This is an opinion piece.
What would you say is the biggest news story of the moment? The coronavirus pandemic has and continues to dominate the headlines and minds of people worldwide. General Michael Flynn was exonerated of charges of lying to the FBI during the Trump-Russia investigation as it appears he was legitimately set up by corrupt officials. A black man in Georgia was allegedly chased down by two white men and murdered because they thought he was a thief. Presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden has been credibly accused of sexual assault.
Viral disease, government corruption, shooting of an unarmed black man, sexual misconduct — while all this is undoubtedly “big” news, if you squint a little on the specifics, you probably couldn’t tell if the story was from this year or any other over the last decade. As the turnover rate of the news cycle increases with technology, repeating patterns have become more clear so as to make a daily headline search as bewildering as it is exhausting.
What’s more predictable than the daily news cycle is the partisan interpretation of any given event. Modern Americans have so embraced a political lens that nearly everything can be promoted, campaigned on or protested against along either party line; my side vs. yours. This mindset has become especially pernicious in cases where facts are fuzzy, and ideology can comfortably fill in personal mental gaps.
But who can blame us for having mental gaps? We can’t trust mainstream media outlets or so-called experts because their reporting is filtered through their political bias causing consumers to react either in kind or in opposition based on their own prejudices.
You probably fall on one of two sides in the news of the day: We should either keep the economy closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus or reopen to save people’s livelihoods. Flynn confessed to committing perjury and was thus guilty or he was pressured into a false confession by threats against his son. The two men who hopped in their truck to chase down Arbery Ahmaud were modern-day lynch mobbers with racist intent or a bad situation got way out of hand and the men acted in self-defense. Biden is innocent until proven otherwise or he should be held to his own, outspoken standard on believing all female accusers — not to mention his apparent mental decline. I’ll add climate change to the list, the competing theories of which are well known.
Even when we have ample documentation, witness testimony or video evidence, a story almost always splits in two with both sides arguing with absolute certainty. You could reliably guess which side a person would take on these issues simply by asking their political affiliation. Two people can see the same facts but report a totally different story. Scott Adams calls this the two movies, one screen phenomenon as if the left and the right are in the same theatre but seeing a different film.
What would the movie look like if we could somehow remove politics from where it doesn’t belong? Certainly, one side’s explanation is probably more right than the other on a given issue, maybe completely right, but more often the best option falls in a middle, grayer area, especially when the facts aren’t so black and white.
We all have opinions and should not be afraid to give them. I believe Trump has done a good job handling the China virus pandemic and that reopening is the only long-term solution to save lives and the economy. By all appearances, corrupt officials under Obama tried to entrap Flynn for political purposes. Ahmaud’s death was tragic and the men should be held accountable, even for murder, but it doesn’t look at all like a racist crime. The timing of the allegations against Biden are suspect, but he’s lost all credibility due to his double standard of “believe all women” and his actions in the recent Brett Kavanaugh hearings — again, not to mention his dwindling mental capacity.
These views put me solidly into the right-wing camp, but I’d be willing to flip-flop on any of them if more facts or a better argument arose. I’m sure left wingers reading this probably already have their “better” arguments on the tips of their tongue. As we lose the plot of America and life in general, the two movies are starting to feel more like two mirrored worlds where basic facts are disputed. Our biases are something we need to cognize and fight against rather than leaned into when reading the latest clickbait headline. I don’t know how else we can get along and function as a community.
Daniel Taylor is a staff writer for The Reporter. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org