OPINION – My decision to become a writer was greatly influenced by key mentors who paved the way before me. Some I knew personally, like my dear departed friend Jerry Askeroth. Others had a profound influence upon me through their writings.
Charley Reese was one of those influential writers to whom I owe a tremendous debt for his inspiration. His passing last week marks the end of an extraordinary and principled life. I consider Reese one of the greatest influences in shaping my own worldview because he taught me how to think rather than what to think.
He was a journalist for over half a century. He chose to be a newsman instead of a shill for either of the major political parties. His writing was concise and direct. His political views were consistent and informed. He had depth. But most of all, Charley Reese was a clear and independent thinker.
Many years ago, he made a suggestion that I have taken to heart ever since, “Take this little test: Pick out any national issue or any national political figure and ask yourself, What do I really know about this issue or this person? The honest answer in most cases will be not much that hasn’t been spoon-fed to you by liars and propagandists.”
The beauty of such an approach is that it is much more based in reality than repeating talking points from a professional propagandist. Thinking for oneself requires real effort. But the true payoff is to never be at the mercy of another in knowing what to think about a given issue.
Too often we forget that information isn’t always the same thing as truth.
Reese would regularly disclose his basic premises to his readers. This was his way of helping them understand the ideas upon which his thinking was based. Whether his readers agreed or not was irrelevant. He wanted them to know where he stood.
His premises were simple:
1. Government is inherently incompetent and inefficient.
2. The American government is corrupt top to bottom.
3. People who rely on mass media to inform them are woefully misinformed.
4. Government education is so deeply flawed that it cannot be reformed.
5. The universal franchise of voting is a bad idea since ignoramuses, parasites, and party hacks outnumber informed voters.
6. Human nature hasn’t changed in the past 5,000 years.
Reese wasn’t a cynic. But he wasn’t an idealist either. He simply recognized that individuals that remain ignorant of history, economics, and even basic science, are especially susceptible to demagogues.
My greatest admiration of Reese is founded in his courage to choose principles over popularity.
His principled stand in opposition to interventionist foreign policy put him at odds with many titular conservatives. Neoconservatives, in particular, raged against his willingness to go off of the approved script regarding Israel and the Palestinians. He was a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution and the proper role of government.
Reese reminded his readers that there are many bad governments in the world, but the only one we’re obligated to change is our own.
Having traveled the world and actually been among Muslim people, Reese scorned self-appointed experts pimping their brand of Muslim peril. He cautioned his readers to keep perspective in the face of our government’s calculated exaggeration of the threat posed by terrorism.
He decried the growing police state that has taken root here in America since the 9/11 attacks when he wrote:
“Too many Americans are willing to let demagoguery scare them into writing a blank check to any politician who claims he will protect them from the boogeyman. I, for one, will never surrender this free republic, no matter how many enemies, real or imagined, are at the gates. What would be the point? Our ancestors fought for freedom and independence, not for a dictatorship.”
Finally, Reese was a tireless advocate of the value of knowing and understanding history. He said that “we should all follow Robert E. Lee’s advice to his children and read history and biographies so that we will know the world, as best we can, as it is.”
A willingness to become self-educated is the key.
I did not agree with Charley Reese on all subjects. But I will be forever indebted to him for teaching me the value of thinking clearly and independently.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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