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Thoughts of a Political Junkie: It’s All Just Noise

Are we being fed useless information?

William Hartnett



“Don’t listen to the noise” and “don’t feed the hype” are two staples of the “Patriot Way,” A culture created by Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, arguably this century’s most successful sports franchise. By teaching their players not to buy into the media hype and noise, the locker room remains quiet and non-controversial. From star players to the practice squad, they don’t buy into the scandals drummed up through large media analysts and beat writers. What matters is the game, always focused solely on their next opponent that week.

For those looking to expand their political horizons and seek deeper narratives, it’s the same truth. Don’t listen to the noise — this lesson applies to the media, and politicians. As I wrote in my first piece, political punditry as a class, not just a profession, has been unchecked in its growth of importance and influence. These figures grow into celebrities, for standing up to the current administration (Jim Acosta), stumping their guests in a way that will feed internet culture (Tucker Carlson) or publishing unverified stories on their website (most notable: Ben Smith from BuzzFeed with the Trump pee tape).

This is not to say journalists and pundits are the only perpetrators: Trey Gowdy became a conservative folk hero during his time as chairman of the Benghazi committee. YouTube videos featuring his presence in “destroying” or “eviscerating” some mid-level bureaucrat or even Hillary Clinton have been viewed millions of times over the past few years, though he has routinely denied its effectiveness in solving issues versus simply raising them.

How does this apply to the Patriot rules described above? As a consumer of information we decide the source and publisher, as well as the credibility of the claim being made with the evidence presented. Trump and scandals bring in the clicks (the noise), but a nuanced three hour long podcast, not so much.

(Image: Pexels)

Like sports, it’s a highlight generation: 30 seconds or longer and you lose attention, viewers, and readers. Every time a news broadcast has a “panel discussion,” just change the channel. Odds are there’s a predetermined view three speakers will have, with an odd guest out.

The host has to balance speaking times with just five to ten minutes to work with, on a topic that might require days to research and read. Lost in the wayside is the intellectual component that often propels the conversation back to basic premises of society, politics, government, and culture. This class of folks are often cast aside, in favor of partisan pundits, simple minded spectators, and asinine analysts. On a near daily basis, issues are misconstrued in favor of a particular side, with the best form of an argument never reaching the consumer.

No, the best solution to gun violence in school zones isn’t to arm teachers, that’s a waste of resources and doesn’t address the issue itself. Same goes for gun control, a bump stock ban wouldn’t solve anything, nor does your moral placating about the death of classmates. This would be just noise, to rile up opponents, curry political favor, or at best, grow a movement. Yet this goes back into Congressman Gowdy’s point–does it solve issue or simply raise them? It would seem the whole country is aware of the issue in regards to gun violence and whatever qualifies for a mass shooting when the media can’t stop covering the fallout months later. Though draw your own conclusions on that front. On gun violence and the March for Our Lives stuff? Try a Google search for gun violence restraining orders (GVRO’s), or read up on the fundamental failures of the FBI, and Broward County Sheriff’s to take any necessary and preventative action.

So where does that leave someone? Bound forever with a skepticism of all things political punditry?

Not necessarily, the wheat must be separated from the chaff surely, though if one makes a conscious effort the process isn’t difficult. As referenced earlier, there’s a class of intellectuals who communicate issues on a deeper level that what you may be accustomed to encountering. Thankfully, younger generations seem to be hungry for such knowledge, though all are not yet aware. Who are these intellectuals, again, form your own lists and always be on the lookout for those whose views compromise your own political axioms. National Review produces quality writing from a host of conservative, libertarian, and centrist writers without the cult like praise of the dear leader, Mr. T himself.

Though he departed from this earth far too early, Christopher Hitchens approached every topic with a pristine brilliance, from theism, science, and free expression, to politics and culture.

There is far too much out there for one to be quaint with the capabilities and merits of arguments and points offered from regulars on CNN and Fox. These people are vying for headline moments and points for their side, not an understanding of the issue at hand, and what the best form may be.

Modern technology and communications now offer decades of archived articles, columns, and opinion pieces, the internet grants millions of books at your finger tips. Use this, find the intellectuals out there, those off the cuff professors, writers, scientists, and others striving to provide a cohesive opinion.

And some advice: Podcasts. Whether your at work, on the go, or have a few hours of free time. These audio files fit on your device, and are hosted by a wide variety of people with all sorts of opinions.

Are you looking for digital journalism training and experience? Are you a journalism major who wants to take your career to the next level? CMN’s Digital Journalism course gives you real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to journalism influencers and mentors, and a great place to display your work. You can get academic credit too. Check out the Digital Journalism Course here.

William Hartnett (Will) is a CMN writer who covers sports, entertainment, and politics. A rising junior at American university, he's studying international relations with a focus on national security.

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