Infected: Hysteria And Politics

fbloggedonI planned on keeping quiet about the election. Between trolls and obsessed true believers, in many circles the interweb has become a nasty place.  But a friend mine on Facebook sincerely asked me for my thoughts. I hesitated.  Then I realized that leaving the pool to the trolls and those who can’t play nice in the sandbox is assuring that the situation will only continue to get worse.

My response to election 2016 is maybe I was a little more surprised by the result then I should have been. (Polls are partly responsible for that.)

However, I think those in the media that play up the angry white vote angle for Donald Trump, continue to do a disservice to the public by acting like the school yard instigator and contributing to the divide.  Trump basically got the amount of votes consistent with a republican candidate regardless of the opposing candidate, previous president, or current circumstances.

Hillary Clinton received fewer votes than President Obama did in 2012, (including among blacks, Latinos and women) which when you consider that many, rightly or wrongly, felt that between superdelegates going to Clinton in states and caucuses she lost, and the DNC shenanigans that we became aware via wikileaks, the will of the people was subverted in the democratic primary.

Further, again, rightly or wrongly, we knew as far back as the primary that HRC came with baggage that President Obama (and likely Bernie Sanders) did not, so it is not a shock that while Clinton won the popular vote in the general, she could not inspire the voter turnout as much as President Obama, and thus lost the electoral.

How Did We Get here?

For years there has been this negative feedback loop between politicians, the media, (main and social), and the public, that escalates and accelerates the ugliness, hypocrisy, arrogance, condescension, and close-mindedness that pervades our elections, and “discussions” (if you can call it that) of politics and social issues.

It gets worse every election cycle and makes it harder to govern for whoever is in charge.  The “loyal” opposition (both parties depending on who is in power) do what they can to obstruct and get to the next election where they hope to get more senate/ house seats and or the presidency. Politicians do it to save their jobs and as part of their means justify the ends thinking. By individual partisans and the media, this obstructionism is seen only as unidirectional where one side blames the other for doing it, and is in denial about doing it when it serves them. Or they acknowledge and justify obstruction behind either:

  • A-Self righteousness (means justify ends) 
  • B-The childish defense of, “they did it to us so we’re going to do it too!”

Too many people talk at or down to others, and are unwilling to listen and compromise. Their voices are louder and drown out the attempted voices of reason. Partisans not only troll their counterparts, but those who would dare attempt to have a neutral position or try to find a middle ground.  I’m sure I have already angered some with this post and what they would call false equivocating.

Where have you gone respectful disagreement? Yes, I understand there are very serious, even life and death issues at stake. Passions are high. That makes it more, not less important to really hear and respect each other.  How is the other way working out for us?  Think outside of the microcosm of one election.  Think about the progressive dysfunction of the government, the growing chasm between compatriots, and the ignored and or mounting issues we face as a nation.   

Aside from the malevolent, I don’t want to say these adverse behaviors/reactions are things most of us have been guilty of at one time or another, because it is more like a hysterical emotional/ psychological virus (HEPV, sorry True Blood fans) that we are victims to, and then spread.

I don’t say this to  judge or invalidate any beliefs, just that even valid beliefs are subject to HEPV, that then morphs otherwise good and reasonable people into a semi-delirious uncompromising versions of themselves. Not the most effective way to communicate. I exaggerate to make a point.

Speaking of exaggerating.  Another effect of HEPV is vulnerability to Fake news websites, social media, exaggerated/ false meme’s, and unsubstantiated “facts”, oh my.  These things do not seem to matter to many when they align with existing opinions.

The media is biased, most of us know this.  Depending on the outlet, it may tilt left or right. The less talked about media conundrum is its sensational predilections which is partly why star power and charisma trump, pardon the pun, qualifications and experience when it comes to covering/ promoting candidates.

Further, the tabloids and internet websites created a frenzied rush to get stories out first. Cable news created the need to present it in an entertaining/provocative way. Objectivity, accuracy, and truth are often casualties of this war.

Many in the media have betrayed the public trust.  As a result they are not trusted, even when they are accurate. NO ONE should get their news from ONE source. 

As for our president-elect, he is a true wild card who does have the potential to surprise us in good ways.  Or, be the worst nightmare that many think he will be. Time will tell. I voted third-party (for the 3rd or 4th time in my life) because I truly believe the country needs a viable 3rd party, and in this instance because I live in a non battleground state. In case you’re wondering, if I lived in a battleground state, I would have un-enthusiastically voted for the devil I know in Clinton as opposed to the devil I don’t know in Trump. However, I do not fault those in battleground states who did vote third-party for too many reasons to go into here.  

Barring the start of WW III, (not an impossibility given current state of world affairs) Susan Sarandon may be on to something when she inferred maybe we have to hit bottom (with Trump via a Marxist Revolution) and start over.  I certainly hope not, but don’t know.

I’m not sure how we get out of this cycle of an escalating divide…this hypnotic trance we are in… but if we don’t, and if Trump is as bad as many fear, if THAT is not bottom, then the next war might not be WW III but CW II. 

The things I am speaking of, (HEPV) are generally easier to see in others than it is in ourselves. It is important that we try. Hate to sound cataclysmic but the fate of our democracy and more rides on it. #wakeup & #snapoutofit

Tips For Moving Forward:

  1. Get news from more than one source.
  2. Fact Check.  (For The Love Of GOD, Especially Memes!!!)
  3. Know that you’re not right about everything therefore those you disagree with must be right about something.  
  4. Be as tolerant of others as you would want them to be tolerant of you.  
  5. Breathe and say a mantra before you react to others.  Or let yourself cool off before posting on social media.  
  6. Don’t be a hypocrite (substitute other name(s) or group(s) to see if you think something is okay or not).  
  7. Don’t lose friends over politics.  
  8. Stay engaged outside of election season and find positive ways to interact and make a difference in causes you care about.  
  9. End conversations with a handshake, or a hug, or a positive emoji/smiley face 🙂
  10. Stay humble, stay grateful and stay hungry. 

Going forward, of course I, and I hope you, wish for the President-elect to succeed in his role in matters of national security and the economy.  For social issues, the environment, I share concerns that many of you have and I encourage everyone to get or stay activated, peacefully protest when desired, and engage in civil discourse. 

 

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How I Will Decide On Who To Vote For As The Next President Of The United States

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For reasons that do not matter, almost two years ago I decided to become a cord cutter. Meaning I no longer have cable TV. And with the exception of some sports, all of my boob tube watching is compliments of Netflix.

Aside from saving money and not missing TV, one unanticipated benefit has been disconnecting from cable news and the hysterical bombardment of subtle and oftentimes not so subtle partisan political white noise. And once I started ignoring (mostly) similar said political white noise on my facebook stream, I was really home-free.

  • Free from attempts at brainwashing, and manipulation.
  • Free from subjective opinions based on selective truths, and bias that is potentially rooted as much in personal history and issues, as “objective” intellectually formulated conclusions.
  • Free to watch my own personal bias’ and positions, I had become maybe a little too comfortable with, fall away.

In other words I have moved closer to a neutral position. The exact position that our justice system is predicated on when, in its ideal form, it finds twelve completely unbiased jurors, without preconceived notions, prejudices, and so on, to pass judgment on innocence or guilt.

I am not saying that there aren’t a lot of good and far more intelligent people than me out there… but sifting through the minefield of spin, rhetoric, and talking points has become tiring and unproductive. And to my learned friends, you can have a mensa IQ and still be emotionally skewed… especially when it comes to topics like politics.

So I will attempt to get as close to a pure state as possible for the next presidential election. How? By ignoring 98% of the babble. I will pay attention to the primaries but not get emotionally invested in any candidate. Why? Because politicians lie.  More than usual during primaries. In primaries, candidates generally run to the their base with the knowledge that if they win the primary they will have to move or “pivot”, as the talking heads like to say, to the middle.

So no point in getting all caught up in it or even playing the “gotcha” or he lied game, cause just about all of the winnable candidates do it. What about authentic candidates? The ones committed to their values? They know they can’t win and likely have some other agenda. Perhaps angling to be a VP candidate. Whatever, I am not biting anymore.

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I won’t watch hyper partisan “news” shows or softball interviews. There is little point in watching Sean Hannity interview a republican candidate or Rachel Maddow interview a democrat. I am not member of either choir so no need to be preached to by these cheerleaders.

Here is what I will do:

  1. I will watch all debates.
  2. I will fact check claims made in the debates.
  3. I will measure fact checked claims against preexisting records of the candidates and weigh them against the issues I think are most important.

I will watch and or read substantive interviews and editorial content that take place between and or are about debates, and or are close to the finish line. I will watch and evaluate based on the merits. If anything of consequence comes from such interviews I will not allow it to move my needle until I fact check its contents as well.

American Politics

If there is one thing today’s rush to get the story out media has taught me is that today’s “facts” can wind up as tomorrow’s retraction. So slow your roll playa, and take everything in with a grain of salt. My loyalty is to the truth, what I think is best for the country, and myself. IT IS NOT TO A DONKEY OR AN ELEPHANT!

Hence, if the candidate that comes out best in my process is an independent, or libertarian, I will vote for him or her. If it is republican or democrat, I will vote for he of she. This process will guide me and I will trust it to lead me to as close as an objective verdict as I am capable of rendering.

It’s Time For Bill O’Reilly To Come Out Of The Closet

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No I am not suggesting that Bill O’Reilly is a homosexual.  Not that there would be anything wrong with that.  Rather, that he is a moderate to conservative Republican who for some reason likes to refer to himself as an Independent.  And while there is more effort on his part to be “balanced” than say Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, he too falls short.

Here are two ways to look at this.  One, is O’Reilly’s position on issues.  And two, is the composition of his guests.  Two(A) would be which guests he agrees and disagrees with most.

First, on the issues of the day.  Which party does Mr. Bill side with or more closely align with on the following?

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  • The deficit?
  • Taxes?
  • Job Creation?
  • Obamacare?
  • Abortion?
  • Use of military force?  (He has been fair to President Obama when he does as President Bush did before him.)
  • “War” on Christmas and Judeo-Christian values? oreillywaron
  • Immigration reform?
  • Gun control?
  • Same sex marriage?
  • The justice system & Supreme Court? (Jessica’s Law, trying terrorists on foreign soil versus U.S., etc.)

In some cases O’Reilly does walk a moderate line on social issues while still leaning Republican. In most others the distinction is clearly conservative/ Republican.  Unless I’m misunderstanding the meaning of what it means to be politically independent, given the above, and no clear prominent positions where he is on the left, it’s hard to imagine O’Reilly being a true Independent.  When it comes to who he will vote for in an election, it’s a fair bet that he votes Republican.

In 2016, if Hillary Clinton is running against Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, or whoever the Republicans put out there, my money is on O’Reilly voting for the Republican.  And I’ll double down and suggest he’ll know that very early on in the process, (like as soon as the respective candidates win their primaries).

I challenge O’Reilly to do one of his unscientific FOX News polls and see who his viewers, (and guests), think he would vote for in a hypothetical 2016 Presidential match-up:  Clinton, lets say Rubio, or Undecided.  I’m thinking Rubio wins that poll over Clinton and Undecided in a landslide.

Alan Colmes, MonicaCrowley and Bill O'Reilly

Alan Colmes, Monica
Crowley and Bill O’Reilly

Let’s look at his guests.  O’Reilly will have on two guests at a time with each representing a different point of view.  Currently, he has a weekly segment called “Barack and a Hard Place”, with Monica Crowley and Alan Colmes.  It’s not even close who he agrees with more.  It’s the conservative,  Crowley.  Colmes, the liberal, is also more likely to be ridiculed, disrespected, demeaned and yelled at.

You can go through the years and find that O’Reilly will side with the Republican in any two-guest pairing a majority of the time.

This isn’t wrong in and of itself.  In fact, his positions on the issues aren’t being debated here. Rather that it is disingenuous for him to refer to himself as an Independent given the clarity, confidence and boldness with which he holds and asserts his opinions.

O’Reilly used to have a segment: “Weekdays with Bernie (Goldberg) and Jane (Hall)”. They’d discuss the media’s treatment and response to political issues.  Same deal as with Colmes.  Goldberg, who O’Reilly was more likely to agree with, (taking the conservative position), gets treated with more respect and isn’t interrupted or challenged with the same voracity nearly as consistently as was Jane.  Somewhere along the line they got rid of Jane and now Goldberg comes on alone.  Where’s the balance?

You can go back to pairings of Kirsten Powers and Michelle Malkin to Juan Williams and Mary Katharine Ham, O’Reilly is consistent with who he sides with.  The Republican.  And just because he doesn’t think Obama is a socialist, doesn’t make O’Reilly an Independent.

O’Reilly also has individual guests that he interviews and debates.  The dominant personalities in the run up to the 2012 presidential election were: Karl Rove, Dick Morris, Laura Ingraham, Charles Krauthammer, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, and Brit Hume.

Not exactly a who’s who of Democrats.  Oftentimes O’Reilly’s Democratic guests rotated and or were not as notable as their Republican leaning counterparts.

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O’Reilly will play devil’s advocate with his conservative guests, but you do not see him get in their faces and shout like he has with Colmes, Barney Frank, and Geraldo Rivera.  (When Rivera was defending a liberal position on immigration.)

If he does get loud or disagree with a conservative guest, like he did with Laura Ingraham on his April 2nd broadcast, it is usually over style and not substance.  They usually agree on the heart of an issue but perhaps not in the way it’s being advocated for.

O’Reilly was defensive because he felt Ingraham was “tacitly” criticizing him for his use of the phrase “thump the bible”.  They weren’t arguing over same-sex marriage, but the way in which those against it present their case.

To further illustrate this, on April 3rd, in response to a viewer emailer, who sided with Ingraham, and was framing same-sex marriage as a sin, O’Reilly stated to the emailer, “if you want to keep your country from going down the drain, be smart”.   This is a reference by O’Reilly that the religious argument will not convert anyone on the same-marriage issue.  What you can infer from that is  O’Reilly may believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage will cause America to go down the drain.

If you say O’Reilly never has controversial conservative guests to argue with over substance, I believe Ann Coulter has been on his show a few times.  And did I mention Glenn Beck?  Have they never said anything worth, “an independent”, like O’Reilly, raising his voice over or being in vehement disagreement with?

Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller

Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller

For a conservative, part comedic and part serious political discussion, O’Reilly will have on: Dennis Miller, Adam Carolla, Greg Gutfeld and Bernard McGuirk.  There is no weekly Democratic counterpart to this group.  Could you see O’Reilly and Bill Maher mocking Republicans and having a jolly old, never confrontational, time with it– like he does with Miller at the expense of Democrats?

O’Reilly has a field producer, Jesse Waters.  Waters generally scours the streets looking for uniformed liberals to make look bad.  I guess all or most conservatives are informed and reasonable?  Perhaps not week-to-week, but over time, shouldn’t a show hosted by an independent offer balance to these segments?

And when talking to or about liberals, O’Reilly oftentimes refers to them as “left wing loons”, or “far left fanatics”.  There are no counter pet names for the right.  He will point out that there are ideologues and bomb throwers on both sides, but the frequency and specificity of name calling and identifying as radical or loon, usually comes at the expense of the left.  If O’Reilly were an Independent would this be the case?

When talking about liberal bias in the media, O’Reilly discusses two kinds.  Intentional and subconscious.  With the subconscious being a result of a journalist’s political leanings that just seeps into their work.  I’m willing to give O’Reilly some benefit of the doubt that some of his bias is unintentional and a result of his passionate and authentic beliefs.  But he and his staff are too intelligent and too good at what they do to not be aware of any of this.

Interestingly, since the presidential election, FOX dismissed Dick Morris, and reduced Karl Rove’s role.  Democratic strategist, Bob Beckel, now has a regular segment and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill is making more appearances.  This does help the show’s balance but doesn’t alter my premise.  O’Reilly is an “Iino” (Pronounced: I Know, meaning, Independent in name only).

I do watch O’Reilly more than shows hosted by Hannity or Maddow because despite his slant there is more attempt at balance.  However, I would never recommend getting your news from just one source.

What O’Reilly is not, is a blind ideologue.  He will own mistakes (sometimes) and call his own on the carpet.  (See the recent Michelle Backman flare up.) He’s passionate and confident in his beliefs, but most of the time he provides a forum for those who disagree to get their point across.  Granted they must have gravitas to stand up to him when he’s in interrupt mode.

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If O’Reilly was as biased or to the right as a Hannity or Rush Limbaugh you would have never seen a then Senator Barrack Obama on his program when he was running for President.   And Obama must have been okay with it because he was interviewed by O’Reilly again at half time of the Superbowl when he was President.  Further, you would not see former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney avoid O’Reilly’s show.

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Other prominent Democrats, such as Hillary Clinton, that would never be interviewed by Hannity, do go on O’Reilly.  And there are Republicans other than Cheney that avoid O’Reilly because they know even though he is more likely to side with them on the issues, he will still ask tough questions.

However, just because O’Reilly is not a blind ideologue, who interviews some prominent Democrats, while scaring off some Republicans; that too does not make him an Independent.

A question I’d like to ask O’Reilly is: who are the last six presidential candidates you’ve voted for?  Any Dems or Independents in that group?  How about Senators and Congressmen?

I would ask him not to dodge.  I would say: no spin Bill!  Come out of the closet.  Admit it!  You are a Republican.