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16 Aug 2018

A Note From the Editor: Anger and Divisiveness Are the Enemy—Not the Free Press

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A couple of weeks ago, my husband, Garrett, decided to get more active on Facebook. One of his motivations was a realization that our friends are, for the most part, like-minded—Democrats, fairly liberal, etc.

He decided to send friend requests to anyone with 50 or more mutual friends—people with whom he likely had something in common, but didn’t necessarily already know.

His Facebook friends list grew by hundreds over the next few days … and this led to some interesting things. A few of his new “friends” instantly hit on him. He had a couple of nice conversations with people regarding their common connections. And he discovered that some of his new Facebook friends were rather fervent Trump supporters.

For some people—many people, actually—this would have led to an instant click of the “unfriend” link. I’ve seen a lot of my liberal friends brag with glee after unfriending Trump supporters who had chosen to speak out on Facebook; I’ve even heard some talk about unfriending people who merely clicked “like” on Trump’s page, even though people “like” Facebook pages for a lot of different reasons.

However, Garrett’s goal was not to simply become “friends” with yet more people who shared his opinions—so rather than clicking “unfriend,” he decided to engage.

I asked Garrett what he has learned so far from his Trump-supporting friends. His rather depressing response: “They’re self-isolating and aren’t interested in other opinions.”

In other words, they’re just like our liberal friends.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: We should all be a little more like Garrett, and reach out more to our neighbors who may not agree with us. After all, we need to share our roads, our stores, our cities, our planet; shouldn’t we at least make an effort to understand each other? As Garrett said to one of the Trump supporters (who, alas, went on to unfriend him): “If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.”

I am going to repeat that, because it’s important: If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.

Today and tomorrow, the Independent is joining hundreds of newspapers and news websites around the country in publishing editorials calling on President Donald Trump to stop his near-constant attacks on the freedom of the press. Since before he took office, Trump has repeatedly, and angrily, denounced the news media as a whole—even, as I recently mentioned, going so far to refer to the media as “enemy of the people.”

I could go into details here about how this rhetoric is right out of the authoritarianism playbook. I could elaborate on how the news media is not one big, cohesive entity, but instead, many hundreds of publications with all sorts of different editorial philosophies and viewpoints, ranging from sharply liberal to staunchly conservative. I could go on and on … but I won’t. I’ll just again repeat Garrett’s words: If we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.

The nation’s free, unrestricted press is one of the ways we communicate with each other—and the unwarranted, unspecific and potentially dangerous verbal attacks by the president on the free press must stop.

We all need to do better. As citizens, we need to do a better job of understanding other. As newspapers, we need to make sure we’re being as diverse as possible—inclusive of all valid viewpoints and concerns. Our public officials need to do a better job of representing their constituents—all of them—and being leaders.

Of course, leadership starts at the top, and in the United States, that means it starts with the president of the United States.

No matter what your politics are, I hope we can all agree: Journalists are not the enemy. Because if we can’t communicate with each other, democracy doesn’t work.

6 comments

  • Comment Link Wendy Ceallaigh Friday, 17 August 2018 16:33 posted by Wendy Ceallaigh

    Journalists are not the enemy. There is fake news, but the majority seem to be coming from the the president. This dishonesty from our own government is one of the ingredients causing the divide. Today we need to check and recheck, and unfortunately that is not being done. We need to view several news sources, not just one. Our democracy is at risk, and our free press is the one of the most important things that keeps us from losing it. I also see the divide caused by the current administration, the hate and attacks against our citizens, our constitution, our security and intelligence agencies, and our allies.
    I trust in the press, and checking facts.

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  • Comment Link JC Friday, 17 August 2018 09:02 posted by JC

    In response to Joe . . .

    There was nothing in this editorial that was being used as a weapon against anyone. It was a sincere attempt to bridge the divide, even just a little. That effort should be commended.

    The majority of good people on either side of the imaginary and useless "right" and "left" divide don't condone violence or bigotry. For most of us, this is not an "us" against "them" war. It's not a war at all.

    Although I question your facts about violence from leftists (whatever that term may mean), I do think there could be a worthwhile debate about the Sarah Jeong situation. In fact, there was a lively debate in the pages and comments section of the New York Times, something you wouldn't find in a publication like Breitbart.

    But let's go from macro to micro. Here's an editor of a small, local publication with a more liberal slant offering an olive branch. He's not a leftist throwing punches or a nationally recognized tech writer who has made racially insensitive comments. You've stomped on that olive branch and identified him as some monolithic enemy and labelled him a liar. Great. Where do we go from here but down?

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  • Comment Link AoiAz Friday, 17 August 2018 00:54 posted by AoiAz

    as one of Japanese,
    Objection from Many Media against "Leader" look enviable movement.

    Also Japan is under similar situation but Japanese mainstream Media cannot do same thing.

    For example,
    Chairman or executives of Japanese Major Media often enjoy to dine with Prime Minister Abe.

    One of them,TV Asahi has weakened Criticism of Plural News Shows by self-censorship or hesitation to Abe Government and its Supporters.
    and,Government's vindicator who justify even Anti-LGBT politicians become anchor of noon time weekday news show.

    Criticism against Abe Government has decreased from Japanese Major Media year by year.

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  • Comment Link RedRaven Thursday, 16 August 2018 13:06 posted by RedRaven

    Thank you. Journalists are not the enemy.

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  • Comment Link Mel Miller Thursday, 16 August 2018 12:35 posted by Mel Miller

    Thank you for today's Freedom of the Press editorial, Mel Miller

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  • Comment Link Joe Thursday, 16 August 2018 10:47 posted by Joe

    Not sure what to make of the headline. In my opinion the anger and divide has been caused by the media. Help me finish the conclusion here. The media is being used not as a watchdog of the powerful, but as a weapon against those every day people who may have a different viewpoint.

    Whether it's a guest speaker being shouted down at a university or a Trump supporter being beaten by leftists (over 800 incidents and counting) the media is causing this and normalizing violence. If the media wants to serve its intended function then it needs to cover and fight against racism and hate on both sides. Sarah Jeong comes to mind. The media that supports her is my enemy. She admitted that and the truth of her words cannot be refuted. The media can say they are not my enemy but it's a lie.

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