Who To Believe?

I just encountered an article raising the very troubling possibility that–in the absence of clearly trustworthy and widely trusted sources of information, all of us, Right and Left alike, get played–purposely or not– by people pursuing partisan agendas.

As regular readers of this blog have probably surmised, I subscribe to a wide array of publications: newspapers, magazines, newsletters and the like, representing a pretty wide swath of political opinion/argumentation. Ever since Louis DeJoy was named Postmaster General, I have gotten regular “warnings” from a Democratic organization insisting that DeJoy is busily privatizing the Postal Service, and asserting that–among other nefarious things– he had interfered with delivery of election materials in order to help Trump. More recently,  those emails have been asking me to sign petitions “demanding” that Biden instruct his postal board appointees to fire DeJoy.

Those emails did raise a question: What was the holdup? Why was this Trumper still there?

Then I came across this lengthy  and apparently well-researched article from Time Magazine, titled “Louis DeJoy’s Surprising Second Act.” It included a fairly “deep dive” into several of those accusations.

DeJoy may be best known as the Trump-era GOP megadonor the left accused of meddling with mail-in voting to subvert the 2020 election. But by the time Schumer called him on that frigid winter night, DeJoy was on his way to convincing congressional Republicans—120 in the House and 29 in the Senate—to buy into a lengthy Democratic wish list of postal reforms. When President Joe Biden signed the landmark legislation into law two months later, it guaranteed a union-friendly version of six-day mail service and stabilized health coverage for the 650,000 USPS employees. “There’s no way we could have gotten [the] votes without Louis DeJoy,” says Jim Sauber, the chief of staff for the National Association of Letter Carriers at the time. “That’s for sure.”…

But to the astonishment of many in Washington, the man Democrats once denounced as a threat to American democracy has become one of their most important allies in government. Defying the far right, he delivered more than 500 million COVID-19 test kits to Americans in the winter of 2022. Crossing conservatives last December, he agreed to transition the Postal Service’s entire fleet to electric vehicles by 2026. DeJoy’s capstone collaboration with Democrats was the Postal Service Reform Act, which is arguably the most bipartisan piece of major legislation in the Biden era, drawing 10 more GOP Senate votes than the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

According to the article, the postal unions and the Biden-appointed Democratic majority on the agency’s Board of Governors have bought into DeJoy’s plans, although members of Congress who don’t want to see rate increases continue to object.

DeJoy had been active in GOP politics for many years, and was certainly no “Never Trumper,” but he insists that Trump wasn’t involved in hiring him.

“I swear on my mother’s life, the President had nothing to do with it,” DeJoy says. “He didn’t know anything about it. I would never even think to tell him before I had a decision, because who knows what he could do with his tweets!”

The article is lengthy, and goes into detailed explanations of the various accusations about politically-motivated chicanery. You should read it yourself, and decide whether you find this far more nuanced reporting more convincing than the generalized accusations made in those periodic emails.

I am not posting this in an effort to convince readers one way or the other; my concerns are–once again–focused on the information environment we inhabit. I will readily admit that, given my own political orientation, I simply accepted the accuracy of the allegations contained in those emails. (In my own defense, until I came across the linked article, I hadn’t seen reason to doubt them.)

Any fair-minded observer of America’s current political scene will conclude that most misrepresentations come from the Right. There’s Fox “News,” the Big Lie, the various conspiracy theories, QAnon insanity, the all-out war on a “wokeness” its enemies can’t define...but those of us who are waging our own war against propaganda need to acknowledge that not everything that emerges from “our side” of the political spectrum is worthy of uncritical acceptance.

Until I have evidence that Time Magazine disseminates misinformation, I am inclined to trust its reporting, and revise my opinion of DeJoy. But the larger and far more troubling conclusion to be drawn from this clash of “alternative facts” is that it is increasingly difficult for Americans to know who and what to believe and who and what to discount.

Social cohesion requires trust. A fundamental problem of our times is that we don’t know who or what we can trust. No wonder conspiracy theories are so rampant.