Welcome once again to the Friday News Roundup, wherein I imagine myself providing a service to the internet that looks like this...
...but at least in the first episode looks more like this...
But all the same, Friday is going to be the day that we look at what's been going on in the news and discuss political issues. As always, please make sure any comments or discussion civil, respectful, and kind.
Today, I want to talk about the media.
On Friday, President Trump announced at CPAC that the media were "the enemy" of the American people. Following this, the press secretary decided that several publications would not be invited to a press briefing. As I understand it, this by itself isn't actually all that uncommon. Where things went off the rails is that the decision followed the President's comments in the morning, and that the publications that were excluded typically carry a more liberal bias than others. So it kind of had this feeling that the President was keeping out those publications that disagree with him, and there's a bit of trouble to be sensed there.
You see, we need to make sure we are categorizing our debates and discussions well. There are debates and discussions about policy, which is what most political discussion used to be about. Policy is about what we do with laws, regulations, and taxes. So let's say you have an opinion about whether or not we should repeal the Affordable Care Act. That's a policy question. Reasonable people who have given a fair amount of thought to things can come up with radically different positions about policy, and that's why there's often so much debate around it. Policy isn't sexy at all, so what ends up happening is that both sides will try their best to reduce really complex, big issues down to 30-second or less sound bytes.
What we're talking about when we exclude press from briefings is not a policy choice. It is taking a torch to one of the central support beams of our democracy.
Funny GIFs aside, I'm not being hyperbolic here. Did President Trump or Mr. Spicer do damage to the republic last Friday? Probably not. But they're testing one of the essential American tenents, that of a free and unhindered press. Take a swing at the support structures and cables of a bridge and you probably won't have a problem. Do it hard enough, long enough, and you get the Liberty Bridge. #pittsburghjokes
The rebuttal to this line of thinking has been (at least on my Facebook wall) that the media is a mess. That's not a completely invalid concern. At the moment, as Americans, we can choose the media that best suits our view of the world. If I am liberal, I have MSNBC. If I am a conservative, I have FOX. And if I pigeon hole myself enough into either of those, I will never ever be challenged. I will never ever have to question my views. I will never have to hear the other side. Pretty soon, however the facts (or as is increasingly true today, alternative facts) are spun to fit my world view. I'm fed a narrative that allows me to gather with my own kind, and vilify the other.
(Incidentally, Rob Bell did a podcast about this on Monday that is 100% worth listening to. It somehow makes sense of what's happening in media, and also makes sense of the Dallas Cowboys. Weird, right? So take a moment when we're done here and check it out.)
So what do we do with all this? I would encourage us to challenge ourselves by listening to news from all angles each and every day. I would encourage us to spend time listening to how the other side might frame an argument. I would hear their talking points, and actually label as truth the things that are true (you are aware that most major news networks, regardless of their leanings, do stumble on to truth every once in a while, right?) I would also encourage us to vote with our dollars. Buy a subscription to the local paper in your town. News isn't free, or at least it shouldn't be. It's worth the 10 bucks a month or whatever. You pay ten times that for your cable anyway. Support the journalists who are doing their level best to give us to the truth, who will expose people who are wrong, even when it's us. It's worth it.
And while we're at it, try to allow every view point to be present at the press briefings if we can?
(P.S. I wrote this early in the week, and then the whole Russia thing exploded again. I'm sure you've noticed, I am an extremely lazy blogger, so I didn't want to re-write what I already had. Rest assured, we'll turn our attention to that particular story soon enough. Till then, have a great weekend everyone!)