Discernment in 2021: Tips for Better Use of Sources (Part 1)

“Discernment” is shorthand for the skill of identifying what’s good, right, true and most important from among inferior alternatives. The fact that discernment requires a maturing process through “training” (Heb. 5:14) tells us that these inferior alternatives often seem superior. It also tells us we can get better at it.

Good thing! People have instant access to more claims and counter-claims than at any time in human history. Christians need discernment more than ever before.

I’ve written previously about the role of good sources in the exercise of discernment. Building on those principles—and drawing on my own and others’ experiences—I want to pass on some practical tips.

1. Closest is best.

People who teach writing and research often use the term “primary sources.” Definitions vary slightly, but the gist is the same.

A primary source is an eyewitness account of an event or data obtained through original statistical or scientific research. (American University)

A rule of thumb: The further one goes from those directly involved, the less reliable the information tends to be. Information from professional media isn’t quite like the old telephone game, but sometimes it’s close. As for social media—they are the telephone game, only with photos and emojis!

If the topic is controversial and important, and you want to have a strong well-founded opinion on it, sources closer to the action are better.

We need to keep two barriers in mind, though.

  • We often can’t get to a primary source because they’re not reachable and haven’t published.
  • We often can’t understand a primary source because it’s highly specialized. Readers need a background in the subject to understand concepts and language in these sources.

For that reason, the tip isn’t “always go to primary sources,” but “get as close to primary as circumstances allow.” That often means prioritizing non-primary sources that name or link to their sources. These quality secondary sources are open about where they got their information, and that increases accountability.

2. Deprioritize opinion.

If getting at the truth is our goal, we should be looking to fact-focused sources far more than we look to opinion. But our culture seems to have this reversed.

  • Many seem to be unaware of the difference between news and opinion.
  • Many who are aware of the difference, don’t care.

To nobody’s benefit, the news and opinion are increasingly mixed together, but the extremes remain pretty obvious. TV shows named after individuals (Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, etc., etc.) are opinion shows. “News” shows that regularly feature personal judgments and emotional reactions are not really news shows either.

A good rule of thumb here: The more sensitive and controversial the topic, the more calm and fact-focused our sources need to be. If you’re seeing words like “slams,” “owns,” “disgusting,” “outrageous,” “shocking,” etc., in their headlines, you’re probably not looking at a fact-focused source!

Humans are shot through with bias—and the more emotional we are, the less we care about being accurate (a.k.a., truthful, factual). Our communication becomes nothing more than weaponized words.

Bottom line: Lovers of truth should be more interested in “boring.”

A corollary to the rule of thumb above: The more political the topic, the less political our sources need& to be. True, all humans are political, and all sources are political in that sense. That doesn’t mean all sources are equally political. There’s a big difference between The Daily Kos and Axios, or between Gateway Pundit and The Dispatch. Truth-seekers are better served by Axios and The Dispatch any day of the week … on virtually any topic!

I’ve been watching politics for what I think I can call “a long time” now. One thing I’ve learned is that leaders are never as bad as their strongest political enemies portray them to be, and never as good as their strongest political supporters portray them to be. The same is almost always true of policy.

As Christians, we should feel a strong spiritual aversion toward peddlers of alarm, distrust, anger, and hostility. For more on this topic, see This Is a Good Time to Stop Getting Your Information from Ideological Zealots.

3. Look past the headlines.

By now we all know headlines are often misleading. Many are just click bait. Many are a poor indicator of what the attached story actually claims. Headlines have to simplify, and they often oversimplify.

These problems are all common knowledge, but we need to challenge ourselves on this. Human nature means we tend to turn the critical thinking off if the headline seems to resonate with our already-held suspicions. Factor in that we often encounter headlines now in feeds of various sorts, a format that begs us to indulge mindlessly in self-validation.

Rule of thumb: If you’re not going to read the story, append the headline with a mental “probably not,” or a “maybe partly.” If it’s worth having an opinion on, it’s worth digging into, otherwise, assume the headline is noise.

Here’s a few random examples to illustrate how unhelpful headlines can be.

Supreme Court sides with New Mexico woman shot by police who attempted to flee

Just for laughs. In the story, the police are not attempting to flee!

US Air Force says it will test bizarre ‘hypersonic’ weapon this month

“Bizarre” is dramatic and skeptical, but the story is information rich and doesn’t support the headline’s language. Story also shows that there’s no reason to put “hypersonic” in scare quotes.

Warp Drive Is No Longer Science Fiction. The Physics of Faster-Than-Light Travel

Story: it’s still science fiction. We don’t have a warp drive or even know how to build one. What we have is some new (very cool) theoretical physics.

SHOCKING: According To Algorithm, Every Major CNN Figure ‘May Have A Blindspot On The Right,’ And Focus On Left-Leaning Sources

“SHOCKING” in all caps is pure click-baiting. There is nothing even a little bit shocking in the story.

Pro-life, pro-abortion activism labeled as domestic violent extremist threat in US intel report

Extremely misleading. The story: An intel report on “domestic violent extremists,” refers to a range of motivations, one of them being “ideological agendas in support of pro-life or pro-choice beliefs.”

Species of Gut Bacteria Linked to Enhanced Cognition and Language Skills in Infant Boys

“Linked to” is weasel language for “correlated with,” and correlation isn’t causation. Many read a headline like this and think “the science” says probiotics will make their kids smarter.

In a future post, we’ll take up “the science” and studies, among other things.

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There are 32 Comments

dgszweda's picture

A few other comments as well.

  • Look for information from various viewpoints.  With the rise of social media and bots that deliver news, viewpoints among citizenry is becoming more myopic because the news and information that is being delivered to you tends to support only the narrative that you are viewing.  Getting different viewpoints to a piece of news is always a good step in not only better understanding the otherside, but better understanding your viewpoint.
  • Understand the bias of the site that you are obtaining your information from.  Every source has bias,and bias is not necessarily a bad thing.  Too often times people view news as "facts" and not having bias.  There are a number of indepdent sites that monitor news sources for levels of bias and map them out (https://guides.lib.umich.edu/c.php?g=637508&p=4462444)
  • Understand how factual the news source is.  Again, there are a number of non-partisan sites that measure this (https://my.lwv.org/california/torrance-area/article/how-reliable-your-ne...)
  • Lastly, I also fact check things against sites like Snopes (https://www.snopes.com/).  If something sounds a bit outlandish, it most likely is.

One final point, that Aaron touched on.  It is becoming harder to find the separation between news and commentary.  Typically in the past when you were looking at a site like CNN, you thought you were reading news.  But more and more the articles posted and delivered by these sites indicate that they are opinion or commentary based.  A good site will highlight this, but sometimes it is easy to miss when looking at the article.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

As the article and commenter have mentioned, I also try to get information from various sources across the spectrum to get a true picture.

Where I differ from those above:

1. When it comes to political topics, I no longer trust any supposedly "non-partisan" sites that claim to measure the lean of other sites.  All the fact check sites are also slanted, some egregiously so, and as a result they have mostly lost their usefulness.  E.g. while I still very occasionally use Snopes for its original purpose (debunking internet scams, chain emails, etc.), I never ever use it for political purposes.  In that arena, it's no better than Politifact, which is also quite obviously partisan, and sometimes it's noticeably worse.  I also used to use Wikipedia a lot, and in the early days, even contributed.  I no longer do, and I distrust any article that covers any political topic.  Even on other non-political articles, I have to read with an eye for any slant, now that I know that it's there.  It's quite informative that one of the founders of Wikipedia no longer trusts it either.

2. The sites that are closer to the center can indeed be more useful than the ones more obviously slanted.  However, they are also in some ways more dangerous, because of our perception that they are less partisan.  Months ago, I tried reading the Dispatch a bit, thinking the site would be more reasonable than something like Breitbart and thus be more useful.  I quickly found that while it was a bit more sane than Breitbart or Gateway Pundit in a number of ways, it was more insidious, because while the site seemed more reasonable on the surface, that gave more authority than it should have to the partisan lean in the articles themselves.  Some of the articles almost read like "hey, I'm a conservative, so you should trust that this liberal viewpoint is actually the right one."  On the plus side for the more centrist sites, I have found that one of my favorite types of opinion article to read is an opposition piece in the left or right-leaning centrist publications.  Those can often give some really good insights.

Unfortunately, if you want to stay politically informed, there's no subsitute for doing the digging yourself in publications across the spectrum, and comparing what you read to what you already know to be true (and unfortunately, we don't always know -- that's why we are reading the news).  It's not easy, and I won't say I have mastered it.  However, I have found it's the only way to really have some idea what is going on.  I have mostly given up on video news sources a long time ago.  I can't take the "rah rah" on more right leaning channels any more than I can take the sneering and disdain from those on the left.  This is one area in which for me, at least, the written word is far superior to the spoken.

The other thing to realize is that while news has never been completely objective, these days there is much more of a blurring of opinion with fact.  Having grown up with Cronkite (even knowing he personally leaned left), it's amazing to me to see the difference in the news now.  It's easy to realize that Maddow or Carlson are giving opinion, or to recognize headlines like the ones Aaron points out.  However, now that even the "hard news" anchors mix in their opinion in the supposed reporting of the facts with an innocuous headline, nothing is ever what it seems at surface level.

Dave Barnhart

G. N. Barkman's picture

I agree with Dave, but would add that not only video clips, but printed sources are notoriously opinionated these days.  I lean pretty heavily on the Wall Street Journal because it seem less slanted to me than most other sources.

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

G. N. Barkman wrote:

...but would add that not only video clips, but printed sources are notoriously opinionated these days.

I don't disagree with that at all.  It's not that I think written sources are less slanted.  The difference between reading and listening is that I can easily skim over the "screed" portions of the articles with my eyes, where with video/audio sources, I can't easily skip ahead, so I have to listen to the commentators' partisan blather while trying to get to the meat of what they are saying.  (I guess I could with a podcast, but that doesn't work so well with a live broadcast.)

Dave Barnhart

dgszweda's picture

dcbii wrote:

As the article and commenter have mentioned, I also try to get information from various sources across the spectrum to get a true picture.

Where I differ from those above:

1. When it comes to political topics, I no longer trust any supposedly "non-partisan" sites that claim to measure the lean of other sites.  All the fact check sites are also slanted, some egregiously so, and as a result they have mostly lost their usefulness.   

2. The sites that are closer to the center can indeed be more useful than the ones more obviously slanted.  However, they are also in some ways more dangerous, because of our perception that they are less partisan. 

Like I said, everything has bias.  The best way to balance bias is to read from various sources including biased sources.  I even include NewsMax on my reading list.  Not because I am aligned to them, but because I get to see a broader picture of the subject.

Bert Perry's picture

I agree with most of what Dave's noted above, one thing that's been very helpful for me is to try and "read between the lines" and ask questions like "what are the implications if this is true?", "do I know something that would corroborate or refute this?", and the like.  An instinctive "say what?" has saved me from falling for more nonsense than I can shake a stick at.

One "rule of thumb" I've learned over the years, for reference, is that if someone tells me vehemently how unbiased he is, that's my first clue that in reality, I'm going to find that person to be one of the most biased people I've ever met.  The real test of fair reporting is not whether someone claims to be unbiased, but rather whether he can (will) state his opponent's position in a way that his opponent will understand and respect.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

I will say this.  We have fully swung the opposite side of the middle ages.  We went from where information was controlled by a select few and disseminated to the masses to everyone information and dissemination has been democratized.  I truly believe that DisInformation will be the number problem for society as a whole.  Trump came much closer to the destablization of our Democracy than many of us realize and that we have most likely faced since the Civil War.  And he may still be capable of pulling off an entire collapse of our Democracy.  He and others are able to do this because anyone can create information, social media platforms have created echo chambers, and society as a whole and people as individuals are ill equipped to sift through it.

It is scary to see how close we came in the last few weeks of the presidency.  When you have Trump's own nominees as the Joint Chief of Staff come out and say that it a coup was very real and that they had discussions around steps that they would take, while at the same time large Christian groups saying ignore everything you have heard and vote for Trump because he is against abortion, you really need to question how we are getting and consuming information.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Are you just decrying the current state of affairs w.r.t. disinformation, or are you trying to imply by what you wrote that government control of information (like that proposed by the Biden administration last week) is a good thing?  And what is it with people these days claiming that Trump, or now voting laws, or the conservative bugaboo of the week is "the worst thing since the Civil War?"  It's easy to see where destabilization is coming from, and it's not from those who want to maintain the order they knew rather than tear down and completely rebuild our society.

Further, whether middle ages or modern times, disinformation has always been an issue.  Compare with the multiple scriptures where Paul warns against false teachers, or even the OT passages warning against going after the false gods of the peoples surrounding Israel (which they would be running into constantly in their interactions with foreigners).  We may be "ill-equipped" to deal with every new form of it, but we are not left without tools or discernment to help us know what is true and right in any age.

Dave Barnhart

dgszweda's picture

dcbii wrote:

Are you just decrying the current state of affairs w.r.t. disinformation, or are you trying to imply by what you wrote that government control of information (like that proposed by the Biden administration last week) is a good thing?  And what is it with people these days claiming that Trump, or now voting laws, or the conservative bugaboo of the week is "the worst thing since the Civil War?"  It's easy to see where destabilization is coming from, and it's not from those who want to maintain the order they knew rather than tear down and completely rebuild our society.

Further, whether middle ages or modern times, disinformation has always been an issue.  Compare with the multiple scriptures where Paul warns against false teachers, or even the OT passages warning against going after the false gods of the peoples surrounding Israel (which they would be running into constantly in their interactions with foreigners).  We may be "ill-equipped" to deal with every new form of it, but we are not left without tools or discernment to help us know what is true and right in any age.

Both sides want to regulate social media and control information.  Trump introduced many proposals and Biden has introduced many proposals.  They just want to do it to control what they view as wrongs.  The Trump supporters are proponents of Trumps proposals to control and Biden supporters are proponents of Biden's proposals.  Both sides want control, just in different ways.  Trump was upset about the media upsetting his narrative and disseminating what he stipulated was disinformation.  Biden is doing the same.

The concern that I stated came from Mark Milley, a Trump supporter and his own appointee as Chairman of the Joints Chiefs.  This was a primary source with direct knowledge.  Was a coup going to take place?  Obviously not.  But the Pentagon was worried enough to think through some plans.

I never said it wasn't a problem throughout time.  Just that most in the church are struggling with it right now.  Which points to why 75% of white evangelical say Biden was not legitimately elected despite any proof otherwise.  Or that the greatest indicator of someone who believes conspiracy theories is whether they are an evangelical or not.  Pretty sad state of affairs in my opinion.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

In an earlier draft I had language like "don't bother with..."  the more emotional, extremely biased, fringe sources. That's closer to how I feel about it, but "deprioritize" is a more, ahem, conservative attitude.

But in terms of "responsible use of time," there are definitely sources that ought to be deprioritized into the "after I've read or heard every other word ever written spoken or dreamt of by all humans living or dead."

OK, a bit of hyperbole there. But there are many sources I never bother to consult at all and never recommend to anyone... and sometimes actively encourage people to stop consuming.

This article got too long, so I cut it in half, but I have a section on noting the difference between "different view but still serious and thoughtful" vs. "different view but a total waste of time." And some other classifications. A source is not justified simply by being "a different view." 

e.g., the earth is flat and the moon landing never happened and Hitler is alive in Austria... and 9-11 was an inside job... and Bill Gates ... well, enough. Point made.

So hopefully some of these ideas make it into part 2.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dgszweda's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

e.g., the earth is flat and the moon landing never happened and Hitler is alive in Austria... and 9-11 was an inside job... and Bill Gates ... well, enough. Point made.

So hopefully some of these ideas make it into part 2.

We all talk about how Christians should approach information with discernment.....

What I find very odd is that it is becoming very consistent across numerous conspiracy theories that the greatest population that believes these are 1)white, 2) evangelical, 3) Protestant.  If you add in 4) Christian nationalists, it almost becomes overwhelmingly held by these groups.  And before we go off on Trump, media...  This holds true for all kinds of theories including things like flat earthers.  The best definition of a flat earther, is what I have indicated in the 4 points above.  It is believed that upwards of 75% of flat earthers are white, evangelical protestants.  It is also growing rapidly with this group.  So quickly that Christian publications have put more focus on debunking it.

Someone should explore why this phenomenon exists.  If we are truly the individuals who hold Scripture as our Ultimate Authority and we hold to the Gospel as Truth.  Why are we the greatest population of conspiracy theorist out there.  It is an interesting phenomenon,not just linked to the last 4 or so year topics.  Some have postulated that it is our very faith that causes us to follow these fringe theories.  We are brought up to have faith, believe that we are persecuted, that our nation is blessed, that we are right and the world is wrong.... that leads us to the very same theories that support these foundational belief structures.

Bert Perry's picture

Somehow, in light of Aaron's comments about discarding some reckless sources, Weird Al's song "Midnight Star" comes to mind  

Seriously, I've read some pretty radical sources on both sides of the aisle with decent benefit, but as I noted before, you've really got to learn to read "between the lines" and see what the underlying truth might be.  The trick is that the liar has trouble keeping his story consistent, and the truth sneaks in there.  

And on the political side, well, as someone who leans libertarian, a pox on both their houses!  I've turned off the radio when listening to politicians on both sides of the aisle for the passionate expression of nonsense ( to be polite about it). 

Two thoughts on why a major location of credulousness might be among fundagelicals.  First, there is a subpopulation of pastors who more or less "don't welcome the Bereans", and to be a member or attender of that church, one must at least tolerate a certain number of crazy things said from the pulpit.  For example, the old story (lie) about the railroad bridge operator who crushes his son in the gears.  It's also the dynamic required to look past "Dr. Dino's" felony tax evasion schemes and take his "creationism" seriously.

Second, especially in the South and the rural Midwest, there's a subpopulation of people who will say they're evangelical, but their church attendance is (was) things like Billy Graham crusades and watching televangelists.  They are also being trained to believe "fertilizer".  

Might be a few other dynamics in place, but those are the ones that come to mind for me.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I agree that suppression of speech is not simply a product of the left (unfortunately).  Personally, I'm registered Unaffiliated, and like Bert, I'm too libertarian to wholeheartedly support either party, especially in the area of free speech.  Nonetheless, I did see the open acknowledgement that the Biden administration is working with tech companies to suppress information they don't like as a new escalation in the war against free speech being allowed for the non-elites.

As far as conspiracy theorists go, I don't know what kind of evangelicals you hobnob with, but I don't know ANY evangelicals who believe that Covid is fake, there were no moon landings, or that the earth is flat.  I do actually know one person who believes the moon landings were faked, but he's RC (mostly lapsed), not an evangelical, and not a "Christian Nationalist" in any sense of the word, thus he fails 3 of your 4 categories.  Anecdotal, but really, in my 58 years of life, I haven't met many conspiracy theorists at all, and the evangelical Christians I know are far from that.

I agree with what Bert wrote about some possible reasons that "fundagelicals" could be conspiracy theorists.  Even solid Christians are already prepared to take many of the important truths of life "on faith."  Further, there is plenty of shallow or at least inadequate Bible understanding of the scriptures that present the world as enemies of Christians, and liars like their father the devil, thus wrong conclusions are sometimes reached on information from secular sources.  These Christians' credulousness filter should be tempered by discernment from time in the Word and from the Holy Spirit, but even many of the evangelicals who are actually converted are probably baby Christians at best.

Still, there is a huge difference between flat-earthers, and those who are skeptical that the 2020 election "was the most secure, accurate election ever," though I know that some still try to put the latter in the wacky, conspiracy-theorist bucket.  Not too much different from all the people originally claiming that the lab escape theory of Covid was "completely debunked" and "conspiracy theory."  I'm rather enjoying watching the intellectual hoop jumping and squirming of those who are now having to eat crow on that account.  The main problem is that while we should avoid conspiracy theories, some skepticism is usually healthy.  However, some people want to draw the line between them differently and take people from the latter category and assign them to the former.  In the same way, people can take my strong opposition to CRT and call it racism, but that doesn't make it so.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Someone should explore why this phenomenon exists.  If we are truly the individuals who hold Scripture as our Ultimate Authority and we hold to the Gospel as Truth.  Why are we the greatest population of conspiracy theorist out there.  It is an interesting phenomenon,not just linked to the last 4 or so year topics.  Some have postulated that it is our very faith that causes us to follow these fringe theories.  We are brought up to have faith, believe that we are persecuted, that our nation is blessed, that we are right and the world is wrong.... that leads us to the very same theories that support these foundational belief structures.

I've been wondering along similar lines. Of course the cheap, easy answer favored by the Richard Dawkinses of the world is that being devoutly religious = being stupid. But I have a theory. He's not all wrong, partly because of bad theology. There's a tradition woven into conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism that divides faith and reason/rationality into competing activities. We're encouraged to value "heart" over "mind" in the Christian life, to view the Holy Spirit's work as limited strictly to the nonrational and unexplainable, etc. Many other small manifestations of the problem. (An article over at P&D this morning that more than hints that "wisdom" in the biblical sense is nonrational... something we obtain intuitively directly from the Spirit independently of reason?)

I'm out of time, but I think anti-intellectualism and devaluing of logical rigor are a major contributing factor to the "conservative Christian gullibility problem." And we really do have a conservative Christian gullibility problem.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dgszweda's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

As far as conspiracy theorists go, I don't know what kind of evangelicals you hobnob with, but I don't know ANY evangelicals who believe that Covid is fake, there were no moon landings, or that the earth is flat. 

It is what surveys and statistics state.  Pretty consistently.  If you look at any conspiracy theory, fringe ideas....  the number one defining factor of who that individual is, is whether they are white evangelical Protestants, and even more aligned if they are Christian nationalists.  That is not to say that all Christians believe these.  It is saying that those who do believe them are overwhelmingly Christians.  Of course there is also a spectrum here.  There is not a black and white line between what is fringe and what is conspiracy.  For example, many Christians and probably many of these people on this forum believe that the media is overplaying COVID, that then transitions to Fauci issues than transitions to COVID is no big deal (i.e. more people die from X), and than transitions to COVID is man made to control humanity,. to COVID is fake.  So there is a whole spectrum here.

Just look at vaccine hesitancy in general and specifically with COVID.  White evangelicals make up the largest group of vaccine hesitancy.  Almost 50% of evangelicals will not get the vaccine.  All of it is based on various myths.  A lot of it is mistrust in mainstream science and embracing fringe theories regarding science.  How Christians have gone from the pinnacle of science discovery in the 1600's to where we are at now is crazy.  And most of it is centered around fringe ideas supported by echo chambers of bad information.

But it is interesting to look at these studies.  The flat earth situation is even more amazing as that theory is exploding (which makes no sense), and the biggest contributor to the explosion is white evangelicals.  There are even flat earth breakouts that specifically address how Scripture proves a flat earth.

dgszweda's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I'm out of time, but I think anti-intellectualism and devaluing of logical rigor are a major contributing factor to the "conservative Christian gullibility problem." And we really do have a conservative Christian gullibility problem.

And what is interesting is that over the past 2,000 years (the last 100 years notwithstanding), some of the greatest philosophers, scientists....  were Christians.

Bert Perry's picture

Not that it excuses fundagelical Christian gullibility, but it is worth noting that a significant portion of QAnon and the like are not Christians at all, but rather almost neo-pagans.

It is cold comfort that "our tribes" are not the only blithering idiots out there, but we are not alone.  :^)  And really, we might also point out that for believing in total nonsense, let's talk about a huge portion of the Democratic Party, which really doesn't see any big issue with Communism, the most lethal and oppressive ideology the world has yet known.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Not that it excuses fundagelical Christian gullibility, but it is worth noting that a significant portion of QAnon and the like are not Christians at all, but rather almost neo-pagans.

It is cold comfort that "our tribes" are not the only blithering idiots out there, but we are not alone.  :^)  And really, we might also point out that for believing in total nonsense, let's talk about a huge portion of the Democratic Party, which really doesn't see any big issue with Communism, the most lethal and oppressive ideology the world has yet known.

25% of White Evangelicals embrace Qanon

https://www.newsweek.com/one-quarter-white-evangelicals-believe-qanon-st...

It is hard to put the true figure of how many that makes up within Qanon.  One poll showed 56% of Qanon were White Evangelical Republicans.  But that has shifted down quitge a bit.

 

No, a broad range of Democrats do not support Communism.  This is a false narrative that is perpetuated by the right leaning media.  Many Democrats support social models such as the Nordic model found in the Nordic parts of Europe (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and to a partial extent Netherlands).  These countries are sometimes looped into socialism.  Having lived there, it is not accurate at all.  In fact the Nordic model supports capitalism more strongly than even the US on most international scales.  There are some in the democratic party that support a more extensive socialism model than the Nordic model.  This get the media to pretty much spread the idea that democrats are for socialism and then they convert that into communism.  They also tout how socialism fails.  Again distorting what they are really embracing, which is social models.  Which for most intents and purposes don't fail and are very successful.  The Nordic countries have a high index for happiness, low debt, trust in their government, long life spans, all significantly greater than a country like the US.  

Bert Perry's picture

....please explain to me why the port side cauci aren't raising H*** about Cuban emigre Mayorkas' refusal to allow refugees from Cuba's dictatorship into the country.  Actually, Mayorkas is worse, as he's the son of a woman who fled the Holocaust, too.  He should know **** well why it's important to accept refugees from dictatorships, and he's got the support of his party in more or less sending the St. Louis back to Germany Havana.  President Biden has said as much, too, and Jen Psaki's public statements about the uprising soft-pedal the realities of Communism as well.

Sorry, as long as Democrats aren't raising the roof on this one, the only sane conclusion I can come to is that there is indeed a strong portion of Democrats who really don't think Cuban communism is all that bad.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

....please explain to me why the port side cauci aren't raising H*** about Cuban emigre Mayorkas' refusal to allow refugees from Cuba's dictatorship into the country.  Actually, Mayorkas is worse, as he's the son of a woman who fled the Holocaust, too.  He should know **** well why it's important to accept refugees from dictatorships, and he's got the support of his party in more or less sending the St. Louis back to Germany Havana.  President Biden has said as much, too, and Jen Psaki's public statements about the uprising soft-pedal the realities of Communism as well.

Sorry, as long as Democrats aren't raising the roof on this one, the only sane conclusion I can come to is that there is indeed a strong portion of Democrats who really don't think Cuban communism is all that bad.

Mayorkas is following the exact same policy as Trump did with Cuba.  Mayorkas has also said the same for Haiti which is not communist.  While there are many progressive Democrats that lean that way, the approach Biden is taking is a bit more complex than painting the picture that they think Cuban communism is all that bad.  This would be identical to saying that Trump supported the reemergence of the Taliban when he pulled troops from Afghanistan.  The Taliban has killed more people on US soil than Communism has ever done.

Joel Shaffer's picture

With the 25% evangelicals that believe in the QAnon theories, I wish the PRRI research had broken down who exactly comprises these evangelicals. Are they regular churchgoers?  What stripe of evangelicalism do they adhere to? From my anecdotal experiences with QAnon folks who claim to be evangelicals, most do not attend church but see their Christian faith within a rugged individualistic prism.  What's more, the vast majority of those I've met came from Pentecostal backgrounds.  Evangelicalism for the vast majority of Americans is considered more of a political conservative lobbying group that embraces identity politics rather than something that is described more theologically (i.e. Bebbington's Quadrilateral of evangelicalism by identifying its four distinguishing marks: conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism)

dgszweda's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

With the 25% evangelicals that believe in the QAnon theories, I wish the PRRI research had broken down who exactly comprises these evangelicals. Are they regular churchgoers?  What stripe of evangelicalism do they adhere to? From my anecdotal experiences with QAnon folks who claim to be evangelicals, most do not attend church but see their Christian faith within a rugged individualistic prism.  What's more, the vast majority of those I've met came from Pentecostal backgrounds.  Evangelicalism for the vast majority of Americans is considered more of a political conservative lobbying group that embraces identity politics rather than something that is described more theologically (i.e. Bebbington's Quadrilateral of evangelicalism by identifying its four distinguishing marks: conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism)

Yeah I don't think that we will ever get to that level.  White Evangelicals is a broad group of self-identified people.  They are going to go across all stripes.  I live in a very affluent area, go to an affluent SBC church that is conservative, and there are a decent amount of people that attend/members that believe a lot of these fringe items.  Including things like microchips in the vaccines.  They are out there and it isn't just rural areas, pentacostals.....

Joeb's picture

You are right on Target.  My younger brother goes to real Historic unaffiliated Baptist Church that used to be an American Baptist Church.  The Pastor went to Seminary with my Brother.  I'd say the church is in an affluent area being just outside the Mainline of Philadelphia.  My brother says half the church are graduates of Liberty and fall in line with Qanon The Big Lie snd dedicated TRUMPERS whereas my brother is a Never Trumper.  
 

The Trumper  group wanted the Pastor to announce from the pulpit that everyone should vote for Trump but the Pastor refused. Like me this Pastor grew up in the Swedish Baptist church and was educated at Bethel College  and Seminary.  My Brother suspects some of the people in his church and small group were at the attack but can't say for sure.  Plus some people at the attack were only guilty of simple trespass but I only think they arrested the ones right up on top of the Capital.  My brother shies away from any political discussions with people in the church.    

Joeb's picture

 Bert so far both sides have meddled and got us into wars or caused them.  Hillary snd McCain pushed Obama to get involved in Lybia and look what that got us.  Hillary also meddled in Syria and look at the mess there. Bush meddled in Iraq and look at the mess there. In fact the Christians were safer under Sadam and are safer in Syria under the Syrian Dictator.  In fact I believe they support him.   Ukaraine Hillary McCain and the Europeans meddled in that and were part of driving out the Democratically Elected President who leaned toward Russia. So look at that mess.  
 

So how much do you stand up to communism Bert.  Support an overthrow or cause a rebellion and Bingo we have another war. Who suffers in that the people of Cuba.  That's what the Cubans in Florida want.  Just what we need another bay of pigs. 
 

The guy who runs Cuba now is just another dictator. If we want to make things better for the people do business with them.  
 

I got a great idea Biden should send Donald down there as a Special Ambassador.  Donald can make a deal and bring Trumpland To Them. They'd love Donald. Only kidding.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Not that it excuses fundagelical Christian gullibility, but it is worth noting that a significant portion of QAnon and the like are not Christians at all, but rather almost neo-pagans.

It is cold comfort that "our tribes" are not the only blithering idiots out there, but we are not alone.

But for many Christians, the QAnon bunch is "our tribe."... as someone pointed out. I think this phenomenon illustrates the fact that what we're seeing is a new kind of worldliness. Historically, fundamentalists have associated "worldliness" mostly with entertainment choices and clothing styles. But in Scripture it has to do with thinking and valuing as those under the cosmos do... those who don't know what life is really all about. 

Anyway, we have a large segment of conservative evangelicalism/fundamentalism that in many ways thinks just like the godless about these issues... in particular the devaluing of objective truth (in favor of using claims as weapons, regardless of their accuracy) and the embracing of pragmatic moral reasoning.

Sorry, as long as Democrats aren't raising the roof on this one, the only sane conclusion I can come to is that there is indeed a strong portion of Democrats who really don't think Cuban communism is all that bad.

Most probably don't think it's all that bad. This is not the same thing as being in favor of it. What people forget is that the left is human just like the right, so often they take position in reaction to what they're rejecting. They overcorrect or over-position to make their identity as "not them" more clear. Hence polarization. When it all becomes about what tribe you're in rather than about truth, everybody wants to be distinct from Them. So you have a lot of democrats etc. that aren't enthusiastic about communisim but they don't want to identify with what they see as obsessed anti-comms on the right.

It's always been a good idea to apply critical thinking in equal measure to both right and left, but having passed a pivotal threshold in our socio-political polarization, it's an absolute must now. The right is going to exaggerate nearly everything in order to keep the base fired up and bolster their identity as Not One of Them. The left has long done and will continue to do the same. As a society we are truly at war ideologically, and somebody has correctly pointed out that in war truth is the first casualty.

We have to look at issues with that in mind. Almost nothing as it is represented to be by its detractors.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

No, but there are a lot of midpoints where one can make one's displeasure with the Cuban regime known while avoiding war.  Kennedy and Reagan both managed this, no?  Reagan of course also gave the Warsaw Pact a nice nudge to oblivion at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and it's worth noting that there are statues of the Gipper all over Eastern Europe, because those countries' refusal to cooperate with East German and Soviet authorities had a lot to do with the notion that the U.S. did, to a degree, have their back.

One can start by accepting refugees and by speaking forcefully against the Cuban regime, making clear that jailing dissidents is not how modern societies ought to work.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

One can start by accepting refugees and by speaking forcefully against the Cuban regime, making clear that jailing dissidents is not how modern societies ought to work.

Really the narrative around Cuba is one that is perpetuated from the far right.  They look for ways that they can differentiate themselves, that resonates with their base and they poke it.  Then you see all of these people come out of the woodwork talking about Cuba.  Cuba has been the same regime and been behaving the same way since 1959.  Republicans, Democrats and everyone else hasn't put any dent into the communist regime there.  The refuge stance that Biden took is no different at all, than what Trump took.  In fact, Trump was even harsher on accepting refuges as part of his border control that resonated so strongly with his base.  I feel that the Republicans spend more time defining themselves in contrast to the Democrats than actually creating a real platform.  Biden has come out strongly stating his opposition to what is taking place in Cuba and is putting in place sanctions later today.

Cuba is being used by the Republicans as a narrative to point out how the Democrats secretly want a communist regime in the US.  Which is nonsense.  Republicans have sat by the wayside, just as much as Democrats for the last 80 years.  If we are honest.  Some had stronger tones than others and some sat by the sidelines.  But in the end, there was never any substantial movement by either part.  What is really sad is that Cuba just becomes a political tool from both parties to either court the Cuban vote in the US, or stick a knife in the other party.  In the end, there is no interest to actually make substantive changes to Cuba or define a real foreign policy around it.

Again, the vast majority of Lemmings are just taking their cue from Hannity, or some other NewsMax personality, and have no realy concept of Cuba at the end of the day.  Where are all the Republicans getting mad about Trump pulling out the military and the bloodshed that is now taking place in Afghanistan as the Taliban take over broad swaths of the country.  At least we had control of that situation, unlike the Cuba situation.  Ohh, wait!  That doesn't fit the Republican narrative.  It doesn't play into Trump's base.  So we will ignore it.  Let's focus on Cuba (for whatever reason) because we can really stick it to Bernie and AOC now.

Bert Perry's picture

....and knowing a bit about the regime, and why 15% of people have left, risking being shot by Cuban machine guns, it's not just about a political narrative.  It's about little things like freedom of speech, free enterprise, freedom of religion, and the like.

I vividly remember sentiments just like yours back in the late 1980s, David, addressed at the situation in Europe.  Thank God that Reagan ignored them.

Update: here's a bit from Cal Thomas that makes the point as well.  Folks, this is not normal or right.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Update: here's a bit from Cal Thomas that makes the point as well.  Folks, this is not normal or right.

And this proves Aaron's point.  An article taken from a Right leaning questionably factual site that reinforces your belief and narrative.  What is the competing side that when looked at together provides a more balanced view:

https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/jewish-world-review/

Just reading it is difficult.  Of course it brings up AOC as the poster child of the entire Democratic Party (which she is not).  I am not saying the issues aren't real, but guess what.  9 months ago, the same issues were real (Innocent Cuban people were oppressed by an domineering Communist regime) and Trump was silent like crickets, as was the rest of the Republican party.  Should they have been?  No.  But this is not a Democrat vs. Republican thing.  It just fits the narrative today.

The article you linked to starts out, 

Quote:
People on the far left have become so predictable that their statements are no longer "breaking news." They would be hilarious if they weren't outrageous or if they didn't contribute to the undermining of human rights and freedom in other countries.

If that isn't starting the article out with a very biased narrative, I am not sure how much further you would need to go to in the English language.

 

Just to balance this out a bit, here is a factual story on Trump's actual stated policy and stance on Cuba.  Guess what, that was hailed by Trump and the Republican as Trump being tough on immigration.  Such a double standard.

 

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-07-30/trump-deports-cubans-r...

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2020/11/09/und...

Bert Perry's picture

David, maybe argue against the fact that Cuba has sky high incarceration, and per Valladares (you should read his work if you have not), a lot of those are political prisoners?  Maybe address the video evidence of freedom advocates being taken away by Cuban secret police on Spanish television?

Regarding your appraisal of JWR, the site is a grouping of syndicated columnists, and the author here is Cal Thomas.  He's undoubtedly conservative, but again, aren't we supposed to go on facts instead of reputations?  Maybe eschew the ad hominem and guilt by association fallacies?  Thomas has a deservedly good reputation, and if you're going to do "guilt by association" because of Thomas, one simultaneously can do the same to noted arch-conservative Garrison Keillor.....um, wait a minute here.

Reality is that along with JWR, the Washington Times, and Fox, Thomas is also syndicated by the Tribune Company, MSN, and the like.

So perhaps we ought to say that the "broad brush fact checkers" need to bone up on the guilt by association fallacy, to put it mildly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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