basis in fact to determine what is “true.” They both need to dig down with questions that precisely and persistently extract information that can rise to the level of truth.
When someone testifies to what he believes, he is responding to the ultimate softball question. What anyone believes may actually be unknown to the believer, outlandishly false, or simply not provable. Whether flat earth, election fraud or space aliens, it is your right to believe it.
No one will do time, or even have to own up to the so-called “belief.” It’s a get out of a hearing or press interview free card. What we get is a perjury proof response that is somewhat speculative, with no accountability on the part of the questioner or respondent.
If you want to know what a Congressional member’s convictions are, ask and compare it with what they actually do. “By their acts you will know them.” Elicit the available evidence, research or data that informs that person’s convictions and the action they will take. Determine whether your representatives are informed, doing their homework, operating from any sort of policy or values platform, competent. Who are they really working for?
Ask questions directed at the basis upon which someone is making a decision. Drill down. Get past the bias, the distraction, and the spin. Go for the facts, the hard evidence, the intention behind it, the research, the priorities and values being expressed, the specific outcome sought.
Democracy is based on a collective number of heads being better than one person alone. But that is the case only when each person is informed; not ignorant, biased or propagandized. It is the job of Congress and the media to extract and present the facts to the public so that better decisions can be made by citizens.
The next time you hear your representative or reporters using the “B” word, call them on it. Get them back on track to do the job our democracy requires. Substance and representation dissolves as professionalism dissolves before our eyes. Tell your representative and/or reporter: Do Your Job. Get both of us the facts with which we can understand what is going on, and make good decisions about it.
We have the right to be informed by our representatives. So we need to know where they are coming from and whether each possesses the competence with which to act on our behalf.