I feel bad for people who fall for scam artists.
Their only crime is believing the wrong people. If there is anything that the past 25 years of working for newspapers has taught me, it is that people have an incredible ability to believe what they want to be true.
The presentation of evidence that appears to contradict closely held religious, political or even sports-related beliefs is seen as a personal attack and most often results in a ferocious counter attack rather than careful introspection.
I know I sometimes catch myself falling into this trap.
If I hear a negative story about a politician I like, I will search high and low to find proof that the story isn't true or at least do my best to mitigate the damage. But if a politician in my bad graces is rumored to have committed unbelievable atrocities, I find myself almost hopeful that the story is true.
We all want to be right.
Donald Trump supporters aren't alone in their blind support for a candidate. Ronald Reagan's legacy among his supporters doesn't include Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton supporters love to talk about the tech bubble Clinton rode to a good economy but they don't want to focus on the extra curricular Oval Office activities that left him testifying under oath asking about the definition of the word "is."
Some people think that President Trump's "Fake News" tirades are original. Certainly the method he uses to express himself is new, and the investigations he is hoping to discredit and distract from are unique to the presidency, but fake news claims are nothing new.
I said in a recent column that being lied to isn't a big problem as long as you know who is lying to you. President Trump discussing his thoughts on the Charlottesville incident told Americans that there were good people who were rallying with the neo-Nazis and racist crowd members. He even went as far as to say those groups had permits while the counter protesters didn't.
Would you believe that three different people made that same comment to me about my recent column? Would you believe that not only is that statement false, but the counter protesters even had to win a court order to get their permit to protest legally?
None of the president's staff has bothered to correct that obvious falsehood that is easily disproven. And because these people desperately want me to be wrong about Trump and my disdain for him and what he is doing to our country, they still parrot that false information.
A journalist's product is newsworthy information, but no matter what medium is used to deliver it, the vehicle that provides the traction is credibility.
For centuries, people have piggy-backed the credibility of others for their own purposes.
According to a recent History Channel report, almost two centuries ago, a reporter for a penny press paper wrote what he intended to be a satirical piece for the New York Sun. He quoted scientific studies about new life found on the moon. It was more than 125 years before we would put a man on the moon, but there were still people writing theoretical stories saying there had to be at least 4 billion inhabitants on the moon.
You know Fox and Friends would have interviewed that guy. They love a crazy theory with no facts to back it up.
Well, the reporter for the Sun spun a magical tale about the discovery of Unicorns, bat-like humanoids and even two-legged beavers on the moon. Why living on the moon would lead to beavers becoming bipedal, I'm not sure, but he included it.
He also wrote about craters and monstrous amethyst crystals and lush vegetation.
People bought it. You know why? They wanted it to be true.
Thinking that the moon is a big dusty rock in a vacuum just isn't as inspiring to the imagination.
The reporter sold his satire a little too well and people believed it. Did people learn a lesson? Of course not. People touch that stove every day just to make sure it really is still hot.
A century later, a radio play convinced people the earth was under attack by Martians. Why are people so convinced that if extra terrestrials exist that they would be warlike and inhumane? Are we projecting? I think so.
Just remember the magical moon beasts of the early 1800s and the War of the Worlds when you hear someone trying to attack factual reports in the media.
Ask yourself why someone would want to discredit reporters. Do your best to look past preconceived notions and find out what is true.
Sometimes the truth hurts, but not as much as believing a lie.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star.