Friday, November 6, 2015

seth, me, bernie sanders, and the "lamestream" media

I think it's always important to have friends who are way smarter than you on a particular subject. Personally, I'm sort of a half-assed political junkie. I read a lot of political media, watch a lot of political television, and listen to a lot of political radio. It may not seem that way because I also despise talking politics with people who aren't at least marginally on my side. The example I like to give is that I'm a strong advocate of gun control. If I had my way, there would be no guns left in this fine country, but because I know that's impossible, I'm all about making them as hard to obtain and use as possible. I can have a conversation with many sensible gun owners and gun advocates about that, and we may not see eye-to-eye, but we see where the other's coming from. However, if someone is coming from an entirely different ideological universe, it is absolutely USELESS to engage. I had a guy tell me once that no number of dead children's right to life trumped his right to have as many guns as he wanted. If you can actually say that guns are more important than children with a straight face, the only possible outcome of the conversation is that we're both really mad at each other, and, if this is facebook, several of our friends have jumped in and started tossing out ad hominem attacks like "libtard" and "repuglican" and worse. I keep my political posts to twitter, where if someone decides to throw out a rape threat because I don't believe in the death penalty, they're generally not someone I once considered a friend and confidante. They're just someone I have now blocked.

I'm always thankful for friends on whatever part of the political belief spectrum with whom I can have a civil conversation (before somebody's friend joins in and say something horribly offensive). One time my friend Josh and I, who are about as politically opposite as can be, had a conversation after which he actually changed his position on a belief he'd had for a while. It wasn't that, in my brilliance, I had suddenly said something that turned him liberal. It was that by having a discussion about it, he'd realized that this belief that he was holding actually wasn't consistent with other core aspects of his belief system. That's totally valid. A lot of people call that flip flopping. I call that growing up and actually thinking through your ideologies. Conversations with people who disagree with me, like Josh, and with people who generally agree with me, like my friend Seth, have sharpened me in more ways than I can count. I do not hold the same beliefs I held in high school, or college, or even last week in some cases.

Let's be clear -- and I don't think this is going to come as a shock to anyone -- I'm a libbity libface liberal. I once would have claimed to be a moderate (and maybe even a Republican for like, two and a half minutes when I thought that was what Christians were SUPPOSED to be. That ended fairly quickly when Republicans at my Christian school would tear down any poster of John Kerry they found on people's dorm rooms or around campus. That, and when they would mock the group on campus that helped feed the homeless and fight for equality, SSA, by taunting, "SSA is ASS backwards!" That ended the Christian Republican phase).  I'm not a moderate. I've taken that quiz enough to know that. There's nuance to liberalism, of course. I think that's a thing people forget. And many of my good friends who are Republicans are largely like, "WTF?!?!?!" when it comes to today's Republican party. Some aren't. Josh thinks there's some serious substance to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I think they're morons. We still have great conversations.

This is Seth. He is brilliant and a fan of cookies.
Anyway, I'm a firm believer in the whole iron sharpening iron thing, and one of the people I go to most often to have my iron sharpened -- to extend that metaphor perhaps beyond utility -- is my dear friend Seth Millstein. You may not know his name, but there's a very good chance you've read something he's written on Bustle, The Daily Dot, Timeline, and a million other things. Plus, he was on my podcast!

Every now and again, I shoot Seth a message asking for his input on some issue that's been pressing on my mind as a half-assed political junkie. He is a political junkie with his full ass. It's very convenient.

A Bernie Sanders supporter myself, I can at times be wary of the seeming lack of respect for his candidacy in various news outlets. However, unlike Seth, I spend most of my days reading about things I study for school, which is, y'know, my job. I'm not seeing everything out there, and I recognize that that leaves a giant hole in my knowledge. So, today, I put forth a question to Seth regarding Bernie Sanders and the media. This was the conversation that ensued:

As I mention in my response to Seth, I was frustrated by the way that the debate results were proclaimed by the so-called "Mainstream Media." And I think that's fair, whether my fist-shaking response was simply emotional indignation at seeing my candidate deemed second place when non-pundits who watched seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm for him, or whether there was actually some basis for the accusation of media bias. There's not really a lot that can be done to prove that either way, but my greater question was about this whole concept of the evil, Mainstream Media -- which liberals and conservatives use in equal measure to describe some shadow organization that meets in dark conference rooms and decide the elections ahead of time. There are, to be sure, things that CNN or Fox News or the New York Times and so on don't cover that are of great interest to many people, but that's not necessarily conspiracy. That's "sellin' papes," to borrow a Newsies-ism. Further, many of the things that people cry foul about are either a) non-issues, or b) local issues. I once saw a blog post listing all the tyrannical things Barack Obama had done in his time in office. One of the things listed was a city ordinance from San Rafael, California -- a couple towns over from where Seth and I spent our teenage years -- which banned cigarette smoking inside residences. In reality, all that would have been necessary to avoid this would be for people to go to city council meetings and make themselves heard, and then vote. Instead, though, I watched as dozens of people on my newsfeed who aren't even FROM Marin County reposted that list as evidence of Obama's slow metamorphosis into half-black Hitler.

Listen, none of us is totally innocent of sometimes buying into media narratives just because they back up what we already want to to believe. As adult citizens of the United States with the power to actually change (or maintain) the way that it is run, though, we have got to get past this X-Files mentality that the truth is out there but we have no access to it because of some mysterious "they" who don't want us to know what's really going on. In my experience, the worst things that are happening are actually things you can plainly see with your naked eye. For the love of Pete (Wrigley, because that's the Pete I always think of), stop with the "WHAT AREN'T THEY TELLING US???" and start thinking about what they ARE telling us that we can totally push back against. If you think this shadowy Mainstream Media isn't talking about Bernie (or whoever your candidate is) enough, start a website, start sending out mailers, start posting all over your Facebook and Twitter, start painting some murals. Then you might change something. I just cannot tell you how sick I am of people who only get their news from extremist websites trying to tell us all that the Mainstream Media is somehow cutting us off from what's actually friggin' everywhere. In the words of The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation with at a Party: Learn a book.

And for good measure:

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