Rob Douglas: A paper a day keeps ignorance away

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— Congratulations! If you're reading this column, you're probably better informed than most Americans.

Why?

Not because this column contains pearls of wisdom guaranteed to give you greater insight into the issues of the day. No, if you're reading this commentary you're probably a well-informed member of society for a very simple reason: because you're taking the time to read a newspaper.

The mere fact that you picked up a paper that covers local, state, regional, national and international news indicates you have intellectual curiosity about the world around you. That thirst for knowledge sets you apart from a substantial portion of Americans who spend little time consuming news. Or, more specifically, it sets you apart from a substantial portion of Americans who spend little time consuming news in a meaningful way - with the emphasis on meaningful.

Sure, many Americans think they're well informed and up to speed on current affairs, but are they really? Two trends argue they probably are not.

The first is the increasing number of people who consume very little news at all. They go through life intentionally unaware of matters that impact them from near and far. Yet, these are often the same people who loudly insist they have the answers to all the world's problems but seemingly wear blinders to avoid the obvious cracks in their reasoning.

The second trend is the growing use of personally tailored news - most often obtained via television and the Internet - where sources are chosen based on whether they reinforce the already cemented viewpoint of the viewer.

We all know folks who'll mainline conservative Bill O'Reilly on the Fox News Channel, but not liberal Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, because they want a constant rhetorical fix that reinforces their political beliefs. Or, if they inhabit the other side of the spectrum, will spend hours getting their "news" on liberal Web sites such as The Huffington Post but wouldn't be caught dead reading articles on the conservative Townhall.com. But, even with shuttered minds occupying their respective corners, far too many of these news partisans have one thing in common. They wouldn't read a full-length general newspaper report if it came with a $100 bill attached.

So, sadly, we're left with fewer and fewer Americans who take an hour each day to sit down and read a newspaper to gain breadth, depth and balance to their understanding of events. And usually it's not hard to discern the intellectually curious - who invest the time - from the intellectually lazy who won't.

The intellectually lazy have closed minds when it comes to issues that impact our world. They see life as a simple matter of black and white where any problem can be solved by repeatedly pounding the same old square peg into any new round hole. They see a headline and immediately react with a knee-jerk slogan that fits their narrow view of the world. For them, an unyielding certitude in their answers always trumps any true understanding of the question.

The intellectually curious have open minds and seek to increase their understanding of issues and events near and far. They realize life is a multifaceted puzzle with complex problems rarely solved with one-dimensional solutions. They see a headline and want to read the article from top to bottom in an effort to know more. Life's questions are as equally important to them as the answers.

Our nation's declining news habits are more relevant now than ever because of the kick-off this week of the race for the White House. With Barack Obama finally outdistancing Hillary Clinton, the head-to-head battle with John McCain begins in earnest. We're embarking on a quest for a leader where the world view and substantive policy differences between the candidates are greater than in elections of recent vintage.

Because we're at a moment in history where our country is deteriorating on many fronts - from education to economic power to international influence - it is incumbent upon us to be an informed electorate. Now more than ever, we should redouble our efforts to gain as much meaningful knowledge as we can about the issues and candidates we'll be called upon to judge in five months. And I can think of no better way to be informed than to keep doing what you're doing right now - reading a newspaper.

And here's a challenge as we enter this election cycle. Let's all introduce one young person who'll be voting for the first time to the healthy and mind-expanding habit of reading a newspaper each and every day.

You can reach Rob Douglas at douglas@privacytoday.com

Comments

colobob 6 years, 3 months ago

Here's another. "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please." - Mark Twain

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shadow 6 years, 3 months ago

"Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you read." Mark Twain

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StbtWatchmen 6 years, 3 months ago

Good point Rob! I believe more people should read more and not just newspapers which can support one sided liberal or conservative views! Books are another good source. NPR (National Public Radio) is another good source of comprehensive news coverage when time for reading is limited. Each reader can then decide for themselves to which view they wish to support and what is good, bad, left or right. HAGO!

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bloggyblog 6 years, 3 months ago

thanks rob. blog hopes your message can have a positive effect on someone. if you keep an open mind you can continue to learn and grow throughout your life.

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JustAsking 6 years, 3 months ago

Heard this one Rob?

"If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed." Mark Twain

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 3 months ago

CSPAN, real news, real facts, 24/7 republican filabuster. Lame duck president, lame duck minority. One last stretch for the conservatives to run our country further into the ground.

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Tamera Manzanares 6 years, 3 months ago

My parents always had a Rocky Mtn. News or Denver Post around when I was growing up. I was a junkie early. I think it helped propel my interest in reading, writing and seeking out other forms of information. This was especially important living in a tiny remote community in the mountains. Newspapers are vital to helping us stretch out of our inevitably boxed in view of the world and even our own community here in the Yampa Valley. Not all of us have had the luxury of world travel.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

A post I placed on the Robert F. Kennedy thread was deleted by the Pilot staff, apparently because it told too much truth and asked for more information from the author.

My post did not dishoner anyone. The truth surrounding their lives was the source of dishonor. If the newspapers had told the truth about the Kennedys' personal lives back in 1960, none of them would have been shot for political reasons, because they would never have been in the running.

Newspapers exist for one purpose; to sell advertising space. Any so-called public good which results from this condition is merely coincidental.

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steamboatyahoo 6 years, 3 months ago

who is Rob Douglas kidding? an hour to read the newspaper each day. Steamboat newspapers take about 10 minutes to read, max if you take the time to read the police blog,

Does anyone there realize that an entire world exists out there which is ignored by the Steamboat media.

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Joe_Mama 6 years, 3 months ago

Joe thinks it's ironic that the Kennedy's get bashed by id, when he suspects that id is one of the misguided who voted for George Bush twice.

id would display a cheesy version of moral indignation over the death of a single woman, yet allow W. to be responsible for the deaths of over 4000 American soldiers and Marines, not to mention the 25 or so K horribly maimed in this foolish exercise in Iraq.

Joe thinks that shows hypocrisy of the unconscionable sort.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 3 months ago

id, blog was wondering after your done dogging RFK if you could share your insight and wisdom on Mother Teresa or maybe Ghandi. thanks

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dogd 6 years, 3 months ago

Id: Your post did not "dishoner" anybody because it was deleted, and I'm sure that increased it's quality at least 25%.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

RFK was instrumental in helping JFK cheat on Jackie with Marilyn Monroe and keep it out of the newspapers.

And you think that RFK would not have helped his brother or anyone else victimize you for a profit if that's what it took to get votes?

Naw, He!!, the Kennedy's never hurt nobody. The fact that six of RFK's former "boiler room girls" were out on the island the night that Mary Jo Kopechne drowned (she had been one of RFK's campaign workers) along with six powerful men, all of them married and not accompanied by their wives, should not make anybody doubt that these six women only became "girls gone wild" after RFK died. Right. They were probably all virgins during RFK's campaign. The only reason he hired so many young pretty women was that chicks worked cheaper than men in those days . . . .

Mary Jo Kopechne, Martha Moxley and Marilyn Monroe all died of broken hearts I guess. The drowning, bludgeoning with a six iron and drug overdose (by enema, no less) were all accidental. The Kennedy family would NEVER cover up any kind of wrongdoing just to protect themselves and their family name. That's why Michael Skakel (RFK's nephew; son of Ethel Skakel Kennedy's brother) was only brought to justice for the murder of Martha Moxley in 2002, 27 years after her death, when William Kennedy Smith's rape trial revealed some previously hidden information.

The only thing the article in today's paper mostly reveals is the skills of a man with lots of practice seducing women. We got to read a love letter from one of them, didn't we?

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colobob 6 years, 3 months ago

We're innocent, ask our father the bootlegger, he'll tell ya! The apples didn't fall very far from that tree did they?

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colowoodsman 6 years, 3 months ago

RD, if you are so concerned about people not reading newspapers stop writing your column!

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

Uh, Joe, what part of one man's crimes against women compensates for another man's errors?

If Germany had won World War II, Hitler would be the greatest hero of all time. It was folks like you who kept the United States from mobilizing in the 30s in time to take the fight to Germany when they invaded Poland, and to Japan when they invaded China. A lot more than 4000 U. S. service members and merchant seamen died in the first few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Uh, and let's not forget that JFK is the guy who led us into Vietnam where 50,000 Americans died in combat.

The victory that nobody realizes we won in Iraq is that by invading them, we removed North Korea's best customer for military supplies, including nuclear weapon technology. Don't forget that NK set one off, proving that the threat was real. Like it or not, you don't have to live in a world where Saddam Hussein could buy nuclear technologry and use it on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other oil producing states. One nuke on the battlefield could have killed a lot more than 4000 Soldiers and Marines.

I can't wait until January 20th when Barack Obama takes over and has to face the truth about peace in the Middle East. That's going to be FUN to watch.

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skygazer 6 years, 3 months ago

id- You shouldn't forget that the policies in southeast Asia evolved throughout the 1950's under the Eisenhower administration. That is when Vietnam was divided and we supplied backing to a rather nasty leader in South Vietnam. Kennedy did escalate, but considering our involvement spanned two decades he cannot be held totally at fault. During the Kennedy administration less than 200 American casualties were reported, the highest number was in 1968 followed by 1969. Johnson and Nixon are accountable for most of the build up and destruction.

Iraq is a mess that was totally avoidable except for cold war leftover mentality by an arrogant few in the White House. We became Democracy imperialists in a region that didn't want us. It was Saudis in Afghanistan who attacked us, we didn't root out the issue there and the Taliban is making inroads once again.

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colobob 6 years, 3 months ago

Lets see, Ted K leaves the party with a woman not his wife. He drives down the wrong road (a road that he knows quite well) to try and catch a ferry that leaves at ten o'clock. Witnesses at the party tell investigators that Ted and Mary Jo left after 10PM, Hmmm! A police officer notes a car parked in a secluded area, he turns around to investigate and the car is gone. Meanwhile Teddy beats feet out of there and turns onto the road to the Chapaquitic bridge, looses control (supposedly) and the car he and Mary Jo are riding in goes off the bridge. Teddy supposedly finds himself outside the car but no Mary Jo. Keep in mind here that growing up in Hyanisport (right on the ocean) that all the Kennedy's are strong swimmers. He supposedly tries to dive down to save her but the currents too strong. So he walks back to his hotel, goes in thru the back door, showers, changes, and calls his advisors. He reports the incident the next day! One should take note of several verfied facts. First of all Mary Jo had left her purse at the party and they left the party after 10Pm. Since the ferry leaves at ten and Mary jo left her purse behind one would (as many did) surmise that she expected to return. Secondly the K's know that part of the Cape both land and sea like the back of their hand - they grew up there. Teddy is an exceptionally strong swimmer and sailor. Most interesting of all is the FACT that Mary Jo had NO water in her lungs when they performed the autopsy, the coroner ruled it was death by suffocation. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah Teddy's a real stand up guy! Now you try leaving the scene of a fatality in which you were involved and see if you get off scott free! Not all people from Mass. think the Kennedys are squeaky clean. Like I said before, the apple didn't fall very far from that family tree. Look it up it's all documented if you look. ID's got it right! Camelot was nothing but PR. The K's? All you have to do is look to see the real K's not the ones portrayed.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 3 months ago

colobob, wow it almost sounds like you were there. blog thinks you and id must of known the Kennedy family personaly the way you both spew, what most would call heresay, as fact. also what exactly did your long rambling denouncement of Ted Kennedy have to do with the subject?

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colobob 6 years, 3 months ago

All you have to do is look it up. It may be history that you and others choose to ignore but none-the-less it's history, well documented history. As far as my denouncement of the Kennedy's is concerned I was just responding to anothers comments to ID. I didn't bring up the Kennedy thing but for anyone to hold that family in such high esteem without looking at their entire history is laughable at best. Blog should take the time and do a little research. Blog might learn about something called fact not spew. Blog feel better now?

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grannyrett 6 years, 3 months ago

Study the Bay of Pigs mess. Kennedy's advisers didn't want him to do it, but he did anyway. It was totally fubar. What else did that was so memorable? He wasn't in office long enough to leave a legacy. It is all Camelot--and we all know that Camelot is an imaginary place.

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rsssco 6 years, 3 months ago

bloggy, your instincts are right. ol' colobob, Mr. "I Know The Facts", has almost every "fact" wrong.

ol' bob writes: "Most interesting of all is the FACT that Mary Jo had NO water in her lungs when they performed the autopsy..." Fact: No autopsy was ever performed. This was one of the most controversial aspects of the case at the time and was litigated in Pennsylvania (where she was buried) several weeks after Ms. Kopechne's was buried there by her parents. Her parents were the ones who requested that no autopsy be performed and successfully fought the attempt to have their daughter's body exhumed so an autopsy could be performed. Most people with even a passing memory (or ability to use a little thing called research) of the case recall this controversial part.

ol' bob writes: "...the coroner ruled it was death by suffocation." Fact: Dr. Donald R. Mills, the associate medical examiner who signed Mary Jo's death certificate ruled the cause of death was drowning. That ruling was based on a very superficial external examination and observation of Ms. Kopechne's body.

ol' bob writes: "...they left the party after 10Pm. Since the ferry leaves at ten..." Fact: The last Ferry was at midnight and they left the party after midnight.

ol' bob writes: "A police officer notes a car parked in a secluded area, he turns around to investigate and the car is gone." Fact: The officer saw the car drive into a cemetery entrance road, thought the driver may need directions, got out, and was able approach the vehicle close enough to observe the car and to get a partial plate on the vehicle.

ol' bob writes: "So he walks back to his hotel, goes in thru the back door, showers, changes, and calls his advisors." Fact: Kennedy returned to the party. Spoke with his friend/attorney there and along with that friend and several others returned to the submerged vehicle. He later returned to his hotel by swimming (he could not walk to his hotel as it was across a 500 foot body of water), was observed in front of the hotel by the night clerk. His friends and "advisors" rejoined him in the morning coming across on the morning ferry.

Kennedy's actions were reprehensible. But if you're going to thump your chest--at least get it right.

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colobob 6 years, 3 months ago

just as the facts are clouded and cotroversial here, so too were those of the original incident. Ole Bob will continue to thump his chest on this one. There are only two people that know the whole truth. One of them is dead, the other isn't talking. Since the real truth will never be known it all boils down to who's info you choose to believe. I will concede that at least one statement was inaccurate and that was that you are correct in that no autopsy was performed at that time, just a judgement as to the cause of death. At least we agree on the point of the matter and that is that Teds actions were as you put it reprehensible. 500' across but not several feet down? Niether this man nor a significant number of the rest of that family are to be admired. Thump, thump.

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colobob 6 years, 3 months ago

Here's but one account, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chappaqu... there are others. You will find discrepancies in my account as well as some of the "facts" presented by rsssco. Each of the many accounts out there have thier own little twist. It's a matter of which set of "facts" you deem credible.

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

Sky,

Eisenhower's policies resulted from our failure to pacify Russia at the end of WW-II. We allowed them to get the bomb and threaten us with it, setting off the Cold War that took the lives of seven people I served with in the 70s and 80s and thousands of others who died on "training missions."

It was the opinion of President Truman that the American people were weary of war, and it was the same after Korea, and after Vietman, and now again after Iraq. Our unwillingness to destroy our enemies and occupy their territory as our own is the reason we keep going back to war with various surviving factions every couple of decades.

rsssetc,

You are right about Mary Jo Kopechne's parents not wanting an autopsy. Sexual affairs and pregnancy out of wedlock were big deals in 1969. If an autopsy had revealed certain facts the Kopechne family would have been humiliated and disgraced. If her parents knew about her carrying on with members of the Kennedy campaign staffs, they would not have wanted the details to become public. Alternately, she may have hidden the little details from her parents, which would have also prompted them to not want details coming out after they were notified of the details surrounding her death.

People today cannot understand the stigma attached to sex in general among "nice" people back in those days, and especially sex out of wedlock. Girls who were known to be taking oral contraceptives more than a month before they were married were automatically seen as having questionable character, and even condoms could only be obtained by asking the pharmacist for them unless you were willing to risk using one bought from a machine at a gas station.

RFK, JFK, Ted and the "boiler room girls" were not children of the 60s. They were children of the 30s and 40s who were adults in the 50s and 60s, and attitudes towards sex were very different in those days, which is why the Kennedy shennanigans were even more notorious and potentially damaging to political careers.

Even someone who got a divorce in the 50s carried a stigma, to the point that some were arbitrarily denied credit because they were "unstable," as evidenced by the divorce.

A side effect of the Civil Rights movement was to make it possible for everybody to live immorally without stigma, and the children of the 60s picked up that nasty ball and ran with it. That's why the American family has broken down, abortion is available on demand, and nothing seems to be "immoral" anymore.

The Chappaquiddick scandal was the issue that brought adultery into the American home on the TV news. Parents got stuck dealing with the issue just like the semen on Monica Lewinski's dress introduced kindergarten kids to oral sex.

So, we can thank JFK and RFK for blazing the way for politicians to claim, "It's just sex" as justification for their actions. At least they're not killing the girls anymore, so I guess that's an improvement.

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colowoodsman 6 years, 3 months ago

That's quite a commentary id. I'm absolutely amazed that you can cram so much history and social evolution into just a few paragraphs. You must have been taking notes!

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

Woody,

On the chance you're not being sarcastic, thanks.

The fact is that political correctness, conservative fear of sexual awareness, and failure to teach contemporary history in our schools tends to bury the facts. As for the "taking notes," part, I'll admit I'm "experienced" enough to have lived through some of those days and remember how it was. One of my good friends (a high school classmate and a college roomate) had an older sister who became pregnant in college, and "had to get married" (as was the norm back in them days when a girl found herself with child and without husband). The pregnancy was seen as an utter disgrace in a good Baptist family (the father was an electrical engineer, the mother a supervisor in the local welfare department), and my roomie carried the trauma around like the "A" on Hester Prynne's bodice from his fifth-grade year on into college.

I guess people today just don't understand what a powerful force shame used to be. It controlled everything. A family with a daughter who had a child out of wedlock, or a child who was homosexual, was marked and made an outcast in the social circles that revolved mostly around church affiliation. Such things just did not happen to "good Christian people."

Of course, we all know that people have always gotten away with a lot under cover (pun intended), but social stigma was a driving force for much of the adult population following World War II, and in the south, it was the liberal attitudes of African Americans towards sex that fostered most of the Jim Crow laws that continued to exist into the 60s. There were separate water fountains and bathrooms because of the risk of contracting a venereal disease, and whether or not the risk was real, that was the source of most of the fear. Everyone was sure that black boys would rape white girls, and white boys would catch VD from black girls if the schools were integrated. Right or wrong, keeping the two populations apart by law was not a racial issue as much as it was a public health measure.

As for the lack of resolve that Americans show when we finally go to war, I think history is clear that peace and civil order can only be guaranteed by force. One could easily suggest that, if not for lead poisoning (from eating and drinking from lead utensils) and the resulting insanity and breakdown of government, we might all be living peacefully today in a modern Roman empire spanning the entire globe.

Did you see the news on the Baghdad-style checkpoints in the District of Columbia this weekend? This is a classic example of how society will break down unless peace is imposed on human beings by force.

We shouldn't be supporting Isreal's withdrawal from Palestine. We should be signing up people to go live in Iraq and make it our 51st state.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 3 months ago

id, you are sooooo far out in right field. blog is beginning to think you make controversial statements just to invite argument because know one in their right mind would say "peace and civil order can only be guaranteed by force". seriously, lay off the sauce til afternoon.

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Hadleyburg_Press 6 years, 3 months ago

id04sp, Your comments on morality, human nature, and civil peace reminds of me of the story of the Ring of Gyges from Plato's "The Republic".

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id04sp 6 years, 3 months ago

bloggy,

So why do we have an armed police force? Why not fire all the cops, leave our doors open, and stop worrying about crime?

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colowoodsman 6 years, 3 months ago

id- I was only being a 'little' sarcastic. bb- does your mommy know that you are playing with the computer?

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