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Ignorance is Destroying Us: Defining Treason, Coup, First Amendment and Bias

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EDITORIAL

One deeply concerning issue, completely unrelated to Trump, has bubbled to the top of the last few years’ toxic stew: the sad state of our education system. To some degree, historically heavy terms are often improperly thrown around with pointed intention, the point being to stir emotion. The collective mass naturally experiences a Pavlov-like response to words and terms like treason, coup, bias, fake news, First Amendment, fascist, traitor and spy. But the methodology is only successful when employed on people who hold no real understanding of the definitions or legal implications of those terms. There are very real consequences to callously tossing these terms around as rhetorical word salad:

  1. It contributes to the dumbing down and easy manipulation of America.
  2. It inspires people to act out violently.

It’s truly frightening that our democracy relies upon self-governance that requires civic participation and yet, basic civic principles are lost on a good chunk of the voting populace.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:

“There is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

We are in an age of information warfare, where facts are dismissed at whim and ignorance is being weaponized. This is not a new strategy. As John F. Kennedy once pointed out in a speech referring to what was coming out of the then Republican controlled Congress:

“They follow the Hitler line – no matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth.”

Ignorance can only be weaponized when education fails to supply average citizens with protective knowledge, and when that happens, reality can be engineered to reflect “alternative facts” that almost always solely benefit the elite. Ignorant foot soldiers perpetuating designed false narratives almost always solely do so at their own peril, but of course, they are oblivious to that as well.

America’s knowledge deficit has never been so apparent as it is today, and it’s glaringly obvious that the current condition of intellectual incapacity is the result of long-planned, systemic indoctrination. It is now sold as “patriotic” to defy fact and villainize academics. And of course it is — if you need people to do your bidding at the cost of their own freedom, you need them to believe your lies. An ignorant populace gets you there.

If you don’t know what treason truly means, you can’t identify it when it stares you in the face and you’re likely to fall in line when it’s inaccurately charged. If you don’t understand legal rights afforded by the First Amendment, those rights are at risk. So, let’s a take a look at just four key words and terms being dangerously misused and clear up some misunderstandings. Feel free to share this information with that aunt of yours on Facebook.

Ignorance. Graphic illustration courtesy of Getty Images.

Treason

Treason is legally defined by Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 2381, which states:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

If we are to follow the bouncing ball over the Trump administration’s timeline and foreign policy decisions, it is clear that they have made concessions to appease foreign adversaries in the way of lightening sanctions and dismissal of their attack on our election(s). If U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia took an active role in subverting our democratic process and the president not only denies but repeatedly moves to protect them from the consequences of doing so, than the president, who owes allegiance to the U.S., is adhering to an enemy and providing aid and comfort. That’s a fact.

No matter how often Trump repeats the inaccurate claim, treason is not a U.S. citizen, elected official or member of the press being critical of the president. Criticism of the government happens to fall under rights afforded in the First Amendment, but we’ll get to that later.

Coup

As defined by Duhaime’s Law Dictionary, a coup is “an often violent, always sudden and unlawful replacement of an existing government.” The word coup invokes imagery of an armed government takeover.

A coup is not a group of legally elected officials acting in accordance with laws and rights afforded by the framers to remove a corrupt and dangerous president. Impeachment, as outlined in the Constitution (Section II, Article 4) is legal recourse dictated by due process and therefore, is not a coup. It just isn’t.

First Amendment

The First Amendment is, as stated in the Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The freedom of speech piece has been widely misappropriated in recent years, with people claiming that their First Amendment rights are being oppressed. Let’s be clear here: You have the right as an individual or group to express opinions or ideologies so long as they do not fall under the category of hate speech. Those who oppose your opinions have to the right to express their opposition and their own ideologies. So long as Congress does not pass laws restricting your speech, even when critical of the government, your rights are not being oppressed. Being shouted down in an open space when your views aren’t taken well is not oppression and does not violate your First Amendment rights. Period.

Bias

Bias is a bit more subjective, but as Cambridge defines it, bias is “the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way.” Some define it as an inclination or prejudice. Unfair and prejudicial are key points to real bias, the kind that defies ethical boundaries. Merely having an opinion or making an educated observation is not bias. All people form opinions as a matter of human nature and yet, most go on to objectively perform professional duties. For the most part, people with opinions are capable of thoughtfully considering other perspectives and sometimes shifting their own opinions when faced with new information. The bias in question prevents people from listening to others who do not ascribe to their own beliefs. Actual bias is an extreme and not one that most formally trained journalists and justice department professionals fall victim to because, well…they’re trained to identify existing biases and overcome them for the purpose of professional ethics. There are actual classes that force students to submerge themselves with situations and conditions that make them uncomfortable, just to have the experience of seeing things from a different perspective. How many other professions can say that?

Bias is unrelenting and often unfounded in intellectual assessment. Bias is calling all media evil and partisan. Bias is not media reporting available facts. Now, if a reporter refused to interview people they personally disagreed with, that would be bias, but that is seldom the case. Bias, in the extreme, exists but it is far less broad of an issue than it is being made out to be.

The problem with ignorance is that when people are forced to realize they have been wrong, they get defensive and double down. It’s important we combat misinformation while giving people a little room to come around. But there is nothing wrong with calling bullshit when you see it.

 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.