This week the New York Times Opinion articles were spangled with excellent features—Omaha’s local businessman (Buffet) gets a special shout-out here. Nevertheless, the article I want to focus on is Thomas Friedman’s Too Good to Check. Friedman uses one of Twain’s most appropriate diplomacy quotes: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” The article does not go on to mention Nye’s version of public diplomacy—but the message is there. Friedman applauds CNN’s Anderson Cooper for dispelling the myth that Obama was going to spend $200 million (yes, taxpayer dollars) a day on his South-East Asian trip, and would supplement the vacation with 34 navy liners and a 3,000 man team. These “facts” are not only appalling, but also frightening in how quickly they travelled. These momentum-building details were splashed across all mediums of news without anyone bothering to check their validity.
So thank you Anderson Cooper for protecting our soft power. You not only assured Americans and foreigners alike that Obama is not frivolously throwing money at our greatest job-source competition, but you proved—at least momentarily—that we care about reporting. Many foreigners have strong opinions regarding America’s freedom of press, and our ability to air just about anything we like is our right—but airing the ‘right’ things, well that my friends is our responsibility. No wonder Americans have developed the paradox of plenty and ADD rates are going through the roof—we have too much information coming at us, and we aren’t even guaranteed that it’s accurate! I do understand that journalists and broadcasters take ethical vows. I am not attempting to insinuate that these acts are malicious. I am trying to point out, for the sake of our Public Diplomacy, lets at least be sure to cross-or-double check information before sharing it with the world. We have enough reasons for people to argue with us—let’s at least limit them to legitimate ones.