We Must Heed Voltaire's Words

We Must Heed Voltaire's Words

In this article, Andrew Sweet references Voltaire's wise words and explores their significance in today's America. He also explains why the tippinsights website is vital in today's world.

Andrew H. Sweet
Andrew H. Sweet

A Little History On The Man

Voltaire, the pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet (born November 21, 1694, Paris, France—died May 30, 1778, Paris), is one of the greatest French writers. Although only a few of his works are still read, he continues to be held in high regard worldwide as a courageous crusader against tyranny, bigotry, and cruelty.

Media and Ethics In Today's World

We are bombarded with positive and negative inputs in the Information Age that we now live in, with access to social media, multiple 24-hour news sources, and the internet. Unbeknown to us, this constant barrage is affecting our psyche and lives in small and big ways. The information overload is so extreme that it is hard to find the actual truth.

Unlike during Voltaire's time, we as Americans are exposed to myriad different viewpoints from various media platforms which supposedly represent the "truth." These "truths" are peddled by self-professed "neutral sources" overwhelming us with sensationalism, hate, and malpractice.

According to Webster's dictionary, "Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on current events based on facts and supported with proof or evidence. The word journalism applies to the occupation, as well as citizen journalists who gather and publish information based on facts and supported with proof or evidence."

The guidelines on how to be a journalist lead us to the SPJ Code of Ethics, a "Guideline on How A Journalist Should Act." It puts forth four basic principles – seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable & transparent—Find the full guideline here in PDF format.

Now ask yourself, has any media outlet been practicing what they preach? The answer will most likely be negative. Rather than promote unity, the news media outlets promote eliminating one's neighbor.

Reading of Voltaire in a salon in Paris

Voltaire's Relevance Today

"No opinion is worth burning your neighbor for," said Voltaire.

To preach division goes against everything that the exalted news outlets supposedly stand for - finding the truth and representing the people. By portraying EVERY Democrat or Republican as evil, the media is pandering to people's baser instincts. Such rhetoric only harms the country in the long run; what is worse is that these opinions are perpetuated from positions of power. "Editors," "Foreign Correspondents," and other so-called "experts" propagate personal views in an effort to further self-serving agendas.

To return to the French philosopher's words, "It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster."

This is the environment we Americans are living in. Our leaders deride people as "neanderthals" for individual thinking yet promote unity. The veracity of every news item reported is now in question. Is it "fake or real"? Most Americans are aware that a significant section of the news and media outlets are reporting and promoting whatever will get them the most views, not the truth.

Sadly...

Voltaire has rightly said, "Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time."

In the case of us Americans, the question is not whether we as individuals can raise ourselves above the ideas of our times. The question is, can we as a society surmount the constricting group identities, party affiliations, and narrow ideologies and thus create a fresh, judicious narrative of what "rising above" means in our times.

The celebrated writer penned centuries ago, "The more often a stupidity is repeated, the more it gets the appearance of wisdom."

Unfortunately, this is the method current news outlets follow - recycling the same information from media outlets to media outlets. In our times, it is advisable to take every bit of news with a grain of salt.

Voltaire's quotes mentioned above are timeless, regardless of race, socioeconomic stature, and other societal disparities. His words bear repeating, "No opinion is worth burning your neighbor for." Bear in mind that there are forces out there that only seek to control the United States' narrative for an image of power. It is crucial to form your own opinion without being brainwashed by the rhetoric.

Probably the most apt Voltaire quote for our times is, "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it to the death." We must note that we all have the right to our own opinions.  Despite what many prominent news outlets and political mouthpieces say today, an opposing perspective does not always mean that it is "wrong" or that the individual is an adversary.

Don't believe everything you hear in today's world.  A story always has three sides: yours, theirs, and the facts.

By presenting Americans' true thoughts and opinions through our own study, we at tippinsights hope to become a neutral reference point for the facts.What makes us unbiased? Transparency and Voltaire's dicta, every opinion counts. All of the data we collect is available to our members, and we hope for lively engagements about the data and our original content pieces.

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