Media Race Discussions in an Irrelevant Echo-Chamber
One of the clearest examples of the dangers of segregating the news media into ideological echo-chambers is the current discussion about race. Specifically in the context of Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments regarding his treatment at a House Judiciary Committee meeting last week. Yet for our purposes, we are only going to focus on the coverage of the larger discussion of race that was the natural progression from that story, starting with Fox News Sunday.
The network Sunday news shows used to set the national conversation for the week. Now, because news is covered as it happens, the Sunday shows don’t set the conversation, but instead deconstruct it to perhaps find some underlying important truths. Political columnist George Will has long been a fixture on these shows, yet was a bit reductive when he suggested that the “”intellectual poverty” in the Liberal philosophy led to accusations of racism against “anyone who criticizes [them].”
On Monday, during the “Hume Zone” segment on Bill O’Reilly’s show, Brit Hume upped the ante by reiterating his sentiments that when white people discuss race in the way they did on the show, that alone is enough to be branded racist.
On the other side, Ed Schultz spoke to Michael Eric Dyson and Goldie Taylor about the issue. Taylor suggested that Will’s and Hume’s ignorance of their own white privilege is an even larger sign of intellectual poverty. The point-of-view of the speaker was not even worth of considering. This is one of the rare instances where both sides are exactly right. Like comparing someone to Hitler in an argument, accusations of racism shut down all substantive communication. The term has been applied to everything from governmental policy to Tweets and jokes. With the right viral momentum, one statement can end even respectable journalists’ careers.
Yet because news programmers and executives care little about advancing the national understanding of issues and instead about ratings and ad revenue, we don’t get the conversation we should. Rather than a reasoned debate, the coverage is all outrage and finger-pointing. The sum of a person is more than simply one statement or belief about an issue, even if it is wrong-headed. Attacking them, rather than hearing them out and counter-arguing, only serves to deepen the chasm between opposing viewpoints and will prevent real progress from ever occurring again.