NPR, Twitter, and the Declaration of Independence

Note: I use https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/ for my construction of whether a news source is biased and what bias that news source may have. They have ratings for satire, pro-science, and conspiracy theory, as well. I will note the bias of the source of the article based on Media Bias Fact Check (if they’ve been rated.) If you use Chrome, you can download the official Media Bias Fact Check plug-in here

I about lost my self-righteous, descendant of an American revolutionary, cool today after reading about people losing their mind on Twitter because NPR was tweeting the text of the Declaration of Independence and people thought it was some commentary on the president.

My gut-level, knee-jerk reaction was wrong.

My gut-level, knee-jerk reaction was “Wait a minute. The people who think they’re going to ‘Make America Great Again’ can’t even recognize the document that made America in the first place? Give me a break.”

It took the Washington Post’s (Left Center bias) article on the topic, to make me stop and reconsider a moment. The Post article brought up that one of the people involved in the kerfuffle raised a valid question: in the context of Twitter, a format with 140 characters, would the average person know the document being presented was the Declaration of Independence?

I did. I saw the NPR presentation the one time I peeked at Twitter yesterday, which I don’t much use, and recognized the bit in my feed at the time. I made the assumption that any real patriot should recognize one of the most important documents in the history of our nation (if not the most important document,) but that’s not a fair assumption by any measure.

I recognized it, but I also got lucky: I saw the feed at a part that was memorable.

Even without that, though, my situation is unique. I’m not the typical American. I memorized the Declaration of Independence in childhood for a school recitation, and while I can’t do the whole thing from memory anymore, parts stand out. I memorized the Preamble of the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, too.

We did that kind of thing when I was in school. I’m old.

I had to memorize a lot of American history. My family has lots of pride about being descended from an American Revolutionary, from my most conservative cousins to my uncle the hippie, but probably most especially my dad. Dad was a gray iron master molder, a disabled Vietnam Veteran, and one the most patriotic and starkly individualistic people I’ve ever known.

I have fond memories of my dad very indulgently listening to me practice recitations and telling me these documents were very important because they were half of what made America the greatest nation on the earth. The other half was the American people themselves, some of whom have been failed by both our educational system and our consumerist society.

School was different back in the analog age, and an education was a way to claw up from the brink of poverty and to a better life then. The value of education was undisputed.

Now, the value of education is a crapshoot.

We have an educational system that rates as just hanging on to “above average” when compared to the rest of the world by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)‘s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). We’re rating below average in math and science, which has been reported by Forbes (Right Center Bias) and the Wall Street Journal (Right Center Bias) (this article is behind their paywall) since as early as 2013. (Both of these publications are right leaning.)

We have a “History” channel with almost no history on it, a plethora of “reality” TV shows that are as played for ratings as the majority of news media. We cheer on our political parties like they’re sports teams, especially if you trust CNN (Left Bias) for your news.

“The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.” —Jeff Zucker, president of CNN.

It’s not surprising that lots of people when they read out of context tweets from NPR, a left-center biased news source that they assumed the worst. We’ve got members of the news media actively trying to whip the American people into a frenzy.

Why wouldn’t people think the worst? Twitter is 140 characters at a time, lumped up in a feed with everyone else tweeting all at the same time. It’s simply not the right forum to share the Declaration of Independence.

I hope that in the future, NPR makes better choices about what material to share in which format. I hope that this incident will make people more interested in this historic document and the history of the United States in general. I’m sharing the full text of the Declaration of Independence, from the National Archives, because that’s how strongly I feel about the importance of this document.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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