Tuesday, November 08, 2016

After-Thoughts


A Pre-election Luncheon


A day before the national elections, Newsweek magazine released its cover. "Madam President" – the nation soon will get used to hearing the title.

One week before Election Day, when people were due to march to the polls to cast their ballots for -- or, as the pollsters tell us, AGAINST Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for President -- Dan Haar, business editor and columnist for the Hartford Courant, found himself in the lion’s den and, like Samson in Holy Scripture, began to layabout with his jawbone.

The Talk of Connecticut Election Luncheon audience was prepared to accept Donald Trump as a flawed candidate. It’s a safe bet that the majority in the audience felt Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had not received her due share of the lumps.  Mr. Haar, his chest expanding to the ball, came to read Mr. Trump out of the human race. Here is a partial transcript of some questions put to Mr. Harr and his answers:

Woman from audience: What is going on with the overt bias? And, it didn’t used to be in the press. But it’s so flagrant today. So, what is going on?  And what is your opinion about what is going on?

Dan Haar:  The facts are that the other person running for president [Donald Trump] is an admitted sexual assaulter. He has ripped off virtually every person… (groans of disapproval  from the audience)… the facts are, the facts are that he has ripped off virtually every person [more groans] … virtually every person who has ever passed his way [more groans] …

Panel moderator 1: He was asked the question. Let him answer, please.

Haar: The facts are that the other person running for president has declared bankruptcy four or six times, depending upon whether you consider a sub-bankruptcy… Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was six times (Did Mr. Harr mean to say four times?) In each case, he left his creditors holding the bag…

Audience member 2: My question is: What are you going to do, personally, to try to bring truth back to the press, so that we can sit there and read the papers and believe the facts?

Haar: I feel badly for Republicans in this country, because you got a candidate who’s just… his character is just not at the point where he’s capable of leading any people. This is a man who is incapable of waking up in the morning and being a human, as a person who tells the truth. And if the press is guilty of taking sides against a person whose character is so faulty as that he simply cannot be trusted on a day to day, minute to minute basis, never mind that we get to the big issues of the country, then I’m proud to be part of that press.” (groans from the audience)

Moderator 2: Before you start shouting… I’m the one that asked the question in the first place. And the question was asked not to bring it up so you would think it was legitimate. It was to dispel the notion that the media… no… I asked the question that began all this… that the media is biased. Because the belief permeates the listenership in this room. And the question was asked to put a nail in it once and for all. When somebody said that he gets 91 percent that’s biased against Trump, at some point there’s a level of personal that somebody accepts for that coverage, and if anybody deserves bad press, it is Donald Trump, through his behavior. (loud groans) Bring it on…


Media bias is not news. Studies can be cited from the left and the right to show a bias in favor of the left or right. Like love, one knows bias when one sees it. The problem is that the viewer or news consumer also may be biased. Bias is often in the eye of the beholder. We tolerate biases and prejudices when they are supported by legitimate conclusions drawn from real-world premises. In the case cited above, bias is glaringly obvious. Most media organizations admit bias and then attempt to balance it in their news coverage. The modern idea is to equalize bias by creating a staff that is evenly biased on both sides of the ideological battlefield. The quaint notion of “fairness” has long been discredited. A report written by a left of center journalist attempting mightily to be fair will be much different than a report written by a right of center journalist striving with equal passion to be fair.  

Here in Connecticut, both the left and the right have voices. But the voices are far from equal. As in George Orwell’s barnyard – everyone is equal, but the pigs are MORE equal. The groans that met some of Mr. Haar’s proudly strutted, flimsily supported biases – it simply is not true that Mr. Trump is sub-human or that bankruptcy is the mark of Satan -- are understandable, coming as they do from a right of center audience that is highly suspicious of Connecticut’s left of center media.

The Hartford Courant’s editorial board has been pumping out endorsements in favor of left of center Democratic politicians for decades. And here we are, decades down the line --  another day older and deeper in debt. The endorsements are wearingly the same, election year after electionyear. Reacting to the Courant’s current all-Democratic roster, one reader justly lamented, “Wouldn't it have been less typing to simply say: The DNCourant [DNC = Democrat National Committee] endorsed a straight D ticket.” Perhaps the reader, motivated no doubt by blinding anger, was in attendance at the The Talk of Connecticut Election Luncheon.

In its combative mode, the left of center media in Connecticut simply is not listening to roiling murmurs outside its cubicles. That is why the legacy media has not properly understood the two populist upheavals – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – that have now retired behind the veil. The hideous strength of both is a measure of the weakness of traditional political forms: the family (read Aristotle’s “Politics,” in which the family is treated as the central political unit), the extended family (your uncle’s politics matter), the neighborhood, civic organizations (including churches), the municipality, the state, political parties and the country, which under the administration of progressive regimes shall be border-less, i.e. meaningless because undefined. Frames contain pictures, words are framed by definitions and nations are defined by borders. Walls not only make good neighbors; they make meaning. All this and more lies beyond the ken of journalists in boxes. A breath of it ruffled but did not challenge Mr. Haar’s prefabricated notions as he put behind him The Talk of Connecticut Election Luncheon and returned to the comfort of settled opinion at his job site.

The settled opinion at the Courant, which Mr. Haar shares, is that anger on the right has overruled right reason. The left is reasonable, the right intemperate.


But be of good cheer: The sun has risen on the gloom and anger of the right. The catastrophe of Mr. Trump has been narrowly averted, and now that Madam President  will occupy the White House -- along with her consort, who has been plausibly accused of rape -- “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" (Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles),” as Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss used to say.


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