borrowed from “The President is Missing”, Bill Clinton and James Patterson.

I picked up this book as summer reading after seeing the authors on a late night program. It is a page turner, where action trumps (he he he) politics. This excerpt, though, seems to be a primal scream from Bill Clinton. I think it applies to TV and social media much more than to the written press, but it pretty much sums up our current predicament. If you pick up the hard cover, you will find this excerpt on pages 59-60. I have cut some text.

” Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the twenty-four-hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells – conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answer; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony.

[……….]

What happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting? That’s hard to even define anymore, as the line between fact and fiction, between truth and lies, gets murkier every day. We can’t survive without a free press, dedicated to preserving that fine line and secure enough to follow the facts where they lead.

[………]

…… false equivalency. It means that when you find a mountain to expose in one person or party, you have to pick a molehill on the other side and make it into a mountain to avoid being accused of bias. The built-up molehills also have large benefits: increased coverage on the evening news, millions of retweets, and more talk-show fodder. When the mountains and molehills all look the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

There’s a real cost to this. It breeds more frustration, polarization, paralysis, bad decisions, and missed opportunities. But with no incentive to actually accomplish something, more and more politicians just go with the flow, fanning the flames of anger and resentment, when they should be acting as the fire brigade. Everybody knows it’s wrong, but the immediate rewards are so great we stagger on, just assuming that our Constitution, our public institutions, and the rule of law can endure each new assault without doing permanent damage to our freedoms and way of life.”

End of quote.

These are not necessarily original thoughts, but they are very well expressed. Marie-Anne hopes she won’t be prosecuted by Bill and James for borrowing large excerpts from their book, which she is still reading.  She is untaught in the ways of copyright law but means well. She also should learn to pick lighter summer reading, although this excerpt is not typical of the rest of the book. Preach on, brothers Bill and James!

 

 

 

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