By BOB PALMER
Bullies must have terrible lives, particularly if they are not too bright. Bullies spend their entire existence mad at people who are smarter than them or more articulate than them or have a different skin color or haircut than them.
The only answer the bully can sous out to this situation is violence. So, they pick on the nerdy kid, lash out at the guy from the other political party and blame the messenger when they don’t like the message. These acts reflecting a limited intellect have become all too common.
The national angst spills over in hatred for the media. Cracker barrel philosophers with tobacco stained beards suggest what that reporter needs is a good “whooping.” Undoubtedly, some reporters might benefit from such an experience, but violence toward media representatives solves little and pushes the public discourse in the direction of more violence, not toward better ideas and communication.
The death of Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the hands of Saudi Arabian security agents on orders from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, brings to light a tragic tendency of international bullies. Supposedly, Mohammed bin Salman did not care for what Khashoggi wrote about him in the Washington Post.
Khashoggi’s death brings to 43 the number of journalists who died in the line of duty this year. Admittedly, some of these were killed covering wars where bullets and shells get stopped by people wearing blue Press outfits. Some reporters did die at the hands of folks who failed to appreciate the value of a free press in a civilized society. While the number of media murders in Pakistan has declined, the Pakistani military has stepped up its attempts to intimidate the press. They seek to encourage a sort of self-censorship by their domestic reporters.
Turkey, China and Egypt also regularly throw journalists in jail when the story does not agree with the official version of events. In the United States we do have limits placed on the media. Liable laws are there for a reason. We are entitled to what is called “fair comment” about public officials but cooking up lies about private citizens is forbidden.
The public is also entitled to a right to privacy. That doesn’t mean the photographer can’t take your picture when you go to a football game or get pulled over for drunk driving, however. If you are in a public place and the photographer has a right to stand where he or she is standing, then you don’t have a right to privacy.
If the media plays by those rules, the main area of conflict falls in the domain of political discussion. Everyone loves to see a headline in the paper shouting, “Joe Is Right,” particularly if your name is Joe. But if all you read, all you watch is information from one side, your side, you risk mental stagnation.
I understand how unappetizing a second helping of an argument you have already rejected can be. You don’t want to hear it. You don’t want someone from the other side to chip away at your conclusion. I would urge you to at least let the party opposite have their say without letting it disturb your naptime. You might even listen occasionally. One of my favorite quotations from Winston Churchill is,
“I never learned anything from a man I agreed with.”
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