"A Wholesale Flight from Truth"

If you do nothing else today, please take a few minutes to read Frank Rich's most recent column.  As chilling as it is brilliant, this incisive piece of social criticism shames us all, moving from the recent Tiger Woods scandal to the weightier issues of subprime mortgages and terrorism:

As cons go, Woods’s fraudulent image as an immaculate exemplar of superhuman steeliness is benign. His fall will damage his family, closest friends, Accenture and the golf industry much more than the rest of us. But the syndrome it epitomizes is not harmless. We keep being fooled by leaders in all sectors of American life, over and over. A decade that began with the “reality” television craze exemplified by “American Idol” and “Survivor” — both blissfully devoid of any reality whatsoever — spiraled into a wholesale flight from truth.

Rich points out that virtually all of the decade's scandals, from Ted Haggard to Barry Bonds and the much-maligned WMDs, have been a result of media hype that everyone believed, even the media themselves.  He doesn't claim he knew all along; he points out that we were all duped, over and over again, by politicians and celebrities and yes, by newspaper columnists too.  We have forgotten how to think for ourselves.

Reading this, I am given a rare and fleeting moment of confidence.  This is why I go to work every day, why I fight for correct grammar and thoughtful sentences, why I cruelly force Journalism students to know all 9 Supreme Court justices and American Literature students to connect Arthur Dimmesdale and Jonathan Edwards.  Because if you can't reason and you have no facts, you will have no defense against the shams that pelt us, day after day, trying to erode our ability to distinguish between truth and truthiness.