East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, March 02, 2017, Page Page 4A, Image 4

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    Page 4A
East Oregonian
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Founded October 16, 1875
Managing Editor
Opinion Page Editor
Regional Advertising Director
Circulation Manager
Business Office Manager
Production Manager
Media — and
its consumers —
must improve
American media has never been
or read an article online and come
away from it incensed, furious and
more in the crosshairs than today.
apoplectic, it is important to step
Like Nicolas Maduro in
Venezuela and Vladimir Putin in
back and ask yourself if you are
Russia, U.S. President Donald
being manipulated — and to what
Trump has made hay while
hammering on a press that Trump
That doesn’t mean the
describes as “fake” and the “enemy
best journalism doesn’t cause
of the people.”
intense reactions. We cover fatal
And he has found a receptive
accidents and fires and suicides
audience. Trust in the media is at an
and bankruptcies that can incense
all-time low.
readers. But those powerful stories
It is worth defining “media,”
are buffeted by the daily grind of
many others that move the narrative
as the vague and often pejorative
forward, give the reader context,
term means lots of things to
include relevant facts and help
different people. Disappointingly,
round out the entire story. It’s not
to a growing number it means cable
always life-changing
television news.
more often
In January, about
It may be good stuff,
it’s the day-to-day
2.8 million people
of the
watched Fox News
TV, but it’s not machinations
world we live in and
each night during
always good the government we
primetime, 1.2
pay for.
million watched CNN
Perhaps you
and MSNBC had 1.1
are willing to trust
million viewers. You
your government and its president
can bet that can’t-take-your-eyes-
implicitly, to take one person’s word
off-him Donald Trump was one
reason for that increase, and likely a for what is fake and what is true. We
believe that’s dangerous and that
reason why those numbers will stay
good journalism is more important
sky high.
when it’s under attack.
At the same time, about 38
Our education system does too. In
percent of Americans (120 million)
schools across the country, facts are
claimed to read a newspaper on a
paramount. Right answers get you
regular basis according to a 2013
credit and wrong answers get you
Pew Research study, down from 54
bupkis. Learning how to research,
percent in 2004.
how to think critically and how to
We are a newspaper, so we come
reach the correct conclusion has long
from that journalistic perspective.
been the basis of learning.
We go to meetings, go to schools,
That’s why teachers are
go to businesses, tag along, talk to
instructing students on how to be
people, ask blunt and sometimes
good consumers of news — to
annoying questions, read budgets,
find secondary sources, look for
go to wrecks, go to fires, write
bylines and contact information,
down what we see, write down
research a publication’s history and
what authorities tell us, ask more
range of output and how to tell the
questions, then report.
difference between spin and fact.
We hope to do it with a mix of
They are important reminders for all
entertainment, humor and local
Americans now more than ever, as
flavor — but information is always
information designed to mislead is
at the core.
being pushed out in high number.
Cable news does television
You should be suspicious of what
remarkably well. But the
you read, as journalists are trained
line between journalism and
to be whether looking at a press
entertainment is often blurred there.
Many news shows consist of pundits release, a government document or
propping up, then attacking what are a note from an anonymous source.
But you should be more trusting of
often straw man arguments from an
outlets and journalists who show
opposition figure.
Talking heads are invited to voice their work, who have a long history
of revealing truths, who admit
a side of the issue, not to help the
readily to errors, who don’t play
audience understand the issue. It’s
with your emotions and favor cold,
great television — especially if you
hard (sometimes boring) fact. Some
have a dog in the fight — but often
do that better than others, though
it’s not journalism. It’s borderline
none are perfect all the time. But
debate, it’s definitely entertainment,
you should be a wise consumer, not
and it’s designed to keep you
reading outlets based on whether
hooked. Like Doritos, it offers
you agree with their conclusions but
enough flavor to keep you coming
back but not enough sustenance that those who make you smarter and
you can put down your bag of chips. more informed.
The media is going through the
One other way you can become
wringer right now, but it will outlive
“hooked” on empty calories is by
this era and — with your help — be
emotional manipulation. If you
better than before.
watch a segment on cable news
Today’s age of reason
eing around a college classroom
What’s interesting, Hill noted, is that
can really expand your
the anti-Enlightenment traditions are
perspective. For example,
somehow back. Nietzschean thinking
last week we were finishing off a
is back in the form of Vladimir Putin.
seminar in grand strategy when one
Marxian thinking is back in the form of
of my Yale colleagues, Charles Hill,
an aggressive China. Both Russia and
drew a diagram on the board that put
China are trying to harvest the benefits
today’s events in a sweeping historical
of the Enlightenment order, but they
also want to break the rules when they
Running through the center
Brooks feel like it. They incorporate deep
of the diagram was the long line
strains of anti-Enlightenment thinking
of Enlightenment thought. The
and undermine the post-Enlightenment
Enlightenment included thinkers like
world order.
John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued
Hill didn’t say it, but I’d add that anti-
that people should stop deferring blindly to
Enlightenment thinking is also back in the
authority for how to live. Instead, they should
form of Donald Trump, racial separatists and
think things through from the ground up,
the world’s other populist ethnic nationalist
respect facts and skeptically re-examine their
own assumptions and convictions.
Today’s anti-Enlightenment movements
Enlightenment thinkers turned their
don’t think truth is to be found through
skeptical ideas into skeptical institutions,
skeptical inquiry and debate. They think
notably the U.S.
wisdom and virtue are
Constitution. America’s
found in the instincts of
founders didn’t trust the
the plain people, deep in
people or themselves,
the mystical core of the
so they built a system of
nation’s or race’s group
rules, providing checks
and balances to pit interest
Today’s anti-
against interest.
Enlightenment movements
De Tocqueville came
believe less in calm
along and said that if a
persuasion and evidence-
rules-based democratic
based inquiry than in
government was going
purity of will. They try to
to work anywhere it was going to be the
win debates through blunt force and silencing
United States. America became the test case
unacceptable speech.
for the entire Enlightenment project. With his
They don’t see history as a gradual march
distrust of mob rule and his reverence for law, toward cooperation. They see history as
Abraham Lincoln was a classic Enlightenment cataclysmic cycles — a zero-sum endeavor
man. His success in the Civil War seemed to
marked by conflict. Nations trying to screw
vindicate faith in democracy and the entire
other nations, races inherently trying to
Enlightenment cause.
oppress other races.
In the 20th century, Enlightenment leaders
These movements are hostile to rules-based
extended the project globally, building
systems, multilateral organizations, the messy
rules-based multilateral institutions like
compromises of democratic politics and what
the European Union and NATO to restrain
Steve Bannon calls the “administrative state.”
threatening powers and preserve a balance of
They prefer the direct rule by one strongman
who is the embodiment of the will of the
The Enlightenment project gave us
the modern world, but it has always had
When Trump calls the media the “enemy
weaknesses. First, Enlightenment figures
of the people” he is going after the system
perpetually tell themselves that religion is
of conversation, debate and inquiry that is
dead (it isn’t) and that race is dead (it isn’t),
the foundation for the entire Enlightenment
and so they are always surprised by events.
Second, it is thin on meaning. It treats people
When anti-Enlightenment movements
as bland rational egoists and tends to produce
arose in the past, Enlightenment heroes rose
governments run by soulless technocrats.
to combat them. Lincoln was no soulless
Third, Enlightenment governance fails from
technocrat. He fought fanaticism by doubling
time to time.
down on Enlightenment methods, with charity,
At these moments anti-Enlightenment
reason and patience. He worked tirelessly
movements gain power. Amid the collapse
for unity over division. He was a hopeful
of the old regimes during World War I,
pessimist who knew the struggle would
the Marxists attacked the notion of private
be long but he had faith in providence and
property. That brought us Lenin, Stalin and
ultimate justice.
Mao. After the failures of Versailles, the
We live in a time when many people have
Nietzscheans attacked the separation of
lost faith in the Enlightenment habits and
powers and argued that power should be
institutions. I wonder if there is a group of
centralized in the hands of society’s winners,
leaders who will rise up and unabashedly
the master race. This brought us Hitler and the defend this project, or even realize that it
is this fundamental thing that is now under
Hill pointed out that the forces of the
Enlightenment have always defeated the
anti-Enlightenment threats. When the Cold
David Brooks became a New York Times
War ended, the Enlightenment project seemed Op-Ed columnist in September 2003. He
utterly triumphant.
has been a senior editor at The Weekly
But now we’re living in the wake of
Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek
another set of failures: the financial crisis, the
and the Atlantic Monthly, and is currently a
slow collapse of the European project, Iraq.
commentator on PBS.
The Enlightenment
gave us the
modern world,
but it always had
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the East Oregonian editorial board of publisher
Kathryn Brown, managing editor Daniel Wattenburger, and opinion page editor Tim Trainor.
Other columns, letters and cartoons on this page express the opinions of the authors and not
necessarily that of the East Oregonian.
Walden has not met with local
group of concerned citizens
A group of concerned Democrats
and Republicans from Pine Valley tried
unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting last
week with Representative Walden’s office
in La Grande, to discuss the Congressman’s
legislative agenda for this year. Our repeated
attempts to connect with his staff there failed.
We are now writing to express our serious
concern regarding this failure to allow citizen
input to our representative in Congress.
We called and left messages at the La
Grande field office on Feb. 17, 21, 23 and 24.
We also spoke with someone in Rep. Walden’s
Washington, D.C., office on Feb. 21 and 23,
both times being assured that they would
communicate our interest in meeting with his
staff. Still, we have heard nothing from the La
Grande office.
Additionally, Rep. Walden’s website
showed no town hall meetings scheduled in
Eastern Oregon last week. However, we did
learn during the call to his Washington, D.C.,
office on the 21st of a town hall meeting in
Ontario, only an hour before it was to begin.
We were unable to attend on such short notice.
We’ve read in local newspapers that the
congressman met with a few individuals and a
Rotary group in our area this past week.
In conclusion, it appears that
Representative Walden and/or his staff may
not want to hear from a broader range of
his constituency. This is very disappointing
and reflects poorly on our representative’s
commitment to democracy. For a stronger
democracy, for our country to heal, to build a
better more compassionate world, we all need
to be heard. We all need to listen.
Patrick Barrett, Patti Walker, Mike Higgins,
Donna Higgins, Judith Fisher, Tom Nash,
Maureen McMahon, Spring Bartlett, June
McKenzie, MaryJo St. Clair, Coco Forte, Wix
Covey, Alice Covey
Pine Valley
The East Oregonian welcomes original letters of 400 words or less on public issues and public policies for publication in the newspaper and on our website. The newspaper re-
serves the right to withhold letters that address concerns about individual services and products or letters that infringe on the rights of private citizens. Submitted letters must
be signed by the author and include the city of residence and phone number. Send letters to 211 S.E. Byers Ave. Pendleton, OR 97801 or email editor@eastoregonian.com.