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CSotD: Things We Should Already Know

Kal Kallaugher describes a central issue in the campaign to “Make America Great Again” that goes beyond border walls and is at the heart of a whole lot of issues we’re dealing with.

America as a “Melting Pot” derives from a 1908 play by Israel Zangwill, an immigrant from Britain who was, himself, the son of immigrants from Latvia and Poland.

It’s a nice fantasy, a land in which all religious, cultural and racial differences are “melted” into a new identity, but, in practice, it never brought about the cheerful cafe-au-lait color in Zangwill’s dream, here being applied by the painters.

Rather, “we” (that dangerous word) welcomed immigrants who became like “us.”

Perhaps the best illustration is, oddly, not at our ports of entry but at the Carlisle Indian School, where our first Americans were shorn of their long hair, stripped of their language and religion and taught that success depended on becoming like “us.”

That process was demanded of everyone, Irish or Bohemian or Jewish or Asian or black, even by good people of good intentions: Jacob Riis, an immigrant who championed the poor and downtrodden, wrote embarrassingly stereotyped descriptions of the various ethnicities in the slums he fought to improve.

Which in today’s hyper-critical, perfectionist world means that we should probably hate and reject him, too, for living by the values of his own times instead of anticipating ours.

However, all great social reformers of that era — not just Riis — assumed that the best policy for immigrants was to adapt to the prevailing customs of their new homeland, to be part of the never-darkening Melting Pot, as opposed to what Canadians today refer to as the colorful Cultural Mosaic.

I wish we would study our past in order to understand our present, and save our condemnation for those who continue to maintain that viewpoint today.

Which would include Dear Leader in his role as exemplar of those who fear immigrants and the browning of America, and whose vision of making America great again means returning to an era in which the WASP viewpoint was not only the default but the goal.

After all, he may not have quite won the popular vote, but he certainly was embraced by a great many of our fellow citizens.

Which brings us to our

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Mike Marland)

 

(Bill Bramhall)

 

(Clay Jones)

 

(Matt Davies)

I considered stringing these through a narrative rather than bunching them up in a Juxtaposition, but, while each is different, they’re yet all one.

Our media world has, over the past generation, gone from a world of gatekeepers to one of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” such that the MAGA people in Clay Jones’ cartoon can actually demand that the bartender turn to a channel that provides the news they prefer, and there will be such a channel.

Marland, however, makes a somewhat more sweeping point, which is that we see what we want to see, which feeds into Bramhall’s question about judgment and selective values.

Davies deals the card that is most complex, because our media have changed, and, while it’s not fair to blame them entirely for the choices the audience makes, it is perfectly fair to analyze what the audience is being offered.

We’re encouraged by Dear Leader and others of his ilk to dismiss things we don’t like as “fake news” and to dismiss media that doesn’t serve up our preferred menu of facts as “the enemy of the people.”

But it’s worth repeating that, as noted here the other day, even Fox News analyst Howard Kurtz has acknowledged that coverage of the Jussie Smollett incident was responsible.

But Davies is correct that the rush to be first and to capture the eyeballs and the clicks has led to incomplete, hurried work, even if it is appropriately couched in language of “according to police” and “reportedly” and “allegedly.”

Case in Point: I also noted the other day that this type of event is relatively common on college campuses.

In the early 80s, then-wife was PIO for a liberal arts college and got a call one night from campus security that a white female student had been attacked by Hispanic townies and slashed with a razor.

As she was preparing to go into the office, she got a second call from security suggesting that everyone slow down because things didn’t look right.

She called her media contacts with the warning, and everybody stayed cool like little Fonzies until, yes, it turned out the girl had cut herself, there was no attack and she would be leaving school to go home and get her head straight.

The point is this: Then-wife had excellent rapport with local reporters, but — her considerable professionalism aside — it was in large part because they knew each other.

Staffing levels were such that reporters had actual beats which they focused on and understood, plus they were not under maniacal pressure to file X-number of stories a day plus blog plus tweet plus post a video plus do it all before the other guys do.

So a huge story about evil Hispanic street punks became a small story about a sad, disturbed person.

I wish the Jessie Smollett story had been reported that way, but we have neither the time nor the staff anymore.

 

Part Two is that the “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience is not simply based on what you want to know but on what your friends care about, and I use the term “friends” to mean the collective hive mind on your social media.

So if Jussie Smollett is at the top of your feed and Christopher Paul Hassan is not showing up, it’s not because the Mainstream Media hasn’t covered both stories.

It’s because of how you have curated your friends list.

This was a different world when Walter Cronkite made those choices for us, and I suppose that was paternalistic, but maybe you should check the foundations of your platform before you pride yourself on its construction.

 

Community Comments

#1 Paul Berge
February/23/2019
@ 9:35 am

When I drew about the Smollett case shortly after the story broke, I caught enough of a whiff of doubt in the media reports that I realized that I couldn’t present the attack as a given fact. As Kurtz noted, there was a hint within the coverage to indicate that somebody in the Chicago PD wasn’t buying Smollett’s story.

More’s the pity that certain presidential candidates couldn’t detect that smell, but we are at the stage where they get attacked just for eating chicken with a knife and fork, after all.

#2 Mike Peterson
February/23/2019
@ 2:57 pm

Everybody please read the last part of Paul’s comment again.

#3 Mary McNeil
February/23/2019
@ 3:12 pm

As an NPR person commented yesterday, there was a certain irony to the Chicago PD quickly discounting his story as false – as opposed to shooting him umpteen times as he ran from them.

#4 Mike Peterson
February/23/2019
@ 3:28 pm

There is a substantial “Don’t get me started” element here when it comes to Chicago cops.

We knew it was important to go into town clean, but, then again, we knew if you didn’t have evidence, they’d provide some.

You hope for improvement in 50 years, but it’s one helluva legacy.Those checkerboards still make my gut tighten up and it’s been many years since I had long hair (and I never had black skin).

#5 Ignatz
February/24/2019
@ 7:34 am

With all the ruckus about Jussie Smollett, I had forgotten that Trump’s buddy, Joe Arpaio, not only hoaxed being the victim of an assassination attempt, but actually fraudulently arrested James Saville for it, and put Saville in jail for three years. And it was a hoax created by Arpaio himself.

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