The Demonization of Discourse

A Review Position Paper

Posted In: Politics, National, Opinion,   From Issue 821   By: Robert E Martin

14th January, 2016     0

As we embark upon a new year – and more importantly, an important Presidential election year – and as the Review enters its 37th year of publishing, I feel it incumbent to articulate a renewed Position Paper of sorts designed not only to re-define and renew what I perceive to be the Editorial Mission of this publication; but also address a growing concern with journalistic media on all levels of the national spectrum.

While The Review has continued to engage in investigative journalism and political reporting on a myriad of topics on the state, regional, and local levels,  ranging from Hydraulic Fracking to the Militarization of the Police – longtime readers may have noticed that in recent years we have shied away from covering or editorializing too much on national politics or hot-button topics such as abortion or gun control, for the simple reason that they are way too divisive and chocked full of hypocrisy on both sides of the debate.

As a journalist that has weathered and witnessed the extremes of politics for four decades, from the birth of the SDS in Ann Arbor back in the 1960s and early ‘70s, to the perceived extremes of leaders, whether they be named Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, or Obama; or at a state level, Blanchard, Engler, Granholm, or Snyder, one thread of continuity that I have witnessed is how the entire body politic seems to be breaking down.

America has moved from a moral mindset that viewed productivity, optimism, pride, and collective security as ‘core values’ towards an unmitigated greed and self-involvement that has collapsed values we once held as inviolate; and transferred us into an unwashed state of anger that is juxtaposed by degenerative apathy.

We are now defined more by what we don’t like rather than what we do like. And the list of what we don’t like is long and getting longer. Conservatives define themselves more by their hatred of liberals than anything else; and liberals by their distaste and condemnation of conservatives. Examples of things we don’t like abound and the list is getting longer: Wall Street, The Koch Brothers, and George Soros for starters. We don’t like anti-abortion extremists or anti-choice extremists. We don’t like New Yorkers or Californians. We hate Obama, Bush, and Cheney, and we’ve all but given up on Congress.  We also hate big media, big oil, and big China, just for starters.

The French philosopher Jean-Jacqures Rousseau attempted to answer this question: What absolutely is the best government? His answer is equally brilliant and illustrative: ‘The question is not answered because everyone wants to answer it in his own way. Subjects extol public tranquility, citizens individual liberty; the one class prefers security of possessions, the other that of person; the one regards as the best government that which is most severe, the other maintains that the mildest is the best; the one wants crimes punished, the other wants them prevented; the one wants the State to be feared by its neighbors, the other prefers that it should be ignored. As moral qualities do not admit of exact measurement, agreement about the mark does not mean agreement about the valuation.”


Correcting an Error & Restating Our Purpose

It came to my attention that the mass shooting statistic cited in our Year in Review Special edition last issue, and often referenced by such respected bastions of journalism as The New York Times, Washington Post, and The New Yorker, deliberately redefined historical crime definitions the government publishes by the FBI, which defines a mass shooting as 4 or more people killed, besides the shooter in one event.  While there is a wide variety of stats about mass shootings available, from a half dozen to this currently oft-touted one per day stat, it seems the definition of a mass shooting will vary based on who is calculating the statistics.

What is troubling about this particular statistic cited in our piece last issue is that the figure also includes: incidents with no deaths, incidents of suicide by police, incidents of police shooting at suspects and hitting innocent bystanders, gang violence, robberies, and even a couple of 11 year olds with BB guns where no one was seriously injured. Of upmost concern about this statistic, which was derived from a private research that redefined what a mass shooting meant as simply “4 or more people shot,” is how it seems aimed to elicit fear of citizens owning guns.  In short, this much touted stat allowed in a great many situations that the average person would not consider a mass shooting, which most (and the FBI) would agree is defined as a deranged individual attempting to kill as many people as possible.

Where suicide is a BIG problem in the stats is when people get into these gun violence stats, showing 'death by guns', without noting that well over a majority of them are actually suicides.  Suddenly, with that fact in mind, the big picture looks much different to even those claiming 'guns are the problem.'


The Demonization of Discourse

With this thought in mind it is our intention to begin addressing national political issues once again in 2016 through a forum we will be debuting exclusively on our online edition at entitled The Demonization of Discourse, as this pretty much explains what politics has devolved into: a battle between two extremes.

Through this forum we will present all sides and arguments of any hot-button issue or topic we take up that affects the national political spectrum; and hopefully engage serious reader discourse in a respectful & balanced manner.  Just because one may be opposed to abortion does not mean they advocate picketing abortion clinics; and simply because one supports Obamacare does not translate into their support for his policies relating to Iraq.

With this in mind, we are also establishing two guidelines for this project that may perhaps be better stated as words of wisdom.

1.  Know that you don't know, or rather know how little you know and realize of the vastness of truth out there. Each of us have a very limited scope of knowledge, and all of us tend to hold some incorrect knowledge as the truth.  When quoting facts, we encourage any reader entering a submission on this forum try to source those facts with a link from a reliable source.

2.  Label things correctly and objectively - without labeling things correctly, and accepting the subjective, emotionally driven titles we have been force fed for decades is counterproductive and in violation of the integrity of our language.  Pro Choice or Pro Life are subjective, emotional, and absolutely not correct. 

Similarly, labels that group entire partisan sides - even when a vote is entirely on partisan lines, doesn't mean that the people of the country of those parties are supportive of their partisan leaders for it. Consequently, while they should be condemning the leaders, people end up condemning entire parties, many of whom do not support those very actions or votes, yet this worsens the divide. 

Political reporting has become so much of a shouting match and the advancement of position without analysis or substantiation, that it is my profound feeling the best way to address this through these guidelines we are setting up for our new Demonization of Dialogue Online Forum; which as stated earlier, will focus upon national topics as opposed to the regional & local focus we deliver with the Review print edition.

In closing, I would like to reference one final thought from Rousseau about the importance of giving individuals the freedom to flourish: “Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in shackles. Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered once it is lost. Our greatest evils from from ourselves. Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well. The fruits belong to all and the land belongs to no one.”





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