Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens

By Photographer: A.F. Bradley in his studio. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mark Twain Wisdom

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, said, “If you don’t read the [news], you’re uninformed; if you read the [news], you’re mis-informed.”  

Considering this came from one of America’s greatest writers, a truly brilliant political satirist, it begs the question – who is telling the truth? 

A Little History

I was blessed to have some of the greatest literary minds of the time in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s at Auburn University. I would often hang out with Madison Percy Jones III and Oxford Stroud as they drank their favorite bourbons and played the piano and chain smoked Pall Malls.

These guys were less concerned with current events and more interested in real life events that changed people’s lives. They were kindred spirits of Eudora Welty and Fanner O’Conner. 

And they relished the days of the Vanderbilt Fugitives when politics were topics of humor and satire and not the defining gospel of public decision-making. 

I learned from them what “frame of reference” meant: It’s the data bank in all of us that helps us determine fact from fiction. The truth as we decide is based on our personal experiences, education, and knowledge.

So I am always amazed at the shallowness of news reporters. Are they so ignorant that they cannot actually see what is happening? Or are they reporting from their own limited frame of reference that renders them blind to the facts and real meaning of the events?

Since many of these “news reporters” are educated at Ivy League Schools, I doubt that they are ignorant from an education standpoint. But, there again, maybe that explains it.

Ivy League Graduation Ceremony

I attended my daughter’s graduation at Columbia University in NYC in May of 2016. She received a Master’s in Child Psychology and Counseling. 

The first commencement speaker handed out accolades to those Masters recipients who had worked with the downtrodden, the less fortunate, and the poor. She sang the praises of the Black Lives Matter movement and called on all the graduates to go out into the world and save it from the Entitlement Society and status quo. 

So the next speaker was the former CDC head in NYC. In opposite fashion, he issued a challenge to all the Grads to go out into the world and make something of themselves. That by so doing, they could affect the lives of others by being successful themselves.

He said they were not entitled to anything but an opportunity. If they worked hard, they could accomplish the American Dream. They could be someone that the University would be proud of. 

I’m glad I heard the second speaker because for a moment I started to wonder where my hard-earned money for my daughter’s tuition had gone. 

The Takeaway

It’s the same with the news we see, hear, and read. Entitlement or Opportunity? From whose frame of reference are we getting the information? 

It was the same in Mark Twain’s day. Just different actors on a different stage.