Question for you: When the news broke about the Justice Department going after the phone records of journalists at the AP, how many of you immediately thought that the government was up to no good and that we were once again on the road to a Watergate-style scandal of enemies lists and political retribution? Or, how many of you held back judgment, waiting until the immediate dust had settled before coming to a conclusion?
I’m willing to bet that most of you — and me — went for the first option.
It’s human nature to automatically assume the worst about a situation, then, after getting more information, re-evaluate and re-assess. Sometimes the first instinct is right. And sometimes it turns out to be either less than we initially thought or nothing at all. We still don’t know about the AP story, but that didn’t stop a lot of us from harking back to the Nixon White House and their targeting of political enemies, and Benghazi! brought back memories of cover-ups in places like Vietnam and Iraq. Even if it’s a president or an administration we’re nominally in favor of, we immediately think they’re up to no good.
It’s the lizard-brain survival instinct: assume the worst and get the hell out. Trust no one and believe nothing you hear; they’ve got to be hiding something. Even when all the facts are in and the whole story is laid out in front of us, we have a healthy dose of skepticism.
In a way I envy the conspiracy theorists. They have a very interesting take on life; there are nuances and complexities to everything that the average person going through their hum-drum life never see or think about, such as why are the stop lights in U.S. 1 synchronized the way they are, or who really knows anything about the guy driving the limousine in Dallas on November 22, 1963? It really does make life an adventure, doesn’t it?
I’m not dismissing the concerns about the AP phone records, and I say we should treat everything we hear about it with the same amount of care and scrutiny that we give to late-night infomercials about the stunning breakthroughs in hair restoration and boner pills. After all, I’ve made it through everything from Watergate and Vietnam to Milli Vanilli. But to immediately assume the worst about our government, whether it’s run by a president we like or loath assumes the worst about us all, and I’m not that cynical. Yet.