Who Can You Believe?

When Fox News anchor Shepard Smith was asked about the opinion side of Fox News in a recent Time Magazineinterview he ruffled some feathers when he replied:

“We serve different masters. We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want, if it’s their opinion. I don’t really watch a lot of opinion programming. I’m busy.”

“I get it that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining. I get that. I don’t work there. I wouldn’t work there. I don’t want to sit around and yell at each other and talk about your philosophy and my philosophy. That sounds horrible to me.”

Smith is one of the three most trusted newsmen in America and makes about eight million dollars a year. He frequently is not on the Republican or conservative side of issues and is not afraid to say so.

It would seem he is correct. Fox News has some partisan entertainers, agitators, and Trump fan boys, but it also has some very good journalists, like Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Howard Kurtz.

Obviously, the news media has fallen off the credibility wagon since the days of Walter Cronkite reassuring us, “And that’s the way it is (insert today’s date)”. In those days opinion and commentary were carefully labeled as such and delivered apart from factual reporting. It seems like centuries ago.

But who can we believe these days when switching channels seems like switching facts? The Trump administration and news media are constantly pointing their fingers at each other not unlike school children caught in a playground fight by the teacher who asks who started this?

Our political machine is just that. Politicians have an agenda to push and facts to spin. “Spin” being another word for twist. “Twist” being another word for avoiding the real issue and personal culpability, while vilifying the other side and bringing the conversation back around to their talking points.

Honestly, I think the idea of a White House press secretary is absurd. The president should have to face the American people and the press on a regular and frequent basis. He is an elected official and should be accountable as such.

The rage that exists in our country was fueled by the political parties and individual politicians out of their own self-interest. They built the fire, provided the tinder, lit the match, and fanned the flames.

Then the corporate-owned, commercial news media threw gasoline on the fire. As the fire rages, ratings and profits increase. Unfortunately, the American people have become more divided, less tolerant, and generally coarser as a result. Civil conversations, rational discussions, mutual understanding, and necessary negotiations are replaced by dim-witted, hateful social media comments. As a result, national progress has ground to a long-term halt.

Everybody has an opinion. Great. People differ. Also, great. An old acquaintance of mine used to say, “If we both agreed on everything, then one of us would be unnecessary.” In fact, it is our differences that we should be celebrating.

If we never expose ourselves to other opinions, we never grow, and we never understand one another. If our opinions are never tested, how can we be confident they are worthy of holding onto?

If we hitch our wagon to a particular political party, partisan news outlet, or any other tribalistic perspective, how do we know whether our opinion is truly ours and we are not simply falling in line with some sort of group-think?

I know, it’s hard to know what to believe. Everything is so partisan. Everybody seems to have narrative to promote.

I suggest a bold experiment. Watch a cable news network that you think you will hate. Check out different sources before forming an opinion. Have a conversation with someone you disagree with.

If your opinion is solid, it will hold up under scrutiny. You will find out more about the individual across the table, and perhaps, begin to understand him or her a little better. Your position might become more nuanced as you gain some new information.

This post was also a recent column in the Kenosha News.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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