Caption: Image with “Truth” on top and “Lie” crossed out on bottom (Geralt/Pixabay)
A recent editorial in the Amarillo Globe-News, a newspaper serving a Texas town of about 200,000, attacked the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP), and the Texas politicians who took it. Surprisingly, it was written without a byline, thus representing the official opinion of the editorial board of the newspaper itself. Shortly afterward, another Texas newspaper republished it (serving a city of 250,000) and then another one (city of 130,000), all without bylines and representing the official position of the newspapers.
A close reading of the editorial shows that it is poorly written, incoherent, self-contradictory, and hypocritical, twisting itself into knots trying to slam the pledge and Texas politicians who took it. Consider this quote from the editorial:
- There is an old joke that is relevant to today’s editorial – how can you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving… People should not make a show of doing something they should be doing anyway. In this case, shouldn’t politicians tell the the truth without having to sign some silly document stating they are pledging to tell the truth? Yes, we know it is completely unrealistic to expect our elected officials to be truthful. We are not living in a fantasy land. However, it just seems a tad absurd for elected officials – and those who want to be elected officials – to sign a document stating they will be truthful. Shouldn’t this be assumed?
This quote claims that: 1) we can’t expect politicians to be truthful; 2) we should assume that politicians are truthful; 3) politicians should not sign a document claiming they will be truthful.
In other words, the editorial argues against all codes of ethics, ranging from the Ten Commandments, to the Better Business Bureau Code of Business Practices, to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (which the editorial writer – being a journalist – presumably signed). If we follow the logic of the editorial, we should assume that people, journalists, and businesses – though they should be ethical – are inherently unethical. Thus, we should disregard any code of ethics to which they commit, and criticize them for committing to it.
In fact, as commenter Dan Bessire points out at the bottom of this editorial, one of the newspapers that published this editorial, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal pledged “to the goals of The Local Media Consortium in preventing fake news.” Given that the newspaper itself made this pledge, it seems pretty hypocritical to condemn the PTP as “some meaningless online form pledging to tell the truth,” as the editorial does.
Notably, the editorial specifically fails to describe the substantial accountability mechanism that underpins the pledge. Unlike some other codes of conduct, the PTP has a clear and specific way of ensuring that politicians and other public figures who take the pledge stick to it. In failing to discuss the accountability mechanism, the editorial writer clearly lies by omission.
Since the editorial contradicts the apparent actions both of the writer, who presumably committed to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and the newspaper, which definitely committed to The Local Media Consortium, as well as lies by omission, we have to assume a different motivation for the editorial than an honest criticism of the PTP and the politicians who took the pledge.
Note that all the editorials published attacked Beto O’Rourke, whose campaign spans across all of Texas. However, they also attacked politicians in their area who took the pledge: for example, the Amarillo Globe-News editorial attacked Greg Sagan of Amarillo, a candidate for Congress; the Denton Record-Chronicle attacked Texas House of Representatives District 64 candidate Andrew Morris.
These attacks, combined with the hypocrisy of the editorial, can only point to the fact that the PTP is having a real impact in the political sphere. We have already found out that according to studies, after taking the PTP signers tend to behave more truthfully. This editorial shows that the PTP is actually getting the truth-oriented politicians who signed it positive reputational rewards, whether the Republican member of the Texas State Legislature James Earl White, or the Democrat member of US Congress from Texas Beto O’Rourke, and the other 500 other politicians who signed the pledge.
Those who don’t want the truth – and truth-oriented politicians – to get ahead are now waking up and seeing this impact. Thus, they are taking steps to destroy the reputation of the Pro-Truth Pledge in the eyes of the general public.
The fact that they are trying to fight back means we are winning! It’s especially good to see that the editorial is doing a ridiculously poor job of trying to criticize the PTP, because it’s hard to really say bad things about people committing to the truthful behaviors of the pledge.
Still, they are hoping that their readers will not notice the hack nature of this attack. They are hoping that the readers will skim the editorial – without reading deeply – and come away with the impression that the PTP is bad, and politicians who took the PTP are bad.
Fortunately, you can make a difference by getting positive media attention for the PTP using these guidelines, asking your elected representatives to take the PTP using these guidelines, getting signatures for the PTP using these guidelines, starting a local PTP chapter using these guidelines, indicate a general interest in volunteering using this form, and/or making a generous monthly (or at least one-time) tax-deductible gift today to the nonpartisan educational 501(c)3 organization that runs the PTP, Intentional Insights, at this link.
Together, we can continue winning for the truth!