Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Most of the News

May 29, 2019

I haven’t heard a lot about the knife attack in Japan this week.  But I’m pretty positive that the little I’ve heard about the attack hasn’t mentioned most of the students were waiting not just for an ordinary school bus, but a rather amazing thing in Japan, a bus to take them to a Catholic school.  While I don’t want to rush to the presumption that this was a hate crime directed against Christians, it remains an interesting piece of data at the very least.   I wonder if it will be investigated from this angle or not, and I wonder if it will be reported on if it is discovered that the attack was motivated specifically against Christians.

Jumping for Conclusions

April 23, 2019

Like many of you, I watched in sorrow as Notre Dame de Paris burned at the start of Holy Week.  And like many of you, I heard many news reports declaring that, even before people were able to investigate fully, the cause of the fire was accidental, related to an antiquated electrical system, perhaps.

News stories have left it at this, at best.  CNN has no new updates on the cause or investigation after almost a week.  The New York Times runs stories (like this) that presume an accident and leave no room for deeper exploration of the event.  But that’s not unreasonable, is it?  I mean, it must have just been an accident, right?  Even though it happened at the start of Holy Week – the holiest time of the Christian liturgical year?  I mean, you’d need additional evidence before you start hypothesizing that perhaps it wasn’t just an accident, right?

I didn’t hear about other attacks on churches in Paris in the same rough timeframe.  Here’s an article that deals with whether US media should bother to report on Christian sites being attacked in Europe (fortunately the article thinks that they should be reported on, but the reality is that they by and large are not reported on in the US.)But this article pointed out that Notre Dame was  not the only church having difficulties in the days leading up to or including Holy Week.  Like the Basilica of St. Denis.  Another article indicated that a recent arrival from Pakistan had been arrested in conjunction with some  of the vandalism, though the article did not mention the man’s religion.  And in the weeks that followed, as Christians around the world suffered violence and death, there has been a marked reluctance to identify causes.  The article’s title – Taquiyya – is reference to a Muslim doctrine that permits Muslims to lie about their religious adherence when necessary.  What about the arson at St. Sulpice in early March?  Didn’t hear about that either, and Newsweek apparently is only mentioning it because the priest there is cautioning against Notre Dame conspiracy theories.

Didn’t hear about these events?  Or about many other similar events?  How curious.  There’s a story here about it.  Here’s a story with an editorial insert to assure readers that they aren’t insinuating that Notre Dame was anything but an accident, despite all these other horrific acts of vandalism or sabotage to other Christian churches.  Articles such as this go out of their way to quote people – religious  people especially – who claim that Christian houses of worship are not being singled out for attack.  But this is exactly what seems to be happening, whether the media wants to acknowledge it or cover it or not. Christian news sites are far more willing to say the difficult reality – attacks on Christian churches are on the rise, and that those attacks with links to Islam are increasing dramatically.

If a mosque is attacked anywhere in the world, the outpouring of sympathy is monumental.  But if Christian churches are attacked and their adherents slaughtered, there is little mention at all.  Some sites are willing to show the unusual lengths that many prominent politicians in our country will go to not to acknowledge acts against  Christians, and not only to not question Islamic extremism, but use attacks on Christian churches as an opportunity to denounce Islamophobia.

Americans can enjoy or depend upon a basic NIMBY attitude (not in my back yard) to justify ignorance or disinterest.  But ignorance and disinterest are the necessary fertilizer to allow acts of violence to crop up and proliferate.  As many have pointed out, regardless of whether Notre Dame was an accident or not, as lamentable as the destruction to the building is more lamentable still is the atrophied state of Christianity in France, in Europe, and increasingly in the United States.  In many real senses the death of church buildings is a sign of the death of the faith itself in large numbers of the population.

I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories.  Nor do I think that Muslims are behind any and every attack on Christian sites or people.  Neither should we turn a blind eye – or have our eyes blinded due to lack of coverage or investigation – if there are real and credible threats.  And as a reminder to all those folks out there so aghast that our President might belittle or mistrust media and news outlets, it’s slanted or non-existent coverage of this kind that lead not just the President but many others to distrust our media and news outlets, suspecting them of partisan politics and skewed reporting to support it.  Be objective and let the chips fall where they may.  This used to be the ideal and goal of news outlets and journalists.  I don’t blame people for suspecting that this isn’t the goal any longer.

Actual News?

March 6, 2019

Remember that big ruckus about the migrant caravan last year, thousands of people traveling from Central America through Mexico to the American border?  It would be understandable if you don’t remember it – the news certainly hasn’t been saying much about it since.  Or about other caravans.  Or about illegal border crossings in general.  After all, to report on such things would be to acknowledge that there’s a problem with people entering our country illegally in large numbers.  Large enough numbers that we ought to take steps – for the sake of both American citizens as well as those who wish to become citizens or live here legally – to clarify immigration policy and ensure that people enter the country safely and properly.

I remember an article a month or more ago talking about how border patrol along the border with Mexico apprehended 3000 illegal entrants in a single day.  That’s a lot, I thought at the time, yet there wasn’t much talk  about it.  After all, politicians of all stripes were working hard to prevent any substantive progress on border security, least of all a wall.  What a ridiculous idea!  Hahahahaha!

Now, all of a sudden, the media is beginning to talk about the reality.  The New York TimesFox News.  Even Al Jazeera.  That number from a month or so ago may not have been unusual.  Homeland Security is now claiming there is a crisis on our border with Mexico, with 76,000 illegal entries last month, and more likely on the way.  And that’s just the people they caught.  Which means that 90,000 entries per month (3000 per day x 30) is not necessarily an outlandish figure.  And for those who won’t take the time to crunch the numbers for themselves, that adds up to nearly a million possible illegal entries into our country every year.

Does that sound like a problem to you?  Because it sure does to me.  Not a new, problem, by the way.  Ask anyone living in the Southwestern United States and they’ll tell you that this has been an issue for a long, long time.  An issue politicians have repeatedly failed to address properly.

Does a wall sound that outlandish now?  It doesn’t to me.  It didn’t to me from the beginning – because growing up in Arizona I heard all the time about illegal border crossings.  It was a fact of life – a dangerous one both for Americans as well as those seeking to enter our country.  Some of the illegal entries were drug runners who would kill people (American citizens) who accidentally stumbled across their path on state or federal lands.  Some of the illegal entries came with coyotes, people who took money to get people across the border, but would sometimes abandon them in the middle of nowhere.  In the summer.  In the desert.  With no water or food.  People died.

Since other forms of prevention have not worked, it seems as though a wall would be a good idea for everyone.  For Americans, it ensures that we have dramatically less illegal entries into our country, whether from well-intentioned asylum seekers or drug runners.  It means we are safer, as having a handle on who is coming into your country is a pretty universally understood concept.  It also is safer for those who seek entry, who at this point are being told that they can claim asylum and have a better chance of staying in the country, even if they’re caught entering illegally.

I want people to come to our country.  I want our country to continue to be a place of hope and promise.  I want people who seek a better life or who are fleeing from danger to find a safe place here.  But I also understand that this is only possible if things are done in an orderly manner.  That to not address this problem is to continue to make these things unsafe for people on both sides of the border.

I understand the objection that walls are not foolproof.  Obviously.  But they are remarkably effective all the same.  More effective than border patrol agents alone.  More effective than fences and other half-hearted measures we have tried in the past.

I also understand that the issue isn’t just about controlling our borders and access to our country.  The issue should be about being good neighbors to those areas to the south of us that are dealing with human rights issues, with a lack of protection for their citizens.  We should be every bit as committed to protecting those people and helping them with a better life as we are for people on the other side of the world.

It’s a complicated issue.  It always has been and it always will be.  But obviously something needs to be done to change how it is being handled now dramatically and quickly.

Wag the Dog

January 23, 2019

I’ve yet to see this movie yet, despite thinking about it over the years.  I remember thinking at the time it came out that it was a brilliant concept, and a frighteningly realistic one.  Fast forward 20+ years and our technical know-how and digital wizardry is leagues ahead of 1997.

President Trump has taken a lot of flack for his skepticism, let’s say, about the press.  His insistence that the press is not unbiased and sometimes outright untrustworthy has raised the cry of many, not the least of which the press itself.  And yet we repeatedly find out that the press is a) not unbiased and b) often untrustworthy.  How related these two are falls into an area of personal opinion that I’d rather not get into but leave for you to come to grips with.  Not everyone with a press badge is unbiased or trustworthy.  The press badge does not confer these qualities upon them.  Nor does owning a media outlet, nor does being the editor-in-chief or any other title confer these qualities magically.

Add to this mix the ability for people holding a phone to put together footage that looks and sounds a certain way and then farm it out to the media for coverage, and you have a perfect storm.  There may not always  be a need to wholesale fabricate events (though I wouldn’t put it past most people/politicians), but there is a very real possibility that something presented in a certain way is not the whole story at the very least.

So we have the latest outrage over alleged mockery of native Americans by a group of teenagers on the National Mall in Washington DC.  Media – social and otherwise – was apoplectic over the jittery footage displaying a confrontation between an older Native American and a crowd of Anglo high schoolers, allegedly mocking him.  After the traditional screaming matches of the past few days, new footage and testimony apparently contradict the initial reports.  Rather than the teenagers surrounding the man and mocking him, he and his group approached their group, apparently intent on some sort of confrontation, possibly spurred on by the fact that some of the youth were wearing Make America Great Again hats.

These clarified reports of the event are bolstered further by reports that this same man – Nathan Phillips – attempted to disrupt Catholic mass this past Saturday evening at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception also in Washington DC.  What  was – and continues to be – interpreted as another tragic instance of white oppression against minorities, and more importantly as further evidence of the degradation of America under President Trump, may in fact be the exact opposite of this.

An unbiased press might have thought twice before rushing in to condemn the alleged perpetrators.  A more trustworthy press would have sought out possible alternative narratives before passing judgment and leading a firestorm of threats against the youth and their school and families.  That’s the sort of press we need, in a day and age where footage can not only be fabricated, but certainly can be recorded in such a way as to obscure what is actually happening, or to exclude details that might put interpretation into a better perspective.  When every person has a smart phone with a video camera in it, the assumption that any such footage must by definition be fully accurate in what it appears to portray is foolish at best, dishonest at worst.

But since I do believe that much of our press is both biased and untrustworthy, here is a basic tip for y’all at home about how to handle this stuff.

Don’t assume that just because you read it online or see it on a TV news report or read it in your newspaper that it’s true.  Certainly not immediately, and when it relates to alleged footage obtained from unidentified sources.  Journalists should be taking care of this sort of filtering for you but they aren’t.  So do it yourself.  Before you react violently on social media, give things a few days to settle out.  Recognize that media outlets are commercial ventures, not non-profit organizations.   They depend on advertising revenues linked to the number of viewers or subscribers they have.  In which case, the pressure to be the first to report a breaking news event is incredible.  Shortcuts are undoubtedly taken in terms of verifying sources, looking for alternative points of view, and other basic unbiased and trustworthy reporting actions.  Therefore the possibility that breaking news isn’t all that it seems is only going to increase.

And for goodness’ sake, before you start screaming derogatory comments about entire groups of people (which is what this story was all about in the first place, remember?), remember your basic human decency.  Even if it turns out that someone is caught doing something abhorrent on video, it does not mean that:

  • Everyone who wears the same clothing brands as that person supports their actions
  • Everyone who voted for the same candidates that person did supports their actions
  • Everyone of the same race or ethnicity as that person supports their actions
  • Everyone with the same accent supports their actions

Take a few deep breaths people.  We live in complicated times where things aren’t always what they seem.  Don’t be the dog wagged by the tail.

 

 

 

 

Interpreting the News

October 25, 2018

Perhaps you’ve heard about the group of migrants headed towards the United States from Central America?  No?  Can you tell me how you are able to remain undisturbed by these sorts of tidbits?  I’m willing to invest in whatever technology you’re using!

So the local paper carried a Reuters article about the progress of the migrant caravan so far, and I’ve spent the last 20 minutes trying to interpret it.  It’s easy to just gloss over the specifics, but I decided to actually try and make sense of what the article claimed to tell me.

It tells me that first of all, the caravan numbers  in the thousandsMost of them are from Honduras.  This is the second paragraph of the article.  But in the 4th paragraph, I’m told that the caravan started with hundreds of people in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula.  Google maps showed me that location in northwestern Honduras, close to the border with Guatemala.  Now, after passing through all of Guatemala, the caravan numbers thousands of people and yet most of them are Honduran?  I’m not sure how that makes sense, but I suppose it could actually be true.

Mexican officials, I’m told, are trying to navigate between our country’s demands that they stop the migrants, and their commitment to migrants’ rights.  First off, I think our leadership needs to cool their jets.  It’s not our job to tell Mexico (or Guatemala, or Honduras) how to enforce their borders.  Clearly, as this article demonstrates, that control is illusory at best.  If Mexico wants to let thousands of unknown people wander through their country, so be it.  They claim to be carefully processing everyone and I hope that they are – that’s the responsible thing to do.  President Trump or anyone else shouldn’t be telling them what or how to do things.

Of course, the understanding is that the only reason this is being paid attention to is that it fuels the fires for conflicts here at home over immigration.  I was  very impressed that this article characterized the two sides of our domestic debate more fairly than I typically see or hear.  One side supports legal immigration and the enforcement of federal immigration law.  The other side has some people who support abolishing ICE and [establishing] open borders.  I think that’s a reasonable  description of the sides.

Publicity of this caravan only is helpful to the latter side.  By highlighting the humanitarian crisis of these people, pressure will be put to bear on anyone who denies them entry into their country – ours or otherwise.  Those who support immigration control can use this as an example of why we need to protect our borders, but frankly, that’s an obvious assertion anyways.  I don’t know of many countries in the world – all right, any – who don’t control their borders.  I don’t know of any countries who don’t have policies about how to handle people who want to come into their country.

Except maybe Mexico and Guatemala, who seem to have some policies but are fine with disregarding them.  I’m not sure I’d agree to welcome with open arms a mob that tears down fences and demands entry on the basis of wanting a better life.  The want is valid.  The means, not so much.

Our country has policies as well, but there are people who apparently don’t like them and think we should ignore them.  I maintain that if we don’t like our immigration policies, we need to rewrite the laws rather than simply decide if we want to enforce them or not.  Doing so is actually a benefit to potential immigrants – it allows them to know what to expect if and when they reach our borders.  It’s far more humanitarian to actually establish and follow laws and procedures and policies, rather than leave it up to the whims of an official or bureaucrat as to whether they are enforced or not.

All of which misses the main point.  If San Pedro Sula – and by extension all of Honduras – is riddled with crime, why aren’t we pressuring or helping the Hondurans to establish some sort of rule of law?  Why is there absolutely no talk of why people are fleeing Honduras, only what we should do with them if or when they reach our borders?  Isn’t  the main humanitarian crisis in Honduras then, not making it’s way through Mexico?  And if these people come from such a corrupt, crime-infested country, and if they’re willing to disregard international rules of law regarding how to enter a country, then why in the world wouldn’t we carefully screen and scrutinize them before allowing them into our country?

I’m all for being merciful and responding to the plight of others, but unfortunately this article doesn’t do any of that, and neither are either of our political parties.  Similar to the refugee and immigrant crisis Europe has faced over the last few years prompted by the civil war in Syria, the major issue shouldn’t be how to put these people into new countries and cultures, but rather how to make sure that these people don’t have to leave home in the first place.  Humanitarian efforts, or democratic efforts shouldn’t be a political football here at home.

But I digress.

The second issue is (continued from my paragraph four) the issue of migrant rights.  What rights, precisely, does someone have who comes to the border of a country and asks to be let in?  I think most people would agree that the only practical rights are the rights that the country gives them.  If I show up on the border of Canada and want to come in and live there, I should expect that they should ask me some questions.  I should expect that this may take some time.  I may not get in right away.  I may have to stay on this side of their border until they know whether or not they want to let me in.  If I’m requesting humanitarian aid, then likely the wait is better than whatever I’m facing on this side of the border.  Hopefully they’ll offer me some food or something.  Perhaps they’ll have an internment area where I can stay if my safety or health is in danger.  Politically speaking, that would be very kind and generous of them.  I’m not sure it’s a  right of mine as an immigrant that they would be ethically bound to honor, or honor beyond a certain point.

I can say as a Christian that I might be tasked with providing a  migrant with assistance.  Jesus’ exhortation to love our neighbor makes pesky business of these issues of geo-political boundaries.  I can’t not love the person standing in front of me because of their immigration status.  If they’re in front of me and I can help, I probably should.

However that does NOT mean I must support open borders or no immigration enforcement.  There is nothing in the Bible that I can see as a clear mandate to ignore the rule of law and ignore national laws and borders.  I can see lots of places in Scripture that call me to respect and honor them as much as I can while maintaining my faith and worship of God.  And it doesn’t mean that if someone is here illegally and suffering that I’m under no obligation to show love to them.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it works just the other way.  But that doesn’t mean that I have to support legislation that provides a legal support framework carte blanche for people who come to this country.  We live in a broken and sinful world and therefore need to be wise in how we do things.  That includes immigration.  Wise, but compassionate.  Firm, but loving.  Those can be hard things to manage.  Just another of those tensions we are called to live in, Biblically.

If a stranger shows up pounding at my door at 3 am and demanding help, what do I do?  First off, it’s not unreasonable to try and ensure the safety of myself and my family before I open the door.  I may choose to yell back and forth through the door with this person until I have a better idea of who they are and if they pose a threat to me.  Let’s say I open the door to talk and find out what’s going on.  What rights does this person have?  What can they demand of me?  Can they demand that I let them sleep on my couch just because it’s raining and they don’t have a place to stay?  Perhaps.  But that’s a contextual decision, not a policy.  We’ve actually opened our home to someone we only just met so they had a place to stay for the night.  It was an unusual situation in which we were pretty sure we were not going to be robbed or killed or otherwise harmed.  But it would be lunacy and irresponsibility to say that we had to make that offer to anyone who demanded it of us.

I may not let the person in my house to dry off or sleep on the couch.  Sorry, but I have responsibilities to my family to consider first.  That doesn’t mean I’m unloving.  Nor does it mean I can just slam the door on them and feel justified.  As a Christian I should still desire to be of help if I can.  Maybe it’s giving them an umbrella or a jacket.  Maybe it’s offering to pay for a hotel room.  Maybe it’s directing them to the local warming center.  Maybe it’s taking them there.  Situations vary.  Responses vary.  I’ll undoubtedly end up making a few mistakes here and there.  I desire to do good but I’m not perfect or omniscient.  Knowing that, I try to err on the side of caution without losing love for this person as a creation of God’s.

Is that not a reasonable analogy?  Explain to me how it isn’t, other than a matter of scale and degrees of separation in terms of me personally having to deal with the situation.

On the national level it gets trickier, but I think the same principles hold true.  We need to deal with people in love as much as we can, but that doesn’t mean that they get to dictate what that love is and how it looks and feels.  It’s complicated, but it’s not rocket science necessarily.  Think about how you would handle the situation in the middle of the night at your own home, and then extend those principles to the national level.  Quit screaming at each other and figure out something that works.  Act like adults instead of petulant children.  Lives are at stake here – we owe it to those truly in need to figure out how best to help them.

Then we can try to help people so that they can stay in their homes safely rather than trekking thousands of miles to a new place and being subjected to all of the dangers and inconveniences that entails.

 

 

 

You Don’t Say?

October 21, 2018

I opined earlier this week about various potential catastrophic events that could prove to be the undoing of the world or large portions of it, whether by a lack of bugs or education-related financial collapse.   Neither of which was on the horizon as I was growing up under the shadow of imminent nuclear annihilation.  The Doomsday Clock is a visual reminder of the potential horror we still live with, but which time and the passage of landmark arms limitation treaties and reductions in nuclear arsenals slightly quelled.  Those achievements actually moved the clock back significantly, both from where it started in 1947 and where it nearly struck midnight in the 1980’s.

Incidentally, we’re back to two minutes before midnight on the clock, just like we were in 1953.

So withdrawing from a decades-old agreement signed by President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 just sounds foolish, doesn’t it?  Surely our President has, once again, gone mad!  Or remained mad.

Maybe not.

It’s fairly common knowledge that the Soviets and the Russians have failed to keep the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  The main effect of this seems to be that the Russians have felt free to work on new weaponry while the US – in honoring the treaty – has not.  Pulling out of the treaty with international understanding that it is Russia who has not honored it and therefore rendered it moot might be a good reminder to folks that the Cold War isn’t necessarily over, and nuclear weapons are still here and likely to stick around long past our lifetimes.

Unless someone presses some  buttons and accelerates the end of our lifetimes considerably.

Nothing much changes, folks.  While it’s comforting to think that we’ve progressed past barbarity and distrust and dishonesty and spies and assassinations and all the other hallmarks of a long and difficult history as a species, we haven’t.  This requires wisdom to navigate the safest course we can through our sinful condition, and we need to recognize that not everyone honors the principles and ideals that we find so soothing and wise.

While it’s sad to see something that was a big deal at the time discarded, it’s sadder to know that it was never really the big deal we all hoped it would be.  Back to the drawing board, and prayers that maybe next time it will work a little better.

Your Money at Work

October 19, 2018

How do you help cope  with the devastation of Hurricane Michael in the Southeastern United States?  Lots of ways come to mind.  You could volunteer your time.  You could send money.  You could rally others to do these things as a group.

Or you could fly 15 dogs to Santa Barbara from Florida.

Something you might want to consider the next time you’re hit up to donate to the Humane Society.

I can’t honestly believe that this was the most cost effective solution to the situation.  Surely there were shelters closer that could have accommodated these animals at a fraction of the cost?  But to fly them across the country?!  Are they going to be flown back at some point once the influx of storm-related loose animals abates?

I speak as a dog owner and dog lover.  This just sounds like a ridiculous waste of money, and yet is being promoted as somehow wonderful.  I’m glad these dogs are safe and that other animals can be safe because of relocating existing shelter animals.  It’s one of those logistics that I wouldn’t naturally think of.  But I also wouldn’t naturally think of relocating them to the entire other side of the continent.

More Than One Way to Go

October 16, 2018

As a kid we worried about nuclear holocaust.  I can vividly remember some of the emotions that would strike from time to time as I pondered a cruel reality of a nuclear arms race I was powerless to affect.

Turns out there might be other things that take us out before nukes do.  Like the disappearance or decline of massive quantities of bugs.  And while this is a comforting thing in the confines of my house, on a global scale it sounds very much like the recipe for a global natural disaster of epic proportions.

Just one more thing to ponder before you fall asleep tonight!

Defending the Press

October 5, 2017

President Trump has taken a lot of flack from nearly the beginning of his presidency for his dismissal of the press.  Humanly speaking, it’s hard to blame him.  The press has not exactly been kind to him, constantly seeking for some malfeasance or other transgression to invalidate his election, his presidency, his existence.  His public and sometimes official policy of ignoring representatives from certain press outlets infuriated some people and resulted in allegations that President Trump is anti-press.  Dan Rather now routinely writes on Facebook posting his dismay and disgust on this topic as well as many other issues wherein he disagrees with conservatives and President Trump.  So be it.  He’s entitled to his say.

But I believe there is a distinction to be made between having a press badge and being what the press has always supposed to be – an unbiased and investigative community reporting the news in as objective a manner as possible.  This is a press I think most people – conservative and liberal alike – can get behind and support.  This is the press at it’s finest.  You want to uncover the misdoings of Watergate and topple a president?  Go for it – but be objective!  You want to defend wantonly criminal actions of a sitting official or candidate because you agree with them ideologically?  I’m not nearly as impressed.  Press representatives on both ends of the spectrum fall into this dangerous pit repeatedly.  At this point, I don’t think I’m the only American who thinks that ideological bias has been institutionalized in most major media outlets.  The press is not free and objective, but rather dedicated to fostering a particular view of events that support their ideological leanings.

So it was that I turned on NPR the other morning for the first time in months.  I want to like NPR.  I really do.  Hell, as a taxpayer I pay for it.  But I can’t listen to it for too long before the inherent bias’ in their reporting leaves me frustrated and I have to turn it off.  This particular morning it was discussing President Trump’s upcoming visit to hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico.

Of course, most of the initial discussion was about the anticipated tenseness sure to be present at his meeting with local officials, some of whom were loudly critical of his response (and our nation’s response as a whole) to the devastation suffered in Puerto Rico.  The reporter and the radio anchor person eagerly opined about how it would be awkward indeed.  The reporter then duly reported about how there was no power in Puerto Rico and the situation was dire.

But the more you listened, the more you realized she was only telling part of the story, the part that accented her desire to make President Trump look bad.  A few minutes later, she lamented that not many people in Puerto Rico would know about the President’s visit, though some would, because, actually, there were some radio stations broadcasting.  And if you have radio stations broadcasting and people picking up their broadcasts, there is likely at least *some* power on the island.  But rather than talk about how some power is being restored – whether through the grid or through shared or individual generators, the narrative is simply that there is no electricity to speak of.

Furthermore, discussion was about how aid was being distributed.  Meaning the materials and aid were already present, but there were difficulties or delays in distributing it.  Which sounds a lot different from the impression I’ve had in the news that we haven’t done anything.  Things are happening, but it’s difficult.  That’s news I can understand, but it doesn’t happen to make Trump look bad and so the presentation needs spin, apparently.

I want a free press.  I need a free press.  And frankly I have no problem with a president or anyone else who wants to point out that our press isn’t exactly objective and unbiased.  I’m not naive to think that it has ever been – or ever could be 100% objective and free from bias.  But it could do a lot better.  That’s what I was taught as a news reporter and then news editor way back in the Dark Ages of high school.  Report the facts.  Leave the interpretation to the Op-Ed pages.  Make sure readers can trust there is a clear distinction between what happens on the news pages and what happens on the Editorial pages.

Maybe our press outlets could use a reminder of this basic fact that undergirds the American concept of a free press, yet seems to regularly get ignored.  Educate the people on the facts and let them draw their conclusions, don’t presume you have to pre-package the facts to make sure that people reach the conclusion you want them to reach.  You’ll find your readers and hearers more appreciative and more supportive.

At least this one.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin…

September 22, 2017

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this children’s book while after reading this blog post.  Apparently a news reporter interviewed a Nazi who was publicly assaulted, and the writer of the blog post was angry that they did so because it could make Nazism sympathetic and end up leading others to follow that ideology.  The alternative, the author insists, is that you never give a Nazi a platform.  Never allow their message to go out.

At first it makes sense.  I don’t like Nazism.  As a student of history I’m well acquainted with the evils perpetrated by that ideology.  I don’t want there to be more Nazis.

But the more I thought about it, I realized why this approach didn’t sit well with me.  It presumes that the hearers/viewers are helpless, passive, and incapable of understanding either the context of the interview or the ideology that the Nazi might espouse.  It presumes that viewers/hearers need to be protected less they fall under the sway of this virulent ideology.  It reminds of the way some conservative Christians choose to raise their children – by trying to shelter them from the junk in the world and never expose them to anything that hasn’t been thoroughly sanitized.

In both cases the result is the same.  By failing to prepare people for the ideologies they will encounter in our increasingly hyper-connected world, we make possible our worst fears.  The way to protect people against whatever charm Nazi ideology might utilize is to teach them about Nazism.  Teach them about history.  Teach them about the Holocaust.  At the same time teach them about democracy, and in particular teach them about the beauty and value of free speech.  Then, if they view or hear a Nazi who was the victim of a crime talking about their ideology, they will be able to distinguish the value of free speech and protection from assault from Nazism.  They’ll be able to say I disagree completely with what this person espouses, but at the same time they deserve protection under the law and the right to speak, because that is the democracy we live under.

Which is different from the censorship that the Nazis used to control what people thought, and which mirrors, ironically enough, what the blog author espouses.  In a democracy people should be educated so that they can make good decisions.  Not everyone can or will.  But it is better to risk that some should not make good decisions, than to deny everyone the freedom to make a decision.  An educated nation will be able to reject ideas and principles that are incorrect.  Maybe not immediately, but eventually.  Hopefully.  But that requires education.  It also happens to require a strong moral common ground, something that has been decimated by many folks who also argue that some groups shouldn’t be allowed to speak freely or aren’t entitled to the same rights that they themselves are.

Reject Nazism.  But don’t destroy democracy in the process.  Nobody is better off with an insulated, poorly educated population who relies on censorship to keep away things that they would prefer not to deal with.  Nobody is better off under such circumstances.  Other than those who happen to be championing them and insisting that their ideology is the one that should be implemented.