Independence.

As a member of two groups that people love to hate – journalists and gays – I hear a lot of criticism. Fortunately, more and more, the criticism tends to be about the professional life, not the personal one.

Yesterday, someone who I haven’t seen in a while asked what I was doing now. I explained that I had moved back to Jacksonville for a promotion and I was loving my job. The response was immediate: “I don’t watch any of it, anyway!” If you know me, you know that in public settings with people who are more acquaintances than friends, I tend to diffuse tension with humor: “Ha. Neither do I, ” I said. But this didn’t work. “It’s all lies and propaganda anyway,” replied this person.

Sure, the information a journalist receives rarely comes without motive. A PR person is trying to get you to pick up his client’s story, a law enforcement official is trying to safe face or your best friend is performing in a show and thinks it should make the nightly news because they know you. Here’s the fact: We all have motives. Every one of us. And we all take those motives with us in every aspect of our lives. But I don’t discredit a piece of information simply because the person giving it to me has a motive. Instead, I get information from elsewhere, too. Sometimes it matches and sometimes it doesn’t. And in any case, I attribute my information. So if you think that you’re going to make it through your life without “propaganda” by simply choosing not to turn on the TV, you’re living in a dream world. Instead, what you’re doing is allowing the propaganda of your own mind to overtake you. You’re allowing your biases and the judgements you’ve already made to remain intact, regardless of fact.

Furthermore, you’re likely failing to actually give anything new a try, instead opting to rely on something someone once told you about someone or something else. Instead of seeking out independent verification of things you hold to be true, you lock yourself and your mind inside of a box, thinking, “I’ve always believed it to be true, so it is.”  In your self-proclaimed search for independence and lack of a bias, you’ve become dependent on your bias.

That’s not how progress is made. That’s not how life works. That’s not how humankind works. At least I’m searching for answers. At least I’m willing to dig deeper. At least I’m willing to stumble upon a truth that I never before held in high regard.

We’re all dependent on one thing or another. One person or another. We’re all propaganda machines – to ourselves, to each other. Ignoring that fact does nothing. Facing it, does everything.

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