Gene Cook will not read the “garbage” of Paul Krugman or Charles Blow (“A new windbag,” Sept. 12 Steamboat Today). He will not allow himself to be informed by opinions that are in opposition to his own. This is, in a nutshell, the sorry state of the American body-politic. More than ever before, the burden of citizenship demands each of us to hear all the opinions and arguments on the serious problems facing our nation. How else can an individual filter out the “garbage”? If either Fox News or MSNBC is the entire source of a voter’s information, perhaps reinforced by a selective choice of blogs, then it’s simply a case of garbage in, garbage out. These “news” outlets are not designed to inform; they have only one objective, to turn a profit by targeting advertising to a specific target audience.
Just this week, on one side it was reported that our embassy in Cairo stated that we abhor insulting attacks on the Muslim religion and also on any other religion. The commentary argued that crying out “fire” in a crowded theater should be prevented. They alluded to a film trailer calling the Muslim faith a cancer. The film was said to be produced with “the donation of 100 wealthy Jewish donors,” quoting the producer who was reported to be in hiding. On the other side it was reported that the president did not properly distance himself from the embassy statement (the actual statement was not reported during my viewing of the Fox News coverage). The commentary continued by saying that America should never apologize for its freedoms and that the apology indicates a fundamental weakness of our nation to the world.
It would be interesting to compare the Wall Street Journal’s next-day coverage with Fox News. The Journal, owned by the same corporation as Fox, has a very different target audience and will have a cool and straight forward reporting of the story. The editorial page will show a more complete understanding of the facts. Much of the news and commentary today reminds me of my class on propaganda analysis more than 50 years ago reading the Daily Worker and listening to Radio Moscow. They had their target audience back then, as well.
So, what can a person do? Try not to be drawn into an echo chamber that only reinforces your own prejudices. Make an honest attempt to hear all sides of an issue. Check the facts. Read between the lines. Beware of ideological solutions. Be pragmatic.
More than 50 years ago, I had a conversation with a fellow U.S. Air Force officer from the South about racial integration. The conversation ended with his saying, “I don’t care what the facts are. I can’t accept it. I won’t hear of it.” Our country has cleared that hurdle, but the race goes on.