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Tuesday, 12 January 2021 12:37

OPINION: Truth and accountability

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Congratulations President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris! On Jan. 20, you have the solemn duty of leading a nation. I pray for your success in guiding America.  

I’m shocked, ashamed and angered by the recent assault on the U.S. Capitol building and our law enforcement personnel. The violent actions by those involved are inexcusable. I do not share beliefs with anyone who thinks that violence, looting, attacks on law enforcement or destruction of property is acceptable in responding to any collective outrage. This must again become a shared value by all Americans regardless of political affiliation, color, religion or creed.  

The assaults at the U.S. Capitol did nothing to change the outcome of the vote to certify electoral college ballots. I would argue the rioters never really believed their actions would change the outcome. Their goals were likely to delay and disrupt the process and bring attention to their beliefs. They brought attention, absolutely the wrong kind of attention. These actions reminded us all, yet again, that the real danger in America is extremism in all its forms.  

The people who did these violent acts are singularly and personally responsible for their acts. Blaming the president is simply naïve and provides an excuse for people who acted on their own impulse.

Imagine trying to use this argument in a courtroom: “Your honor, I listened to a speech(es) and I decided to assault the Capitol.” I cannot imagine that defense would ever hold up.    

The people who showed up with pry bars and other devices, brought them to the event. They planned their violence to some extent. In videos, I saw mothers pushing strollers and people of all ages and races attending this event. They didn’t come to riot. Local friends attended this event to be a part of history and support a president who has done some really good things during his term in office. Violence has never accompanied or followed a President Trump rally or event until Jan. 6. Watch video of the crowds there — they are people like you who care deeply about this nation and its future. Only extremists seek change through violence.  

Extremism repels most rational people but others thrive on conspiracy theories that make life like an action-adventure thriller full of suspense and cloak-and-dagger stuff.  The 99% of us who operate in the real world know that the truth can often be found somewhere between two extremes, if at all.   

Although, it’s very hard to have certainty about the “truth” as media outlets have aligned themselves to present their preferred political and ideological “spin” on events and people. I’ve watched a televised speech by the president and then listened to the media reporting from three different networks and didn’t know if they were talking about the same speech. Words are intentionally taken out of context and repackaged to change the meaning or an alternative meaning offered. It happens on all sides of the political spectrum and many of us say nothing. Truth is the first casualty.  

I don’t want to see more conservative news channels and outlets to offset openly admitted liberal media outlets, instead I want to see journalists do their first calling — report the news with integrity.  Journalists and media outlets serve a vital role in our democracy. They help shed light on truth and help expose wrong-doing and corruption — but today, the media is distrusted because of their naked partisanship. They intentionally refuse to report on allegations made by certain people or political groups.  

People say, the president alleges that the “election was stolen” but instead of doing anything journalistic, many mainstream media and social media outlets in lockstep, called any claims “baseless” while failing to even ask basic questions. For 74 million Americans watching this play out, it is unacceptable. The media provided greater coverage of the Astros cheating in the 2018 playoffs and 2017 World Series than allegations of fraud in the 2020 election. Imagine if President-elect Biden felt there was wide-spread fraud, do you think the mainstream media would have relentlessly pursued every single allegation every single day? Fair is fair.  

Truth matters. Not partisan truth but real truth. Do you remember as a child running to your parents saying, “Johnny did so and so?”  Parents always said, “Where’s Johnny, I want to get his side of the story.”  That’s seeking the whole truth.  

We’ve forgotten a basic life lesson we all know so well and it’s destroying our national discourse and trust in our basic institutions and often the guilty are not held to account. This must stop.   

Ed O’Neal is a Richmond County native, retired military officer, observer and writer about life and politics. He does not accept direction or support from any political party and his views are his alone.     

Ed O'Neal

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