In Brief — The author recommends a healthy level of skepticism in examining the world around us, whether focused on the media or what you hear, read and see. [Written in July 2017.]
Honest Skepticism is a Virtue —
Earlier in 2017, Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and two of his trusted friends met with Vladimir Putin’s lawyer and assorted Russian men for the alleged purpose of receiving copies of Hillary Clinton’s dirty linen.
Putting aside the fact that the number of persons attending that meeting grew (mostly Russians), a normally reliable source has written that young Trump’s failure to report that meeting to the FBI was acceptable because only government officials are required to report such a meeting to American watchdogs.
Due to my innate skepticism, that claim smelled fishy to me. Consequently, I researched the issue, not just because of my skepticism but because such a claim by a supposed authority might become accepted as fact even though not true. If a false claim by a usually knowledgeable and trustworthy source were to be allowed to stand, America’s civil liberties would be in deep jeopardy. In this case, the claim IS NOT TRUE.
My research found that all persons, both private citizens and governmental officials must notify the American government any time there is contact with representatives of a foreign government. Not to put too fine a point on it, five of the individuals present at Trump Jr.’s meeting were representatives of the Russian government, a government noted to be antagonistic to American interests.
Legislators passed that law in order to prevent private persons from interfering with national policy and negotiating with a foreign government. It can be argued that Trump Jr. believed he was acting as an official of the American government inasmuch as both Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were invited and were at the time of the meeting key figures in the official Trump campaign organization. Private or official, it wasn’t reported as required.
The Trump son/Russian meeting is serious and indeed is reported to be on the radar of Special Counsel Mueller, particularly since Trump penned his son’s defense. From the perspective of skepticism, it is wise to be skeptical of everything you are told, see, read or hear.
I regularly read the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Intercept, Truthout, occasionally England’s Guardian and other news sources. TV news programs are part of the diet of this “political junky.” Whether right, center or left, my skepticism is always there. It’s part of me, doubtless because I’m a lawyer, but also because it’s in my blood. Friends of both the right and left are sometimes driven nuts by my acerbic comments, but they usually overlook my skepticism. I must point out that one of the hard-right believers with whom I’m familiar overlooked the evidence confirming the truth of my demurrer and took me to task. It must be said that people will believe what they choose to believe even when confronted with the fact that they are wrong.
The reason I’ve related this incident is that I heartily recommend the cultivation of a skeptical frame-of-mind. If you heed my advice, you will seldom be deceived by rosy scenarios, no matter how appealing they may be. The biggest threat is when something is right down your alley, but if you maintain a healthy level of skepticism toward even that temptation, you will be armed.
Remember… honest skepticism is a virtue.