I get it, I really do.
Like many of you, I grew up at a time when we were lucky to have access to a few newspapers, a couple of half-hour news programs each evening and maybe, if we lived in a really big metro area, an all-news radio station. (Remember, “Give us 20 minutes and we’ll give you the world”?) The thing is, “the media” at the time was extremely limited, but it was also extremely important. It wasn’t all good, but we knew that, when there was an emergency or something that people had to know, we could rely on it. All of the other times? You have to take every story with a grain of salt. I lived in Baltimore, which had four newspapers; a Hearst paper, the Baltimore News-American, which was very reliable, for the most part, as long as you ignored the op-eds. There were the “Sunpapers,” the Morning Sun and the Evening Sun, both of which were operated independently, and which were also reliable because they were in a dogfight with the News-American and both were trying to appeal to people who wanted the best coverage. Of course, those two papers owned two of the three TV stations and a couple of radio stations, which they used to promote their newspapers. The fourth newspaper, the Baltimore Afro-American, was an excellent paper, but it was only available in “Black” areas of town. This was the 60s and early 70s and, officially speaking, redlining was illegal, but let’s be real. Those of us who lived in the ‘burbs never even saw the Afro-American. There was another TV channel with a good news program, and that one was owned by corporate giant (at the time) Westinghouse. On a good day, we could also pick up Washington’s all-news WTOP, which was owned by CBS at the time, so that was a good choice. But that was it. That was the extent of our “media.” Three networks, a few competitive newspapers and one radio station.
These days, we all have access to thousands of sources for our news, via this great big international wonder we call “the internet.” (We only stopped capitalizing it this year!) Now, we can read, watch and listen to everything we can get our hands on. I live in Tucson, Arizona right now and when a friend of mine is about to do a report on the morning news show where she works on the east coast, she can send me a text and I can get up at 4 a.m. and watch her and text her how great she was. I can listen to another friend who works at a radio station in Australia in the middle of the afternoon if I want and even send his show a music request, which he will proudly read on-air, as if the fact that someone from the United States requested a song was still a technological marvel.
Put simply, the world has changed. We now have access to news sources that we couldn’t have imagined years ago. And it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Like I said, I get it. It’s a brave new world out there, to be sure, and because the bullshit has proliferated as much as valid information, many of us have become wary. Unfortunately, the definition of wary has made some people almost as gullible as those who believe everything they read. It is very important to not believe everything you see or hear, but it is equally important to not disbelieve everything. Responsible information consumption means reading and listening to everything with an eye toward discerning the truth. Finding the truth is the most important thing we can do. That means we have to look at facts more closely than opinion, but it also means we can’t place ourselves in a bubble.
For example, I belong to a number of groups in which moderators post news stories as they come across them and, sometimes, they add some comments. In one case, I have been a subscriber since about 1997 and unfortunately, these posts have become less useful over the years because they all come from the same 3-4 sources. The choice of articles and comments doesn’t reflect a search for truth as much as a search for a (unicorn) progressive, um, “vision.”
If you are one of those who reads everything “certain people” write because you have been convinced that they are “true blue” progressives, and you refuse to read anything by someone who is “conservative,” you are not being fair to yourself. Right wingers are usually wrong, but sometimes, like a broken watch, they get something right. Conservatives (who are not the same as right wingers) use facts as much as most liberals, they just happen to see things in a different way. By the same token, there are a lot of people who pretend to be “progressives” (off the top of my head, Glenn Greenwald and David Sirota come to mind) who rarely cite actual fact; they just formulate an opinion and twist “evidence” to “support” it.
In other words, you have to select your news sources carefully. You have to choose media like you choose underwear. You want it to be comfortable, but it also shouldn’t have holes. And as you will be seeing from this blog over the next few weeks, the media on both the far left and the far right has a lot of holes. Be a good information consumer; check everything. Just because it comes from a “progressive” source doesn’t make it more truthful.
Stay tuned and you’ll understand what I mean.