Is It the Truth?

Curtis R. Joseph, Jr/Opinion
January 18, 2021

During my sophomore year at Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, my mentor, Professor Robert DeMaria, sent me and a fellow Mass Communications major to Winchester, Virginia to cover a town hall meeting. Unbeknownst to us was the fact the agenda featured a highly contentious issue, one that remains the source of division throughout our country even to this very day: the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces.

So, there we were, two young black kids, pulling into a foreign town, which was overrun by people wearing Confederate regalia, waving Confederate flags, and shouting unpleasantries. Being that I was from Louisiana, I’d encountered my fair share of Confederate flags. However, my classmate was from Brooklyn, New York, and she was terrified. I assured her that I wouldn’t let anything happen to her, and I advised her that I would take the issue up with our professor the following day.

Fortunately, we covered the meeting without incident. When I entered the professor’s office the next morning, he saw the anger in my eyes, and he headed me off at the pass. He stated that he would not apologize for sending us to the meeting. However, he admitted that he owed us an apology for not telling us about the hot-button issue on the agenda. More importantly, he used the opportunity as a teaching moment to stress the point that, as journalists, our duty was to find out what happened in the world on a certain day and to report it objectively to our readership or viewership. As members of the fourth estate, we were charged with reporting the facts and only the facts. In other words, ours was a quest for truth. Which brings me to the 4-Way Test.

Approximately three years ago, my father-in-law, invited me to a lunch meeting of the Rotary Club of Shreveport, of which I am now a proud member. At the conclusion of the meeting, the members and guests stood and recited the test, which provides as follows:

“Of the things we think, say, or do,

1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Suffice it to say, I was fascinated by such a litmus test. And I was curious as to its origins. As it turns out, the test was penned by Herbert J. Taylor in the early 1930s. Taylor sought to save the Club Aluminum Products distribution company from imminent bankruptcy. He firmly believed that a change in mentality was the first step in righting the ship. After all, as I think, I am. Basically, by establishing a set of guidelines that pointed toward elevated ethics and morals, Taylor changed the overall climate of the company which, in turn, changed the company’s fortunes.

I make specific mention of the fact that the test leads off with the threshold inquiry—Is the thing true? Prior to assessing its equitableness, its benevolence, or its usefulness, Taylor weighed the veracity of the thing. Is it the truth? As I write this article, our President is in the midst of a second impeachment and our country is on the brink of violence, poised to erupt at all corners, not from without, but from within. Yet, one can channel surf the various news outlets and find altogether different versions of the truth depending upon one’s appetite. There is actually a new term for this phenomenon—“alternative facts”. I’m fairly certain my grandmother wouldn’t accept such a term. She’d just call it a lie. For his part, Dan Rather has lamented that we have entered a post-factual America.

As a nation, we’ve recently witnessed an attack, by American citizens, on the very seat of our country’s government. The day will, no doubt, go down as one of the worst in our history. Insofar as attention spans are fickle, the discussion in many circles has pivoted from the mob riot at the Capitol to the fact that various social media platforms have suspended certain individuals’ accounts in the wake of the events of January 6, 2021.

When the events of that infamous day are examined in context, it must be stated that the “Stop the Steal” gathering was organized around an untruthful premise (i.e., that the presidential election of 2020 was somehow fraudulent). Yet, there is no evidence of such. Due to the lack of evidence, courts all across the country have dismissed frivolous lawsuits or, otherwise, declined to hear them.

In fact, U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Louisiana’s own Bill Cassidy have admitted that Joe Biden lawfully won the 2020 presidential election. When he took the floor to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, Majority Leader McConnell stated, “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” In that same vein, Senator Graham, a staunch supporter of President Trump, noted, “It is over… [Biden] won. He’s the legitimate President to the United States… Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected and will become the President and the Vice President of the United States on January 20.” Similarly, Senator Cassidy has said, “The dozens and dozens of legal challenges from President Trump’s legal team have all been rejected, many by judges appointed by President Trump. Every one of them.” In a word, the allegations that the election was stolen are untrue.

Nevertheless, that untrue allegation has been perpetuated for months and it persists. The rhetoric surrounding it culminated in the riot at our Capital. As the rioters are being rounded up one-by-one, to a person, they now contend that they were invited to the Capitol by the President, and they were there doing what he wanted them to do. This is the defense that has been advanced by the so-called Qanon shaman, Jacob Chansley. Likewise, North Texas realtor, Jenna Ryan, has said the same. Words matter. And all speech is not protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution. In fact, the Supreme Court has held that protected speech does not extend to that which “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action”.

As one trained to be both a journalist and a lawyer, it truly pains me to witness the lengths to which unscrupulous individuals will go in order to obfuscate basic truth. Notwithstanding the fact that many of us carry mobile devices that possess far more computing power than the mainframe computers that sent the first rockets to the moon, we struggle to unearth the objective truth. That said, it is worth noting that objective truth is to be distinguished from subjective truth. And facts are to be distinguished from opinions.

If we can get to the truth of the matter, we will be better positioned to address the remaining areas of inquiry. We can, then, channel our energies into educating our children for the jobs of the future, training and employing our workforce, providing fair and equal wages to hard-working Americans, addressing our country’s failing infrastructure, eradicating COVID-19, and otherwise providing healthcare to our citizens, among other things. And, in the end, just as Taylor’s 4-Way Test reversed his company’s fortunes by improving upon the decency, ethics and morality of the company’s employees, as citizens, we have the ability to effect the same impact upon our communities and our country as a whole.


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30 thoughts on “Is It the Truth?

  1. There are plenty of jobs in clean energy. There will always be a need for oil to a lesser degree. Protecting our National Parks, Native American lands, the great Alaskan wilderness is a huge step in protecting our environment again.

  2. Mr. Joseph string his words together well! I never went to college to be a journalist. However I have had connections with Black Newspapers all of my adult life! From the owners of The Los Angeles Sentinel, the Houston Forward Times, Elite News in Dallas, and was the publisher of The Real Views Newspaper in Natchitoches for twenty years!

    I learned at an early age that a community without a voice shall not be heard! Also I realized that the founders of the greatest nation on earth had a reason for why the first amendment was number one in the Constitution! Numbers matter! I realized that if you have something to say you are wasting time and energy talking to people one on one! To reach the masses of people or even certain section or groups within the masses! Media is how it’s done! Starting in 1960’s I chose newspapers!

    The thing I agree Mr Joseph on is it must be the truth! I have seldom been objective! I have always had an agenda! I was bias! However I always work from the base of truth! The truth needs no defense!

    I could write you a book! I gave a voice to people in the Communities I lived in! People who was not represented in the mainstream media! I still try to do so though the NPJ! Peace!

  3. He talks about his life experiences with the Confederate Flags and the people. I was wonderingwhy he would attend a university like Washington and Lee? I’m sure with his high moral standards he wouldn’t pay to go there and surly not except it for free! Washington and Lee was not named for Dezel Washington and Spike Lee oh no it was George Washington and say it ain’t so ROBERT E. LEE. And Lee was president after the war. I just kinda find his hypocrisy funny and was wondering.

  4. Mr. Joseph, thank you for your carefully constructed and perceptive essay. It gets directly to the source of our current political enmity: the default position of Trump and his followers to prefer comforting (to them) lies over disturbing (to them) facts. While Trump is no longer President as of noon today, the legacy he leaves of pathological lying to his followers will probably persist for years. Trump started his “reality” show in politics with the “birther” lie and finished it up with the “big lie”: that somehow, somewhere, somebody stole the election from him.

    Now that he’s out of office without a Twitter account, his “true believers” will have to carry on without their daily infusions of lies from him. But carry on they will, because relying on lies becomes an addiction. Perhaps the Qanon Shaman, with his horns and face paint and animal skins, will become their new cult leader–after he gets out of jail. So here’s an example of a disturbing truth: as long as this group is at war with facts, we will not be able to make peace with them.

    As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay “The American Scholar,” “I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech.” By that standard, Mr. Joseph, the richness of your words proves you have already lived a great deal, and have turned your experience into wisdom and eloquence.

  5. As on the playing field, a team plays up to a better team. Thank you Mr. Joseph for helping to lead us up to a better, stronger playing field. America is back. Together we can accomplish great things. God bless America.

    • Vicki in one post you have used the following
      America is back
      And we
      Where were you and your team the last 4 years?
      The one thing you have shown and shown it here many many times is that you hated President Trump more then you EVER loved this country.
      Congrats on helping to destroy it!
      HAVE a great day!

  6. In the midst of all the arguments and accusations, I would like to know why Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi were discussing President Trump talking to Putin and planning on doing something about the election. All hearsay on Clinton’s part, but she also told Pelosi they should check out what was said in that conversation. My question is why Hillary Clinton was to talking to Boss Pelosi about anything concerning the President and Russia. Especially given the background of Clinton cooking up the Russian election scheme to keep Trump out of office in 2016 election. Were there more things going on to twist this election. I don’t trust Hillary Clinton as far as I can throw her and Pelosi has had so many face lifts that her brain now rides on top to her dyed hair, recently done during a shut down of beauty shops. Why are dems exempt from rules of law and government. Clinton can talk to anyone and lie her way into getting things done, even if the things she wants done are lies and illegal.

    This writer wrote in his article, “it must be stated that the “Stop the Steal” gathering was organized around an untruthful premise (i.e., that the presidential election of 2020 was somehow fraudulent). Yet, there is no evidence of such. Due to the lack of evidence, courts all across the country have dismissed frivolous lawsuits or, otherwise, declined to hear them.” While it is true that courts refused to hear them, I believe he has no right to say there was no evidence. There was evidence, things were already in play, and judges refused to hear the case. I don’t know why, and I don’t care, but I know that many of us saw very suspicious activity. We know when one judge said to set aside the mail in votes that came in late, and they were not set aside, but counted and now there was no way to separate them after the mess had been made by the counters. There are too many questions to just let it be. There were witnesses that judges refused to hear. To many laws broken about accepting late votes.

    Now don’t bother to beat me down about what I have just said. I will admit Old Joe the Sniffer is going to be President, and this woman who got started on her political career under Willie Brown, even though he had a wife. They are holding the offices now, and I’ve had my say, but I will never believe Biden will stay in office, Harris will take over and the USA will then see it’s big change. As someone said last night, people have been out of work due to COVID, now they want free things, and Kamala will give it to them. Hello, socialism, really do hope you don’t stay long.

    I watched as our President and First Lady left DC this morning. It was a dignified and moving moment. I do believe as the hate and tempers of some cool down, others will say that Donald Trump did great things for this nation.

  7. So the 1000’s of affidavits were all lying? If so, have they been arrested for perjury? None of the courts looked at the evidence. To accept Biden as president, you have to believe he got 15 million more votes than the anointed one, President Obama got. The truth is important. The steal was real!

    • Dominion got Obama elected. Same as Beijing Biden. How many of these Democrats realize there’s actually two cases still out there going to prove the fraud? One is in Michigan. One is in Arizona.

      • Well the old sniffer already cost a lot of jobs in only a half a day. Opened the boarders by up to muslim countries that hate us. Wow can’t wait to see what day 2 a full day has instore for us

        • I guess you didnt see any inauguration festivities. Our channels were open enough to show Indiviual 1s. It’s a shame if you didnt see it. Very inspiring. And that would mean you didnt hear the inspirational, very uplifting words of Amanda Gorman. She was and is amazing.

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