Dammit, Bill Clinton.
Perhaps if you had never uttered that nonsense about the definition of “is,” we wouldn’t be quite so quick now to parse every tiny thing someone says or does to search for bias and something by which we can be offended.
Maybe if you hadn’t done that, we’d be a little more apt to read things as they’re intended rather than what we think the writer meant.
I’ve been shaking my head (and honestly, giggling a little bit) over some of the reactions to last week’s column, which reported on the recent assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. Again: Regardless of party, an assault on a reporter (or anyone, really) who is just doing his or her job is wrong, and basing your reaction to such an attack on political affiliation is equally dim-witted. The action is the problem, not the party.
Yes, there have been instances of Democratic officials assaulting reporters (Bob Etheridge in 2010 is a sad example; he lost his re-election campaign later that year; but no, Maxine Waters’ wave-off last weekend isn’t comparable), but they weren’t in the news over the past couple of weeks. Nor was Kathy Griffin’s severed-head stunt at the time I wrote the column.
And yes, that was disgusting and offensive (but protected by the First Amendment). Of course, I find it more offensive that an unfunny “comedian” like Griffin still has a following, but there’s someone out there for every taste. At least it seems left and right were in agreement over how not funny that photo was.
Also offensive were previous stunts against probably every other president—heck, John Tyler was burned in effigy outside the White House in 1841, with most of the protesters being members of his own party, after he vetoed an effort to re-establish the Bank of the United States. George W. Bush and Barack Obama seemed to be burned or hung in effigy or publicly threatened almost weekly.
If you look for bias, that’s what you’ll find, and those afflicted with rabid tribalism find nothing but since everything is filtered through a hyperpartisan lens.
But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, according to the old saw attributed to Sigmund Freud (though most likely never uttered by him).
If I say the sky is blue, it’s because it’s a function of the scattering of light, not because blue is associated with Democrats … besides, I prefer purple in this and many other things—a blending of colors/philosophies (besides, purple is a lovely color that looks good on me). Not everyone has an ulterior motive. If I have one, it would be to poke the bear and/or make you laugh or learn. That’s a little sister for ya.
The Associated Press reported that Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., blamed both sides in the Montana kerfuffle, saying it “goes back to kind of what we’re seeing in our country right now, this lack of civility and respect that politicians may have for the free press, and the free press not showing deference and respect to people that are putting themselves out there to run for office.”
I wasn’t aware that simply asking questions was a breach of deference and respect, but OK …
Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute told AP that the current hostility began decades ago, but has recently ramped up: “Reporters are subject to abuse all the time. Most of it’s verbal, but it’s not hard to imagine some of that verbal abuse transitioning to physical abuse, especially when you have the president calling journalists scum, bad people, evil people and ‘enemies of the people’.”
NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer was even blunter: “Journalists routinely face dangers to bring important news to the public, but those should never include assault by a would-be congressman, or arrest for asking questions of Cabinet officials. By his actions and words, the president has set the tone. For the sake of a free press—and the people’s right to know—that must change.”
But yeah, I know it’s hard when many of us are just so punchable. Especially when we ask questions that may be uncomfortable. Shame on us! How dare we do our jobs!
But back to my point, writers often say, “I’m responsible only for what I write, not what you read.” That seems very apropos considering how often writers are assailed for saying things they didn’t actually say, all because people come into whatever they read with preconceived notions.
How about we make a deal? Whatever you read (especially if it’s in a newspaper), read it with an open mind and without trying to divine hidden meanings that offend your partisan leanings. True, some do veil their comments, but newswriting for the most part is pretty straightforward. If someone writes about a protest, guess what—they might just be writing about the protest without making a value judgment. If an opinion writer speaks of a distaste for a certain politician, perhaps it’s the politician, not the party, that the writer is describing.
Now I know that won’t really stem confirmation bias, but perhaps we can bring back what “straight talk” used to mean—open, honest and direct. You remember what “honest” means, don’t you?
A word here for the U.K., which is dealing with multiple terror attacks in London and Manchester: Regardless of the mixed signals coming out of D.C., I believe the bulk of us are with you Brits. We all should ignore the fearmongering and the statements taken out of context. I’m sure that you will continue to carry on calmly and bravely, as you have for centuries, without getting your knickers in a twist over semantics or false narratives.
We’re all bigger than the pettiness we’ve seen in recent days. Now we just have to prove it.
Between misleading people on the London attacks and trying to goad Mayor Sadiq Khan, ignoring home-grown attacks here in the U.S., and nearly completely forgetting to acknowledge the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, it was a busy week. And this was after tweeting a sentence fragment about “covfefe”early one morning.
Perhaps he could use a nap. And some fiber.
Four tweets vied for the top spot in my heart this week, but I can’t pick a favorite. OK, maybe I can, but maybe I want you to guess.