My husband and I, both televised political and news coverage junkies, disagree about how much coverage to allow into our home, but the one area in which we are in agreement is that MSNBC is the only mainstream news entity that routinely covers progressive analysis of topics.
Allow me to re-emphasize that last point, if you will. It is analysis and not individual topics themselves that have political leanings. People and editorial entities have political stances; news that is fact based, as news is supposed to be, cannot have a political viewpoint.
I, personally, am best described in current political jargon as a “Progressive.” The thing that is totally weird is that, even though my perspective is best described by the word progressive, I do not believe in the concept of progress. I believe that change happens all the time, but progress is a dangerous concept. Few people define what progress is or would be and how it would be measured. To over-simplify to the extreme Democrats currently view the past as flawed and the future as wide open. Similarly, to over-simplify to the extreme, Republicans view the past as perfect and the future as a dangerous or even horrific if we continue moving in the direction we are moving. Neither perspective is acceptable in and of itself. The past has passed on, and we rarely know what really happened and almost never know why it happened. This type of uncertainty is not something most people like to think about or can even tolerate in our lives. I am a rarity in that dealing with uncertainty, while it is scary to plan for, is the only reality in which I can exist. To believe in anything else would constitute my being negligent to the point of endangering my family, my life, and my world. To me that is the bottom line.
This view is antithetical to the oversimplified pabulum we are fed at every turn by entities whose best interest is to have the vast majority of the people not pay attention to big pictures. In my interpretation of the world, progressives are not wide-eyed liberals who just want us all to get along, in my world progressives are actually pessimists because they acknowledge the crap that has come before, still exists, and believe we can make it all better. In my interpretation of the world, conservatives are the optimists who think there was some glory point in the past where things were much better and by adopting elements of what worked before we can make the future a better place.
I cannot make peace with either of these perspectives, and to let you know why I cannot, please allow me to digress for a moment and bring religion into the mix. And while I am at it, I might as well get the other taboo topic, of which “nice women” are not supposed speak, out in the open, too. Religion, politics and sex, the things that nice women are not supposed to talk about. Bull Shit!
My mitochondrial DNA comes from long line of Amish people, although for the last few generations we have been more likely to define ourselves religiously as some other Protestant denomination. I cannot say much about my father’s lineage because, even though I know about Dad’s list of ancestors via public documents, marriage records, baptismal records, and family Bible records back into the 1700s, as anthropologists say, “Paternity is always problematic.” The “Pennsylvania Dutch” from whom I am descended are called Dutch, in my humble opinion, not because they are Dutch, the Amish are of Swiss decent, but because they passed through the Netherlands as refugees and because they spoke what my father always referred to as Low German as their mother tongue even after becoming Americans. At the time they became a cohesive group they believed in putting their tightly controlled community first, over any other allegiance, and that belief is still alive and well in my family even though the religion that went with it in its original state has not been observed since, at least, my great, great grandmother’s generation. The history of being political refugees is one that had enough meaning for my ancestors, both long past and recent, from the Amish ancestry as well as from the strong Anabaptist traditions of my father’s family that dates well back into the 1700s. Genetically and socially I was taught to be very suspicious of, and teach my children to be suspicious of corporate control. Corporate control beyond the purely business definition can be any outside group that attempts to control another group. This corporate body could be primarily a religious, political, or financial entity, or in the case of the Holy Roman Church that persecuted the first Amish, all three. Most families no longer have this strong of an oral tradition. The cyclic nature of history was taught to me as a part of my family history and family history was strongly influenced by both religious and political concerns.
In my family it was always okay to talk politics and religion whenever family was gathered together and my father was present. It was always okay to be political in public too. My dad lobbied in D.C., representing the local Farmer’s Union, and he also met a President which is rather uncommon in today’s world. He was given a tour of the Truman Library, in Independence, Missouri, by President Truman, as the President apparently was wont to do in the 1950s, when he was in a small group of farmer’s at a conference in Kansas City who opted to participate in an optional tour of the library. Dad also was a poll worker for his political party at election time.
I take politics seriously, religion seriously, and equality of the sexes seriously. I know why I believe in the way that I do. I want facts. I want history. And I want people to understand the difference between blind allegiance and informed support. I believe the responsibility of every American is to engage in critical thinking as best as she or he can so as to be an informed citizen . Our nation was founded to support individual economic autonomy and religious tolerance. These essential ingredients in our founding mix that is reflected in documents like the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are in danger of being lost if our recipe is changed. The essential ingredient in the original recipe that created our Great Nation that seems to be missing more and more often in contemporary political discussion is having an educated government and citizenry who know the difference between opinion and fact.
How much time do we spend on getting the facts about things that concern us, what kind of analysis or interpretation of the data do we take in and give weight or take at face value, and where are we getting our facts and how do we know we are facts? In my view it seems that more and more people in the U.S. have somehow missed the training that teaches them to think for themselves. How did this happen? How can we counteract it?
Do not blindly agree with me. Think about it. Research it. Read. Turn the damned T.V. over to something that teaches you how to think or gives you information and does not deal in opinion, or better yet, shut the T.V. off, put on some music and pick up a print source and read something that is not fiction.
I watch MSNBC partially because Rachel Maddow and Melissa Harris Perry are anchors there and these two women both include lots of facts that cannot be reasonably disputed in their coverage of issues. There are other great anchors out there but today is “M” day in the “April A to Z Challenge” in which I am participating and MSNBC, Melissa, and Maddow all start with the letter “M.”
Recently I have been thinking a lot about people not understanding the different between news and political commentary. Rachel Maddow’s recent book, Drift, is filled with facts and I encourage everyone to pick up a copy and READ it. ( I think I linked to the kindle version of the book because it is the cheapest version, but do remember that public libraries still exist and you can read books there at no cost!) Why should you read it? Well, first, it is about the way our government has allowed the military to drift and transform into something that the Founding Fathers (and their very literate wives, mothers, sisters and daughters – our Founding Mothers) would not recognize. And, secondly, we will all have to have done our taxes within the next couple of days and… the majority of the taxes we pay supports the military. Don’t you want to know what you are paying for? I personally think you should.
This morning on the Melissa Harris Parry show the topic that grabbed my attention and shook me by the shoulders was child sexual trafficking. This show has become my new MUST watch television program because it covers major issues that impact women and families that no one else seems to care about enough to cover. I watch it every Saturday and Sunday morning because the panels are balanced, the facts are spot on, and it provides me with information I do not already have.
So back to the topic of the day…. The Letter M…
MSNBC is a network devoted to political commentary for the most part. Fox is a network devoted to political commentary for the most part. News, let’s see, a news channel would be… uh, well, um, er, I cannot think of a mainstream network or cable program that is dedicated to news. I often watch local news and BBC International news to see what is happening in the world that is not one of the three sound bytes that the commentators are flapping their jaws about. I read lots of stuff on news sites from lots of different sources. It is not easy to find unbiased accounts of what is happening outside of our doors and windows. The effort to inform yourself is well worth the time it takes. You and your family are worth it.
I’m getting down off the soap box because my stiletto heel is caught in a knot hole up here and I might lose my balance at any second.
I do encourage you to make the effort to open those doors and windows and take stock of what is happening outside. Do not take the word of anyone else at face value without running your own fact checker on the info. Critical thinking takes time. Critical thinking is more important than the Kardashians. Give some of your time to figuring out if what you are being told is true, and while you are at it, think about the difference between fact and commentary.
This is an excellent, let me repeat that, excellent posting.
I am so tired of people quoting “facts” that are nothing more than an opinion and most often someone elses opinion, not even their own! It is one of my largest pet peeves and one of the many reasons I do not discuss politics on facebook. One should never enter into such an important conversation with idiots who will not research beyond their chosen TV ‘news’ casts. News is used more than a little lightly there.
Great job on this difficult subject.
Thank you for the praise. I am not a neutral person by nature. I adore hyperbole; it absolutely sends me over the moon! So it is truly rewarding to have someone notice when I put a bit of work into being “fair and balanced.”.
sandra Tyler says
your’e a bright thoughtful lady — who also writes well. Maybe try to get this a larger readership. The NY GTTimes?
Critical thinking skills are important to me as an individual, and highly important to me in society. I choose my battles wisely though, and religion is definitely OUT of the mix. My views, values and beliefs are different from most people I know, and I am okay with that.
Politics give me gas… and where sheeple mentalities come into play, it can be more than enough to cause me to get angry (not much does anymore), so I avoid it. Unless someone has a solution to an issue, I don’t want to hear the problem. There are far too many people that scream about things, but refuse to come up with a better way to get things done.
Calling people names won’t motivate them, in fact, it causes them to stand on the defensive and attack rather than think. It exhausts me most times to attempt to have conversations about these types of things, so I don’t (most of the time), those who know me well, know I do my research on any topic that garners my attention. I look for the other side of the coin, even if it is in opposition of a belief I carry with me. I am open for growth.
I commend you for taking the time to write a well-thought out post. The comment you made about critical thinking taking time is so true, but it has to be the person doing the thinking’s idea, or they won’t make the effort in the first place.
Your careful reading of the piece is evident and an honor. Thank you for letting me know you read it and that you appreciated it.
Beverly Diehl says
When I was growing up, we had Walter Cronkite, who felt like our honest uncle/grandfather. There was also this whole crazy idea that the news weren’t supposed to be a “profit center,” that the networks all agreed on this idea of giving people the news, period, and not worrying about whether it lost advertisers like Claritin and Cialis and so on. Now we don’t have straight news, for the most part, we have info-tainment.
That said, I have a total girl-crush on Rachel Maddow; I am glad she is on cable because if she was on, say, CBS or ABC she too would have the pressure to color her reports and commentary so as not to piss off sponsors.
Thanks for this post.
I remember Walter. He came on right between the cigarette commercials, didn’t he? The info-tainment, story of the news-cycle, approach is not news, that is true. But we do have to be careful not to glorify the mad Men era. There were many biases and omissions back then, too. But, that said, I happen to agree that corporate interests are the ultimate concern for most corporate media. There is less of that on MSNBC than NBC, and that is good, I guess, but it still shapes policy. I doubt that Rachel kowtows to upper levels of management. Girl crush, indeed! She is an amazing mind and I am so proud to be able to watch a woman as brilliant and clever as she is, where once there would have been some guy. Thanks for your comment.