Shrill

Bill O'Reilly

I like politics. I hate punditry. I’m interested in the way public policy is conceived, debated,  and implemented. The ins and outs of political sausage-making fascinate me. Theoretically, at least. In practice, the problem is that the only way to keep up with the K Street wheeling and dealing of our elected representatives is to consume some manner of (and I use the term loosely) news. And right now, there’s no such thing.

The tenor of the national conversation tends to be such that reasoned debate or thorough reporting never actually happens. The television replaces it with shrill, shrieking talking heads who take turns yelling at each other and making disingenuous attempts at “balance” by having shrill, shrieking talking heads from the opposing political party yell at them. And then they cry. I’m not calling out for some standard of objectivity, or news outlets. A certain amount of lean or bias is an inescapable aspect of the human condition, and as long as they own up to it I’m fine with that aspect of the media. I know that in the early days,  political reporting was done by the most viscious of partisan hacks and I don’t see a big gap between the libelous pamphleteers of the 1700s and Fox news, say. And that doesn’t bother me

Bias is fine, but at least give us some reporting somewhere in between the shouting and bullying. Even if it’s biased reporting, give us some facts and some depth not just regurgitated talking points and press releases. Whether its the conspiracy theories and calculated histrionics of the Glenn Becks, the aggressively dismissive shouting of the Chris Mathews,  or the smarmy condescension of the Rachel Maddows, watchers of news get nothing but punditry. Blogs are even more brazenly partisan, and the echo chamber effect means that links and links give lots of cross-pollination but outside of a few serious outlets there is even less room for actual reporting. Newspapers. meanwhile are heaving the last choking sobs of their death spasms.

As fake news becomes the only palatable outlet for keeping up with the day-to-day political landscape, Americans lose something important. As much as I love the Stewarts, Colberts, and (to a lesser degree) Mahers of the world they are a poor substitute for substantive news reporting, told in manner meant to educate more than it entertains.

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