Bernie shouldn’t be opening the Women’s Convention, and they know that

“When I saw the Black Panther trailer, I was struck by the unmitigated chocolate involved. Just a crap ton of melanin – dark, DARK-skinned people – being warriors and superheroes and sh**, and not apologizing about it. That shock or surprise, because of how few spaces represent people of color, is exactly why it’s helpful to properly center events on the identities involved (especially if your contention is that those voices are not heard enough.)”

#WomensConvention #Women #Feminism #HillaryClinton #BernieSanders

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If we all know one thing for sure, it’s that the 2016 campaign revealed divisions in America’s political thought that many were content to ignore for too long – especially in the Democratic Party. And no one accomplished more for that goal than Senator Bernie Sanders.

His campaign sent a consistent message that the establishment (the DNC) had ignored the will of the people (his supporters) and nominated Hillary Clinton against their wishes. Later on, Bernie helped foster the idea that his loss in the primaries was due to the all-powerful DNC, which Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek describes as “an impotent organization with very little power.”

Hillary Clinton has even admitted that Sanders’ caustic rhetoric took a toll on her campaign, and many women have spoken out about the online harassment that they faced from his supporters, many of whom are self-described “progressives.”

So why give him the primetime spot at a “women’s convention?”

Choosing Bernie over representation

I wrote a piece a while ago about the white imagination, and how white supremacy manages to edge its way into the lives of all, rendering young black people unable to even imagine worlds centered on themselves.

When I saw the Black Panther trailer, I was struck by the unmitigated chocolate involved. Just a crap ton of melanin – dark, DARK-skinned people – being warriors and superheroes and shit, and not apologizing about it.

That shock or surprise, because of how few spaces represent people of color, is exactly why it’s helpful to properly center events on the identities involved (especially if your contention is that those voices are not heard enough.)

I would also not choose John Green (though he’s made killer videos on the topic) to open an event on racial injustice and inequality, either, nor do I believe he would accept. (And I LOVE me some John Green.)

Representation is bad enough as it is, without having a white man open an event meant to be about women.

What choosing Bernie says

Sec. Clinton would’ve been an obviously good choice, given the vast swaths of women who supported her and have felt victimized by this presidency in the time since she has lost.

It could’ve been especially meaningful to black women, 94% of whom voted for Clinton, and many of whom did so, not because they felt that she was the lesser of the two evils when compared to Donald Trump, but that she was actually a good option.

There are those who say that feminism isn’t about solely women, and it’s also about male allies who bolster the cause.

This is true-ish, but Sanders has shown a checkered understanding of women’s issues in the past.

With his post-election insistence that Democrats eschew identity politics and not just say “I’m a woman, vote for me,” he very clearly stated that HRC’s gender was all she had to offer voters, (a not-so-subtle dig at a woman with thrice his résumé in a third of the time in national politics.)

During the campaign, he offered a brusque dismissal of Planned Parenthood’s endorsement of HRC, calling Planned Parenthood “the establishment,” which through the framing of his campaign of outsider vs. establishment, we could reasonably read as “the enemy.”

It’s worth noting that Sanders’ comments – which he has since apologized for – came at a time when they were besieged by crises daily, and a calculated attack by the right wing of the federal government. Planned Parenthood endorsed who they trusted on women’s issues – and it wasn’t Sanders.

Is this the “progressive” man you want opening your event?

It didn’t have to be a politician

Even if we were to take into account comments by Tamika D. Mallory, one of the event’s organizers, on their announcement that Sanders would open the convention, and if we believed that they reached out to high-profile, accomplished, and successful women to no avail, we cannot believe that every high-profile, accomplished, and successful woman in the country was “busy.”

“They were busy” does not cut it. All of them were not “unavailable.”

Furthermore, everyone mentioned in that tweet was a politician, but politicians don’t happen to be the only women with thoughts worth hearing about progressive politics. It could have easily been an opportunity to uplift a woman that maybe participants were unaware of before.

Perhaps an investor to talk about the market, or a doctor to talk about what changes to the ACA mean for you. A conservationist to talk about climate change. An immigration lawyer who has worked with Dreamers and illegal immigrants to give insight on a process citizens don’t have to go through.

Response to backlash

Several moves the WC has made since make it apparent that they knew their choice was indefensible, as they announced Sanders’ inclusion after the refund date. Whatever you want to say about the situation, be it that they were right or wrong to invited Sanders, that…is shady.

If you’d like to have a Bernie Sanders rally, do it. But don’t trick women thinking they’re headed for a female empowerment event only to be treated with a stump speech for Sanders 2020, after they can’t take their money back. This move suggests that the WC knew what they were doing wasn’t right.

The WC then contended that Sanders was not a focal point of the event, and attempted to contain the damage by pointing out the small number of men at the conference relative to women, but…they gave Sanders the opening speech spot.

Most likely, they believed that his presence would garner further interest, higher attendance, and more money, but when they received a negative reaction, stated that Sanders wasn’t a centerpiece.

I have no doubt that, had the reaction been more amicable, the WC may have pushed even more Sanders PR as a draw to the event.

 

A “women’s convention” should be about uplifting and amplifying the voices of women, and the WC had to know that inviting Sanders, locus of attention that he is, would distract greatly from that point. It’s quite the stretch to suggest that you didn’t think Bernie would be, umm, noticeable.

Not to mention:

  • Sanders has spent his post-election tenure appearing on Stephen Colbert to promote his book, something that he has criticized Clinton for.

  • His wife, as part of his 2020 campaign, attempted to connect the sexually depraved behavior of Harvey Weinstein to Hillary Clinton.

 

  • The Women’s Convention, an outgrowth of The Women’s March demonstration a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, uses the quote “Women’s rights are human rights,” a quote attributable to Hillary Clinton, without attribution.

What kind of message does the convention believe it’s sending to women beleaguered by sexist trolls online to invite a man that does very little to tamp them down? 

Conclusion

There should not be a man opening a “Women’s Convention,” given the already absurd lack of credence that women’s words are given compared to men, and the unfortunate lack of spaces available for them to make their words count.

What could have been an uplifting experience is now pockmarked by the fact that after contacting 3 senators, the Women’s Convention apparently decided the pool of women with valid thoughts on progressive politics had run dry.

Further, it definitely shouldn’t be this man, with his penchant for smearing a woman that many women and especially women of color, in the U.S. and around the world, admire and respect.

Even if Barack Obama himself, beacon of progressivism and beloved by all, were to speak at the convention, he’d better only be there to introduce Michelle.

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“Et dona nobis pacem” – The destruction of women will grant us peace

“After listening to that audio, it’s amazing that the media mob would be more interested in asking questions of what they suspect (with scant evidence) Meryl Streep knew than vigorously attacking The Weinstein Company, who we know knew. ”

#HarveyWeinstein #MerylStreep #SexualAssault #feminism

The year is 1482, the days when the might of the military and the authority of the Church weaved together like asps in a pit. Upon entering the city of Paris, a young gypsy girl named Esmeralda quickly runs afoul of the archdeacon of Notre Dame, Judge Claude Frollo. At the Feast of Fools, an annual celebration of debauchery and excess, the crowd relentlessly tortures Quasimodo (the hunchback) for his haggard appearance. Frollo allows it. Esmeralda does not.

“All Paris burns for Esmeralda.”

Over the course of the show, Esmeralda becomes a blank canvas on which to paint the hopes, dreams, fears, and sometimes wicked caprices of Paris itself. Rather than what she is, she is beholden to the image created of her. Frollo is successful in convincing the townspeople that Paris’s freedom and Esmeralda’s are indeed mutually exclusive.

Through acts of kindness, sexual liberation, and speaking out against societal injustice, she makes herself the target of a witchhunt, and by her destruction, goes the argument, Paris will be healed.

Harvey Weinstein

After the New York Times reported that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had been harassing and abusing women for years and paying to cover it up, there was a ferocious outcry. Conservatives lambasted Democrats and Hillary Clinton for apparently “letting” Weinstein get away with this. (Weinstein was a big Democratic donor.)

The witchhunt then cycled to Meryl Streep, Hollywood royalty who has worked with Weinstein on multiple films.

It’s not an accident that the first targets of the witchhunt were women.

Listen, if you can (and consider this a very strong trigger/content warning because this is highly disturbing audio) to this heinous interaction between Weinstein and Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.

After listening to that audio, it’s amazing that the media mob would be more interested in asking questions of whether or not Meryl Streep knew than vigorously attacking The Weinstein Company, who we know knew.

Et dona nobis pacem

During the song “Esmeralda,” the mob searches high and low for her, at Frollo’s behest. As Frollo, the townspeople, and soldiers raid every corner of Paris looking the gypsy girl (whose crimes include entering Paris illegally (commentary) and practicing “witchcraft”), they sing:

“These are the flames of Esmeralda, the night is singing of Esmeralda.”

But these aren’t the flames of Esmeralda. Frollo is the one literally setting homes ablaze in hopes of finding her. Frollo is the one that Paris burns for. And as Quasimodo figures out by the end of the play, Frollo is the one who is desperately wicked, not Esmeralda.

The townspeople never catch up to that. They sing in Latin behind Frollo, saying, “Et dona nobis pacem” or “And grant us peace.” The crowd believes that the death of Esmerelda will bring that.

Just before burning her at the stake, Frollo issues his final decree:

“For the justice of the realm and for the salvation of Paris, it is my sacred duty to send this unholy demon back to hell.”

Frollo explicitly connects the idea of the salvation of Paris to the destruction of a woman, because it seems our salvation is always dependent on such.

Conclusion

It’s easier to harass and harangue Meryl Streep or Hillary Clinton for what people (with little evidence) suspect that they knew than to entangle ourselves in the righteous struggle against power structures that empower Harvey Weinstein, and men like him.

It’s easier for us to pretend that destroying Streep, whatever we believe her to be a symbol of, will bring an era of lasting joy throughout the land, or somehow provide restitution for the damage that has been caused, but that responsibility lays sharply at the feet of Harvey Weinstein.

Justice didn’t come to Paris when Esmeralda died. It came when Frollo did.

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Sexual assault is not a political tool, so stop using it like one

“Sexual assault is not a partisan issue, and those who treat it as one are neither fit nor deserving to be advocates against it, and should be ashamed of pretending to be.”

After a bombshell report by the New York Times, famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been fired from the company he founded, concerning allegations of decades of sexual abuse against women. Depending on what you knew about Harvey Weinstein, the news is either shocking or not, but the point is that we know now.

The fallout, however, is a whole different story.

Hours after the report, the RNC slammed Democrats for their silence on Weinstein. Donald Trump, Jr and Sean Spicer both criticized Hillary Clinton on Twitter for what they perceived as a silence on the issue.

I have some notes on the inanity of asking this.

  1. Hillary Clinton is a private citizen, not required to “issue statements” on anything.
  2. Insisting that she speak out on this issue does not jive with overwhelming admonitions just a month ago that she “go away.”

    Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 11.11.58 AM.png
    That’s just page 1 of Google.
  3. Weinstein being a Democratic donor indicates his endorsement for the party, not the other way around.
  4. If I were Sean Spicer, I might keep my mouth shut about sexual abuse, given that he worked for, lied for, attempted to humanize, defended, normalized, and praised a man who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women.
  5. As for Donald Trump Jr., he seems quick on the draw when it comes to a Democratic donor embroiled in a sexual assault scandal, but when asked about women that suffer sexual harassment in the workplace, he said that women who couldn’t handle it would be better off teaching kindergarten.Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 10.42.33 AM.pngAnd we’ve been talking about politics this whole time. But what was the name of the Italian model Weinstein assaulted in March 2015?

Sexual assault is not a political tool

Even though Weinstein’s abuses have now been widely reported, these jabs at naked opportunism show that the GOP is hardly concerned with the actual victims of sexual crimes, seeing them as but pawns in a game (as evidenced by the time Donald Trump literally met with Bill Clinton’s accusers prior to a debate, presumably to “throw off” Hillary.) But they’re not.

In March 2015, Mr. Weinstein had invited Ambra Battilana, an Italian model and aspiring actress, to his TriBeCa office on a Friday evening to discuss her career. Within hours, she called the police. Ms. Battilana told them that Mr. Weinstein had grabbed her breasts after asking if they were real and put his hands up her skirt, the police report says.

Ambra Battilana is a real person who was assaulted by a man with a lot more influence, money, and power than she had. As Lauren O’Connor, Weinstein’s former employee, aptly put it in a memo distributed to higher-ups at the company:

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 11.50.59 AM

Sexual assault is not a political weapon to be used at your disposal. It’s not up to us to say “I don’t like Donald Trump” or “I don’t like Bill Clinton” or “I like Bill Cosby” and choose whether or not we believe the victims of assault based on our preferences.

People who dismissed Donald Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood comments as just “locker room talk” or defend, as Don Jr. did, “a guys’ place” can hardly righteously denounce Harvey Weinstein for engaging in practices they are actively encouraging.

This move is especially egregious if we, at no other time, show interest or commitment to stopping this kind of behavior through legislation or culture.

According to End The Backlog, tens of thousands of rape kits go untested every year. Where do calls for legislation to aid victims in that way come from? Oh, right, from a comedian.

From whence comes the resistance? GOP officials like Georgia state senator Renee Unterman, who killed legislation designed to reduce the amount of untested rape kits. It was voted in unanimously by the House prior to reaching her committee.

Where is the adamant denunciation for that kind of behavior by a member of your own party? Why are Spicer and Don Jr. badgering a woman that lost an election a year ago? Perhaps their commitments to justice for victims of sexual harassment/assault and rape are only skin deep, as your convictions might have to be to condemn others while serving Donald Trump himself.

Sexual assault is not a partisan issue, and those who treat it as one are neither fit nor deserving to be advocates against it, and should be ashamed of pretending to be.

 

 

 

Unpopular Opinion: Relitigating 2016 is the best, actually

“Archaeologists don’t say to themselves, ‘Welp, I guess we know everything we need to know about Pompeii. What we really need is to focus on the next volcano.’

#Election #HillaryClinton #BernieSanders #DonaldTrump

With Bernie Sanders pushing a new “Medicare for All” bill and Hillary Clinton attending a spate of events to promote her memoir of what-the-heck-was-that-we-all-just-went-through, feelings about the 2016 election have resurfaced…as if they ever went away in the first place.

The contentious election was a reminder of something we all instinctually know already: the same name doesn’t guarantee the same values. Whether it be atheists, Democrats, Christians, black people, or Americans, there is no containing the multiplicity of political attitudes present in a given group of people – even among people that all call themselves the same thing.

Specifically among Democrats, it’s said that Democrats shouldn’t be relitigating 2016, and instead should be focused on the future.

But shouldn’t they?

Relitigating in politics is called research anywhere else

Politics is peculiar in that it is a discipline directly affected by history, but not directly beholden to it.

Every four years, candidates get up in front of the country and say things that are demonstrably false about an esoteric policy provision or piece of political history, safe in the notion that you won’t remember.

How do expect to claim victory in the future without a thorough understanding of what led to your defeat? And how are we supposed to learn if our base instinct is that we don’t need to look at the past?

If things that happened 50 years ago affect the way we live today (and they do), then surely things that happened 9 months ago make some sort of impact.

Asking questions like:

  • What are some of the causes for this particular event?
  • Have similar things happened at different times?
  • Can we use this information to further our understanding?
  • Do any discernible patterns exist in the data?
  • Do they have explanatory or predictive power?

These are all good questions, and forestalling them because we seek some sense of hollow “unity” is not going to help us.

Archaeologists don’t say to themselves, “Welp, I guess we know everything we need to know about Pompeii. We need to focus on the next volcano.” They don’t do that because they understand how valuable the information you can get from that one event can be.

“Pompeii as an archaeological site is the longest continually excavated site in the world,” says Steven Ellis, a classics professor at the University of Cincinnati and the co-director of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia.

Maybe it’s time to politic like a scientist.

Politic like a scientist

In order to “look toward the future,” we have to know what happened. There’s a dead body in the room, we all know that. But is the first guy to come in and shout, “It was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a candlestick!” usually right? Not exactly.

  1. That guy isn’t Shawn Spencer, psychic and detective extraordinaire.
  2. Things are usually a bit more complicated than that.

It’s not wrong to acknowledge that there are a confluence of factors that lead to a given situation or that impact the outcome of one event.

Further, it’s widely said that Democrats are at a point at the moment where they are deciding the values of their party, what stays and what goes, doing “soul-searching” – or at least it’s suggested that they should.

And that won’t happen without looking into the past.

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Presidents are not people

If you ever wonder why people are caring about something that “doesn’t affect them,” this post is for you.

Recently, I came across a comment on a friend’s Facebook page that went something like this:

“I know….everybody hates him, and I’m just here focusing on my goals. “

They were talking about Donald Trump. This kind of apathy comes in many versions, from people who “tired of politics” to people who thought that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were “just as bad.”

I’m not in the business of convincing people to care about things they don’t. So I won’t. I’ll just use this post to answer the question of why people care who is president.

 

The anatomy of a vote

Who you choose to vote for is an intensely personal thing, and by personal, I don’t mean private. Some people certainly choose to keep it that way; others slap Bernie 2020 bumper stickers on their Subaru Outbacks.

A vote is personal in the sense that it is specific to you. After all, two people can arrive at the same vote for different reasons. A healthcare vote may be stalled by two members of opposing parties, one not supporting the legislation because they think it cruel, and another because it doesn’t go far enough. Same vote, wildly different people.

Not only that, but factored into the way you vote and the candidates you find favorable are your education, your upbringing, your race, your religion, your location, and a million different things.

This begs the question: If people know how much of someone goes into a vote, why do they pretend it doesn’t matter?

Voter Apathy

Voter apathy is expressed in many ways, from people who believe that a cabal of powerful oligarchs run the country and therefore it doesn’t matter what you do; to those who don’t understand how a vote could end a friendship, and find that immature.

Logically, if so many different parts of your make-up are required to make a decision about who to vote for, then your vote does indeed say something about who you are. Maybe not everything. But something? Without a doubt.

If people know how much of someone goes into a vote, why do they pretend it doesn’t matter?

This is why people care who’s president. One) We need something to jabber on about. Two (and far more charitable) is that the values that we hold are important to us. Regardless of what the apathetic will tell you, there are a different set of consequences for each choice – not all are equal.

Presidents are not people

In many aspects, the president is not a person. The president is a significant cultural stand-in for the values of a country at any given time. What kind of leader is chosen by the people of a country (given that they are chosen through fair means) is a statement, both writ large and personal, of what we think is important, and what our values are.

Inasmuch as they are literal, breathing people, they are also, and always have been, symbols, avatars through which to express our brightest hopes and deepest fears, and nearly every time, they are a reflection of who we are as people.

People are usually either stupid, mean, or both. It is only a happy accident when our leaders are any different. – a friend

Effect

The last refuge of the apathetic is to claim that they shouldn’t care about this so much because it doesn’t affect them.

  1. It does affect you.

    The next time someone says that it doesn’t affect them, ask them if having clean drinking water from the tap affects people. If a person is unfairly brutalized by police, does that have an effect on them? Is it simply an incidental detail to you who is in control of your child’s education?

    You are not bigger than the world.

    The reason people care is that these are intense fights over how we organize society, how we decide who gets what resources and when, how we separate the deserving from the undeserving.

  2. It’s probably affecting someone else.

    Even if you are lucky enough to somehow be above the fray and nothing ever affects you at all, when you suggest others are somehow foolish for caring, you’re saying that the only important thing is what affects you. If that’s your value judgement, go ahead, but I don’t think most people want it to be.

People seem to aptly understand an issue so simple when it’s their child, when it’s their home, when it’s their city.

Well…I care because it’s my country. And that’s enough for me.

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Hillary Clinton’s Crucifixion Is Proof That A Woman’s Debt Is Never Paid

“No one stops Mike Huckabee from bloviating like a blobfish on any network news show that will have him. The honor of being asked to keep your mouth shut is the pittance of powerful women everywhere.”

Hillary Clinton needs to do something. If you’ve been following news coverage, that much is clear. Nobody’s clear on what that something is, though.

Maybe she needs to spend less time in her ivory tower, and mingle with the common folk she’s so dissociated from. But she also needs to not pander. She needs to apologize for the Crime Bill. I think her apology is cynical opportunism. And where was she after the election?? Bernie Sanders was busy defending our freedoms at DAPL, and Hillary just disappeared! I don’t think that has anything to do with one being in politics and one not.

After a recent spate of talks, headlines are buzzing around the name Hillary Clinton, as the left and the right have a perfect receptacle for their misguided vitriol at…the general state of things. And though the far left and far right both agree that absolutely everything that she does is wrong, neither seem to have very clear ideas about what she could be doing differently.

And before you consider this post nakedly partisan garbage that you can safely write off, I would urge you to reconsider. If someone says something like, “Hillary needs to do something” and someone asks, “What?”, it’s a reasonable question.

And if you can’t come up with a reasonable answer, then it might be straight up misogyny.

I would like to remind everyone that no one insists that Newt Gingrich never speak again, even though he has run a failed presidential campaign. No one stops Mike Huckabee from bloviating like a blobfish on any network news show that will have him. The honor of being asked to keep your mouth shut is the pittance of powerful women everywhere.

And no one is telling liberal Messiah and resident grandpa Bernie Sanders that he should “step aside” or “let new blood in because he’s had his chance,” even though he’s 74, has been in Congress for decades, and never made it past the primary in his bid for president. In fact, the Democratic “establishment” is taking him on tours around the country, ostensibly to profusely apologize to the white working class.

If you have a legitimate critique for Clinton, bring them on, but saying that simply because she failed to clinch the presidency that she doesn’t get to speak to the issues is straight up sexist.

Besides, she’s not in politics, which means that you’re spending all of your energy hating someone who already has “stepped aside.” Not to mention that I’m not sure how people think the mere existence of Hillary Clinton as a living, breathing person, stops “new blood” from running for office.

And if you just have a vague feeling that she should be doing something different, but can’t articulate what or how, feel free to step aside.

Thanks for reading this blog, and continue to check back for more!

Photo

Photographer: Marc Nozell

License

Dear America, It’s Your Own Fault You Can’t Read Anymore

“To the pure, all things are pure, not only meats and drinks, but all kinde of knowledge whether of good or evill; the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defil’d.” – John Milton, Areopagitica

When I was in college, there was a clear hierarchy of majors, and mine was at the bottom. I’ve heard every stereotype imaginable about English majors, and almost none of them were good, except for “bookish” or “nerd, which I will totally own.

If an adult asked what you and another student were studying, you felt infinitely inferior when they said, “Biochemistry.”

Student: Biochemistry.

Adult: Oh, cool! What school do you plan to go to? What do you want to specialize in? Oh, Berkeley?

You: English literature.

Adult: Oh. You sure you’ll be able to make money with that? What, you’re not going to be a teacher? Yeah, that’s a hard road…

Welp, the joke’s on the adults now, because apparently some of y’all have forgotten how to read.

Fake News

So the new wave of terror sweeping across the land appears to be “fake news.” Obama’s said it, Hillary Clinton has said it, and Donald Trump has called almost everyone it. The New York Times has run profiles of the provocateurs behind the most radical “fake news” sites, left and right.

And this all comes at a time when President Trump has said he wants to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, STEM fields are lauded, and humanities are laughed at.

This delegitimization of art and humanities is also at odds with the fact that it is governmentally-required core curriculum. Why do you think that is? Do you think math is necessary to be a well-rounded student, but not reading? This atmosphere indicates a culture that has lost its critical capacities, but feels free to punch down on those who actually learned them.

So here’s what I learned.

Sources

There are two basic reactions to sources. Either, “If you read X sources, then you’re a raving lunatic,” and “I won’t read or trust ANYTHING without proper sources.” The first seeks to delegitimize an opponent’s argument simply because you know what they read, and the second is the equivalent of a new driver making sure EVERY SINGLE THING is perfect before and during a drive.

Both miss the mark.

For all the emphasis that we put on sources, they don’t matter as much as you might think. The way that we process information from those sources does.

In Areopagitica, John Milton’s defense of unlicensed printing and against unfair censorship, he writes:

To the pure, all things are pure, not only meats and drinks, but all kinde of knowledge whether of good or evill; the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defil’d.

Milton is arguing that, given strong enough mental faculties, you can confront information without simply believing it. Learning things like this in school matters in a tangible way, and it means that some headlines simply do not make an impression on me.

Where they come from, the reputation of that website, even the type of website (lots of pop-ups), the writer’s past works – all factor into me making a decision about what type of information I’m reading, how credible it is, and how seriously I need to take it.

Note that I didn’t say that it tells me whether or not to read it. Developing these abilities ensures that you are capable of reading many sources and identifying what in them is true and what in them is false. This can be difficult, even for those with practice, and especially given that the aim of some of these organizations is to trick you.

But this also means your friends won’t laugh at you when you think The Onion or Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker is serious.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

I’m won’t so far as to say that sources do not matter, but I will say that in the end, what you read is not nearly as important as how you read. Learning what constitutes good and bad information will eventually lead you to certain sources over others, but if your will and conscience is not defiled, you can read a wide range of things to better inform your worldview.

And as author John Green notes, “If you have a worldview that can be undone by a book, let me submit to you that the book is not the problem.”

Bias

Another mistake apparently everyone is making right now is mistaking bias for “agenda” or worse, “fake news.” Here are some important facts about bias.

  1. Nobody has every written an unbiased piece. Ever.
  2. Bias does not mean that what is being conveyed is not true.
  3. Bias has to do with how you process information, not the information itself.

An example of that third point would be the story run in the New York Times about Donald Trump’s bone spurs that supposedly stopped him from being drafted into the Vietnam War.

Bias may be represented in the presentation of that particular collection of facts, the assumption that the absence of proper records denotes a lie on the part of Donald Trump, or assumption that he’s not telling the truth when he says he doesn’t remember which foot the injuries were in, and alternately says left, right, or both.

One could call these measures “biased”, but you certainly can’t jump the gun and call them fake, by any measure. They are not willful fabrications about something that didn’t happen or a gross mischaracterization of what did happen. “Fake” is what happens when you decide that your bias is more important than the truth, either through incompetence or laziness, and an “agenda” is when you do that on purpose.

Objectivity

The last thing that I see others clamoring for in this news atmosphere is objectivity. However, as the late and great journalist Gwen Ifill said, “I don’t believe in objectivity, I believe in fairness.” This is a point that gets lost in the rabble.

If the truth is slanted, reporting “objectively” is a lie. News organizations faced this issue during the campaign. Not wanting to be seen as “biased,” they deliberately pretended that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were anywhere near equal in scandal, in foundation, or in ability for the job.

Furthermore, the kind of objectivity people seem to be arguing for is an objectivity after knowledge, and that’s not how it works. You learn more and more facts until you have enough to make a valid conclusion and move forward.

So, no, B.O.B., the news isn’t “biased” when it says the earth is elliptical. They have amassed enough facts to confidently make that assertion.

Similarly, I don’t know how many times a person has to lie to you before you say, “That person is a pathological liar and it would be wise to take that into account while listening to what they’re saying.”

Let’s take the previous example of Donald Trump’s bone spurs. On the surface, maybe it seems acceptable. Then you learn:

  • Reporters are unable to find proper documentation for the injuries.
  • The condition Trump cites is likely to be extremely painful, rarely not. It seems unlikely that a person wouldn’t remember where it was.
  • During the time he supposedly had the condition, it did not prevent him from playing football or basketball, things that people with that condition typically can’t do.
  • Donald Trump has lied about a range of topics his entire life.

Conclusion? Lie vs. lie:

His foggy memory around the injuries and activity while he supposedly had them would be consistent with a story of them being less severe than average, but if it were less severe than average, that doesn’t explain why he was unfit for the draft.

The records and deferment would be consistent with a story of a condition more severe than average, but if it were more severe, it wouldn’t explain why he can’t remember it clearly or why that didn’t bar him from other vigorous activities, like sports.

This is a perfect example of objectivity at work. You compile the facts you have, you ask fair questions about them, and then you whittle down until you get to the most likely possibility(ies).

Conclusion

Nothing that I just said would jolt or surprise an English student. They spend years learning these critical abilities and learning how to sort, collate, compile, and process information to make themselves more informed citizens of the world.

So maybe, before making fun of people who study the humanities, you would do well to get one of them to read the newspaper to you, America, because it’s your fault you can’t read anymore.

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