Trump and the ivory tower

Nearly two dozen of my former and current colleagues have endorsed a call to eliminate live coverage of President Trump because he “uses [it] as a platform for misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, [and] they have become a serious public health hazard–a matter of life and death for viewers who cannot easily identify his falsehoods, lies, and exaggerations.”

The call continues: “We ask that no speech, rally, or press conference involving the president be covered live anymore. The risk of passing along bad information and harmful advice is too great. 

“News organizations need to attend carefully to what he says and only share information that they can independently verify. By asking themselves ‘is what he said something we should be amplifying?’ news organizations can offset the damage these briefings are producing.” 

The open letter, which was sent to a variety of news organizations, underlines how out of touch the ivory tower is. 

First, the letter assumes that people are so stupid they can’t possibly understand errors or sarcasm. 

That’s one of the reasons the media and their academic companions have become so distrusted. When Gallup measures the most respected professions, journalists rank near the bottom, way below auto mechanics, lawyers, policemen, and military officers. 

Second, I know two of the leading lights of the anti-Trump movement: Todd Gitlin of Columbia University and Jay Rosen of New York University.

Gitlin, who was called “Todd the God” at NYU when I taught there, is the former head of the Students for a Democratic Society and has been a political organizer much of his life. He opposed the Gulf War of 1991 and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of the 2000s. He’s called for Harvard to divest from companies that develop fossil fuels or support Israel.

Rosen created a website called Press Think, which has become a darling of academics and press folks and has been a frequent critic of the Trump administration. One of his main collaborations is with billionaire Pierre Omidyar, one of the most significant contributors to the Democrat Party. 

My favorite memory of Rosen occurred one winter break when he opened his office window to hide the smell of his cigarette. He forgot to close the window, which led to the pipes freezing throughout the building and left a colossal repair bill for NYU. If the shoe of absent-minded professor fits, then Rosen definitely should wear it.  

Third, the list of signatories supposedly includes professors of communications, journalism, and media studies. But after a quick look through the online letter, I found partial names, health workers, and members of the public. So much for being an “exclusive” group of knowledgable educators.

I don’t think objectivity, fairness, and balance exist in the media anymore, but I think transparency should play a significant role in the press. 

That’s why I suggest that all of the signatories who teach journalism should make their anti-Trump sentiments publicly available to their students—as I have made my conservative views known. 

More important, I hope my former and current colleagues keep their politics out of the classroom—as I have done for more than two decades. 

A Man’s Got to Die of SOMETHING

There is an old story about a Samurai Lord who was sentenced to be executed by the order of the Shogun of Japan. The night before his execution he was with some of his retainers and he was offered a drink of Sake (rice wine). He declined saying that it tended to upset his stomach the next day. This drew some odd glances from his retainers as the next day was scheduled to be his last, so he replied that he was a warrior, and he’s alive until he isn’t and while he’s alive he’s going to take care of his body.

That is really what freedom is like. When you call yourself a free man that comes with responsibilities. One of them is to assert that freedom even in the face of society and authority and be willing to pay the consequences for that assertion.

For the last month we have accepted a lot of restrictions on our freedom because of the Corona/wuhan/ccp virus and there dangers therein. We have by and large accepted these restrictions for the sake of the public good and with the understanding that said restrictions were mandated in good faith. That the governments, state and federal were doing their best to contain the spread of the virus for the sake of public health and to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed. I do not blame said governors nor the President for launching these restrictions. As a rule governors and presidents do not count infectious disease as an area of expertise and given the models they were presented with and the advice they had from experts on the subject they have acted as best they could in the situation.

But now we have many weeks of data and the patterns and risks of this virus are clear. It’s also becoming more and more apparent that it’s been around longer than we realized and that we likely have more herd immunity that we realized.

The President has offered a phased reopening plan that give flexibility to the various governors. While it is prudent to be cautious It’s become apparent however that there are quite a few Governors and mayors them who have found that they like the idea of absolute power over their people and are using this flexibility to maintain it for political reasons despite the facts on the ground.

In those states where this is the case people are going to have to decide how they are going to react to this. Are we going to assert our freedom or submit? Furthermore state and local police need to decide if they serve and protect their people or if they are going to be an arm of oppression.

It’s time to let the society function as normal and I say this as an overweight man closer to sixty than to fifty whose father had a history of heart attacks. Life is risk and I think it’s time for a free society to live with those risks. The bill has come due for living free I believe Americans in general (with the exception of a few Karens) and myself in particular are willing to take the risks to live that way. As Bill Hoge put it:

The time has come to begin moving to more targeted responses to the pandemic. There are probably communities and activities that still should remain locked down, but most of the country is ready for less heavy-handed measures.

Or as I say often: “A man’s got to die of something