April 4, 2022
Most people believe journalists will lie to them. According to Gallup, only 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media and there are lots of reasons why.
Most recently, the legacy media has finally decided to admit it really was Hunter Biden’s laptop found in a pawnshop loaded with incriminating information, including incriminating information about Joe Biden, just before the 2020 election. When the media partnered with the Biden campaign to claim it was Russian disinformation, they weren’t telling the truth.
They also told the nation a high school kid from Kentucky, Nick Sandmann, was racist because they didn’t like the look on his face, they said border patrol was whipping Haitian immigrants on horseback when they weren’t, and described riots they were sympathetic to as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.” Big media has earned every bit of skepticism they receive.
As a result, many have viewed coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine skeptically. More than one month since the start of the unprovoked invasion, Russia has been brutal. Russian troops have attacked hospitals, including maternity hospitals, residential areas and apartment buildings, and refugee evacuation routes. A bombing of a Ukrainian theater where civilians were sheltering is estimated to have killed 300 people. Overwhelming public evidence and intelligence sources led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to officially declare that Russia is committing war crimes.
It is in situations like these that mistrust of the media can go too far. Rather than express shock and sympathy, there is almost a temptation to explain away the legacy media’s narrative. Some of us have become so cynical we assume everything we are being told is false. If they tell us Russia is the bad guy, they must be the good guy. If they tell us Ukraine is an innocent victim of a ruthless dictator, they must be the ruthless dictator.
We saw something similar, but different, happen recently when right-wing pundit Dave Rubin announced, along with his same-sex partner, that they are expecting two babies through surrogacy. In the past, Rubin tended to align more with the Left but developed an appreciation for the dangers of wokeness and stood up to the Left’s attempts to silence speech and punish those they disagree with. Upon his announcement, many conservatives, including professing social conservatives at Prager University and Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV, were quick to congratulate Rubin, apparently out of personal affection. It’s one thing to wish Dave Rubin well in life despite choices we disagree with—it’s another thing to celebrate decisions and developments we know to be wrong because the person doing the wrong thing is someone we generally like.
Which leads to the larger point.
As Christians, we must evaluate the truthfulness of a claim or the goodness of an action without regard to tribal identification or our personal feelings about the people involved. This is what the Apostle Peter refers to as being soberminded. We often think of sobriety as the opposite of drunkenness, but alcohol is not the only thing that can impair our mental capacity. Our emotions can be just as intoxicating. Peter warned us about the danger of emotional intoxication when he instructed us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Mental intoxication makes it easy for others to deceive us and makes it easy for us to deceive ourselves.
Sober-mindedness is an underrated yet important qualification for leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:2). Someone who determines what is true based on how they feel is poorly equipped to lead people, especially the people of God.
In other contexts, we immediately recognize the folly of focusing more on the messenger than the message. One common, and appropriate, criticism of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is that it calls us to consider someone’s racial identity before we consider the merits of their arguments. CRT discounts the perspectives of white people because they are white and it elevates the perspectives of non-white people based on the belief that lived experience gives non-white people a prioritized perspective.
This is both an irrational and unbiblical way of evaluating information. It goes without saying that people of all skin pigmentations are capable of being right and wrong and it is their ability to think and reason that determines their credibility, not their skin color. In the same way, our personal feelings towards something must not sway an objective assessment of truth and reality. Of course, it’s possible we might grow to dislike people we know to be untrustworthy, but it will always be true that those we love can say something false just as someone we dislike can say something true. The truth is the truth, even if someone who has lied in the past says it. These days, we tend to focus on the identity of the people involved more than the claims themselves to our own demise.
All this is important to keep in mind as we consume information and take in perspectives.
Yes, the mainstream, legacy media has said a lot of things that weren’t true. A lot. But that does not mean everything they say is false. We should not allow our personal frustration with someone’s willingness to misrepresent the truth prevent us from always looking for the truth. It is critical that we approach the situation of Ukraine with sober-mindedness and discernment. We must avoid the trap of calling good evil and evil good based on distrust of the media.
If we find ourselves trying to ignore information we might otherwise believe because of who it would force us to agree with, we may be more focused on fighting personal or partisan battles than trying to find the truth. That’s a dangerous place to be.