Saturday, September 20, 2008

All the News that's Fit to be Tied

So, now I've made coffee. It's less than an hour since my last post and I've been keeping myself busy with emptying the dishwasher, drying dishes the dishwasher opted not to dry, and reading the latest issue of The Texas Observer. But now, with coffee comfortably in hand, I'll become less productive and will ramble on about what interests me and then wander the web.

I find my recent internet political reading habits interesting (well, I guess I would). Though I read several blogs, I increasingly tend to avoid political diatribes from people who, like me, have long since made up their minds that George Bush and anyone who holds views even remotely like his must be kept out of the White House at all costs. Similarly, I avoid reading political rants from right-wing nutjobs who would support a ticket featuring Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Il, just as long as it were Republican. Instead, I find myself gravitating toward people who actually speak truth or who, at least, report what they believe to be true and have evidence to substantiate their beliefs.

The reason I find this interesting is that once, not so very long ago, I realized that I was seeking out political perspectives from people who shared my philosopies and avoided sources I considered wrong-headed. Then I heard a Republican strategist convey a message that really resonated with me: we should seek out news for information, not affirmation. Bingo! That's right! But I had been seeking affirmation in my reading, even in my news. And I knew, instantly, that was not only stupid, it was dangerous. And so I changed.

Fortunately, my newfound wisdom did not push me to read "the other side" so much as it persuaded me to seek out sources of news and information I believed I could trust to be unbiased or, at least, could give me another, and probably uncomfortable, perspective.

Now, instead of reading belief-affirming blogs from left-leaning politicos, I tend to listen to Gwen Ifill grill her guests of Washington Week. Now, some people will say she and her program conspire to form the epitome of biased media. I think that's BS. The fact that she's a Black woman who probably understands issues like racism and sexism far better than most of us does not make her biased. When I watch her program and hear her, and her guests, be utterly forthright about both Republican and Democratic actions on issues of the day, I sometimes get upset that they don't a position on the matter. But that's not why they are on the air; they are on the air to inform, not affirm, my opinions.

PBS and NPR, in general, are sources of information I trust far more than I do any of the major networks and certainly more than I trust CNN or FOX. While PBS may appear to some to have a liberal bias, I can count on PBS to give perspective on issues; I can count on FOX and CNN to stake out positions and try to bring me around to their points of view.

It's more comfortable, in the short run, to listen to or read "news" and information resources that reflect one's views of the world. It makes one feel good. But it's a little like selecting a doctor on the basis of his reputation for delivering only good news. You'd really rather not be told you have a life-threatening disease, but you need to know it if you're to have an opportunity to fight it.

I don't put my irrevocable trust in PBS and NPR. I seek out other sources, as well, so I can get a different perspective. Occasionally, as hard as it is, I do watch CNN political rants from people like Glenn Beck; if nothing else, listening to him makes it clear that a person can be utterly and totally consumed by a very, very stupid and self-serving world-view. And I regularly go directly to sources of news and opinions that never find their way into American mainstream media. I regularly read online newspapers from other countries just to get a perspective I simply cannot get from American media, even good, unbiased American media. It's amazing how much one can learn about different perspectives by reading, for example, Venezuelan media. While I don't pretend that foreign media are pure and unbiased, I can get a sense of what drives international perceptions of the U.S. by reading what they say. And, unfortunately, I sometimes come to the conclusion that American media are not giving us even close to the full story; not even the best American media.

Obviously, I do read liberal and progressive media (like The Texas Observer), but that publication does not pretend to be completely unbiased. What it does, though, is present clear facts and information about why its politics are liberal. And it is a truly informative read.

Alright, if anyone reads this far, you deserve something special for your perserverance. I'm not going to show you a naked picture of myself, in gratitude for your willingness to put up with me to the end.

3 comments:

Nicole said...

You are far too consumed by news, it will crush you. Buy some cook books, plant some herbs, grow a garden and cook some food. That's life. News are not life.

KathyR said...

Uh, thanks?

bee said...

i like gwen. i like comedy central even more - not merely to seek affirmation, but 'cos john stewart and colbert are really funny.