May 182015
 

Back when I was on Facebook, a family member saw The Help and posted about it. She praised the film, and then ended her post with the declaration that this kind of racism was still around; it just went by the name “Tea Party” today.

At the time I actively supported a local Tea Party group. Being thoroughly unaware of any racist activities we had undertaken, I asked her how she got that idea. From “the news,” came the reply. I said I was active with a local group and had seen no evidence of racism in it, nor had I seen anything substantiated in the news.

“Well, maybe you’re not watching the correct news.”

So, here’s a comment on my perceived editorial diet, from someone I knew used Jon Stewart as a major news source.

I was reminded of this exchange reading comments on this article, in which a citation from Breitbart is derided as “not credible.” (The cited article contained references and links to Time magazine, as well as the Armed Services Committee web site.)

The first step to digesting information effectively—critically—is understanding that there is no such thing as a neutral source. Does Breitbart have a point of view? Yes—a stated conservative one. Does this point of view somehow excuse it from supporting what it says? Of course not. If anything, it intensifies the need for such support.

The classic case of dismissing the messenger is Fox News. Many people who have been conditioned to reject as propaganda anything appearing on Fox find no inconsistency in turning to CNN or other network news. They won’t be sucked into all of that biased crap, by God. And they’re the very worst ones: people who believe they have a “balanced” diet of news and opinion but in fact do not.

To get closest to the truth, you need to find an opinion source that’s as close to your political opposite as possible, and consume it regularly. I have used The Nation for this for years. It is straight, down the line, liberal red meat. If you want to look for liberal bias in an ostensibly mainstream news source, compare its coverage of a story with that in The Nation. Is the message different? Or is the only variation one of degree?

To be sure, there are sites and publications out there with well-deserved credibility problems. However, when it comes to more mainstream news and opinion sites, they’re closer to each other than you may realize in how well they’re researched, whether they have a point of view, and so forth.

Take a regular walk in an ideological neighborhood you don’t like.

Think.

 Posted by at 1:14 pm
May 132015
 

“My name is Lucifer! Please take my hand!”

So sang Ronnie James Dio as I dug Black Sabbath’s Live Evil on my commute recently.

I got to thinking about the anti-rock crusaders of my childhood railing against the devil in heavy metal music, and considered that a Black Sabbath album was a place that you really could find such. (It was actually ubiquitous and nefariously disguised, according to the crusaders.)

Not that Black Sabbath, Dio, or anyone else making heavy metal music had any interest in their listeners worshipping Satan. It was theater, and despite the breathless proclamations of these road show stooges, the impressionable little kiddies who took it seriously almost didn’t exist.

I remember thinking at the time that these anti-rock guys did what they did because it was easy. The bad guys were remote, and unable to speak in their own defense. There was certainly no shortage of conservative churches ready to pay them to come in. So how can we “help” our children? Well, going after drug dealers is hard, and the kids won’t listen if we talk to them about integrity and personal responsibility. So let’s demonize Cheap Trick instead.

Consider that it was Generation X who essentially destigmatized the idea of children being born to unmarried parents. Oh, we didn’t do it in the numbers that are happening today, but it was first “okay” with us. Ditto the hookup/friends-with-benefits culture that is the established norm on so many college campuses now.

Those are things that were hard to talk about, and our letting them go over the cliff has been disastrous for society. What if the anti-rock guys had been as passionate about those issues? Could we have applied any effort to prevent the disaster? Was the scope of the threat recognizable?

Can we be honest about them today, speaking frankly about their negative effects, instead of babbling about microaggression and issuing trigger warnings?

 Posted by at 9:45 am
Apr 212015
 

So it seems like it wasn’t so long ago—like, a month or two—that Hillary was lying low. “Huddling with advisors,” “working on her message,” and considering “how to reintroduce herself” were common phrases. My response, and that of many others, was along the lines of “this is a person who’s been in continuous national sight […]

 Posted by at 7:40 am

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