I’ve never been big on conspiracy theories. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I have confidence enough that a free press will eventually ferret out any and all major political secrets. There are just too many curious out there—whether it’s official press, citizen journalists or gadflies of various trades—for any true mushrooms to lay forever hidden.

Some may take a while to find the light of day, with irreparable damage done in the meantime—witness the lies that spawned W’s Iraq War—but I am a true believer that with a free and diligent press, the truth will out, one way or another.

Sadly, MSM (mainstream media) mistrust is currently de rigueur on both extremes. Fake news—and maybe even more dangerous what I’ll call “loose news” —rules the day, and molds the minds of many. And not just the stupid, if you’re smugly thinking yourself superior to the uneducated voters President Donald Trump says he loves. I know people of much intelligence I would like to fit with their very own tin hats.

Most recent conspiracy stories have taken hold from the right, especially the whole strange range about former President Barack Obama. Birtherism, he’s a Muslim, he’s gonna steal our guns and so on; or before that the Clintons murdering Vince Foster. And as their president and hero continues to fail bigly, Trump-inspired conspiracies pop up almost daily, of Obama wiretaps and Deep State sabotage.

At this point I can pretty much dismiss the hard right’s lunacy with a sigh and a shrug. More distressing to me is the progressive Tin Hat Brigade that seems to be on the rise. I have this proud self-image of progressives as beholden to logic, and of operating from a place of ultimate faith in the American system.

Case in point, I have a progressive friend—an early and fervent Bernie Sanders supporter—who is now passionately Facebook-obsessed with the Deep State, Julian Assange, and proving that all Russian hacking stories have absolutely no basis. She constantly berates the MSM as biased against true progressives, in cahoots with the evil Democratic establishment and the intelligence community, and of putting the country in peril of nuclear war with Russia led by the innocent and misunderstood Vladimir Putin.

One headline of what I call “loose news” proclaimed the “CIA-funded Washington Post.” Seriously? A blog purported to prove that he Russian hacking accusations were a false attack on Assange quoted a “close friend” of the WikiLeaks founder at length, and used that relationship as proof of the assertions. No conflict of interest there, right? Others pushed the trope that Assad was innocent of the chemical bombings.

“Loose news” is what I call blogs and websites with absolutely no historical journalistic reputation, no built-up credibility, no track record of any sort. There is no way of knowing, most of the time, what their journalistic standards are, if any. They’re basically opinion sites that their readers take as gospel truth. Citizen journalism is a wonderful thing in many ways, but it’s also contributed to making so much unsubstantiated noise that makes it harder to figure out what’s true and what’s just so much soapboxing. . . or downright false.

I’m not stupid, and while I am more trusting than the tin-hatters of the MSM, government in general and even our intelligence agencies, I have not drunk anyone’s Kool-Aid. I prefer to be an independent, intelligent sifter and ponderer of the facts and the news. I know government is often up to no good, that all presidents lie, and that the MSM is often an unwitting—and sometimes a willing—dupe for the military-industrial complex.

Witness the WMD travesty that brought us the Iraq War travesty. I’m proud that I never for a moment bought into that Big Lie, while the New York Times and other media leaders shamefacedly marched to the martial beat.

And the Washington Post may have, indeed, cooperated at some point in their history with the CIA, it wouldn’t shock me. That’s our system as a whole, for better or worse. The tangled webs societies  weave exist, I know that. But the Post, and the rest of the MSM, also brought down a president the complex would rather have left alone regardless of his wrongs (Nixon, look it up young people).

Why is this WMD controversy different, you aha! me? I can’t guarantee that it is, and despite Trump’s false and sudden Ivanka-pity for Syrian children, I don’t see any reason for Americas to contribute to the bloodshed there for no realistic good. My feeling is Assad is a ruthless killer and this accusation fits the bill, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was yet another Big Lie. Again, I sift, I ponder, I think. But I don’t go automatically for the tin hat.

That hat has been easily worn for decades by the right, but it’s sad that the left is now reaching for it. Modern conservatism and its visceral hatred of anything government-related has for decades moved way beyond the healthy skepticism of the watchdog, to breed increasing contempt, divisiveness, disenchantment and disengagement from not just government institutions, but the press and other pillars of society.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with healthy skepticism. Those pillars misbehave, often. They also do great good. Don’t blindly follow them, don’t blindly condemn them. Think for yourself. The MSM has the resources necessary to be the watchdog they’re supposed to be, and when they’re at their best it behooves a civil society to support them in that endeavor. Bla bla bloggers like me are nice to have around (I hope) but don’t forget Bernie-ites, it was the MSM that published and kept publishing the ugly truths about the Hillary Clinton campaign that WikiLeaks exposed, with or without Russian help.

I understand the anger of Sanders progressives. They were treated awfully by the Democratic establishment. That should be addressed within an intraparty political struggle. You may not win all the time, but fighting the good fight, until you do win, is better than what happened in the last election, when many just took their ball home and stayed there. Is the Trump Administration furthering your progressive ends? How’s that working out?

And now many of them choose to join the conservative tin-hat brigade, ascribing any and all Russian-hacking allegations, any and all Assange-Russian connections, to a CIA-deep state-MSM conspiracy.

Nuance, people, nuance. The world is gray, not black or white. The contents of WikiLeaks were valid and true: yaay for exposing the Clinton/DNC decrepitude to the light of day. But to then ignore how that information got there in the first place is nothing short of irresponsible. Perhaps “Russian hackers” is another Big Lie, but there’s too much smoke and evidence out there to not at least pursue the facts. Let valid investigations take their course, even by the pillars you’re so blindly and completely distrusting. Watch the watchdogs, yes. But let them do their jobs too.

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