Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Imagine you’re in the car, listening to the sports radio station. You’ve been a football fan for a long time, and usually watch the games. But today you had to pick up your daughter from the airport, so you listen to the radio instead. It’s an important football game—the semifinals. We’re at the end of the fourth quarter, tied 20-20 with the other team. Their ball, high stakes defense. The radio announcer seems a bit new to the game, and doesn’t add much commentary, just reports the calls the refs make and the score. We stopped them from running the ball, and they settle for the field-goal. We finally get the ball, and have a chance to tie. We end up in sudden death overtime, and we take the game! You pick up your daughter, who was rooting for the other team, and brag about your win. You won it fair and square, and as such a hardcore football fan, don’t give her a chance at all to complain. “Scoreboard,” you say. But what you missed was a huge no-call pass interference when it was your ball and tied at 20-20. But you didn’t know that—the radio guy was new to this and didn’t report that.
The media can be described similarly to the football radio announcer. But what makes it worse is that politics is much more than a game or a tradition—public policy affects us all sooner or later. The political news outlets today, besides a few less popular sources, chose what to report and what not to report—as long as it fits their ideology. But instead of being the naïve sports reporter, political reporters know exactly what they are doing. They see the truth for all that it is, and report just one side of it. How do they get such a strong response from people? From where do people’s emotions stem?
Recently, Gillette issued an advertisement encouraging the end of what they called “toxic masculinity.” By that term, they meant an inordinate use of strength and manipulation—placing strength used for protection into aggression, especially aggression against women and the vulnerable. But what the advertisement suggested was that only some men recognize this inordinate use of their nature as wrong, and that most men didn’t know this and acted otherwise. The goal of the advertisement was to encourage men to be virtuous, but the base of virtue is placed in the #MeToo movement and an anti-masculine ideology rather than a pro-masculine, ordinate form of strength.
Arguments crashed on this advertisement from many angles, but the response to these arguments shifted the narrative. According to CNN’s Jill Filipovic, the argument against the ad isn’t that it suggests that men don’t have a moral compass, it’s that those who disapprove of the ad somehow think that men should be able to violate other people: “It's sad but predictable that imploring men to be better -- not just for women, but for other men and boys -- is met with such hostility from people who apparently accept the lie that cruel and predatory behavior is part of men's natural makeup.” What Filipovic does is create a false narrative of the opposing side, arguing that those who oppose the ad believe that men cannot be the ones to blame for assault. She is far from correct. The arguments opposing the advertisement do not support cruel and abusive men. Quite the opposite— Ben Shapiro, from The Ben Shapiro Show, argues that masculinity is not toxic, but necessary—that society needs men to be strong and demonstrate good character. Even the advertisement shows glimpses of this as a positive thing—a dad encouraging his daughter to have strong self-esteem, another man demanding a mob to respect an individual, a father showing boys what it means to be a man, and not a bully. But when the journalist tells you that the opposing side supports abusive men, it makes it seem that all who oppose the advertisement do so based on Filipovic’s assertion.
Filipovic engages in a dangerous thing. She distorts the argument from the other side, and makes it seem like those who oppose her are the very people who fit into her narrative—supporters of abusive men. The response from Filipovic’s claim is a moral one. It is morally wrong to abuse your strength over the vulnerable. In fact, protection for the vulnerable is one of the responsibilities of society. When a naïve reader stumbles upon arguments like Filipovic’s, it is not too difficult to imagine that their opinion of the opposing side would be low. And their emotional response is one which stems from their view of the other’s moral reprehension. Thus, those supporting the advertisement on the basis of ending sexual assault and bullying are pitted against those who equally call for the end of those evils but find flaws in the advertisement.
Why would Filipovic distort the opinions of those who dislike the advertisement? Journalists are exposed to newsworthy events much more than the average Joe, and generally have more knowledge of current events than someone in a different profession. Not every Biology teacher, sports coach, engineer, or businessman has the time or education to study and report politics. Society trusts in them for their own expertise, and in turn, they trust journalists to report events truthfully. When people like Filipovic misrepresent one viewpoint, they cause the questioning of journalism, and play a dangerous game with morality.
Michael Goodwin, chief political columnist for The New York Post, contemplated the demise of journalistic standards in a speech at Hillsdale College’s National Leadership Seminar, reminiscing on how journalists had been trustworthy in the past and dramatically changed: “There was a time not so long ago when journalists were admired and trusted. Today, all that has changed…last year’s election gave us the gobsmacking revelation that most of the mainstream media puts both thumbs on the scale.” Goodwin goes on to say how the top editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, had changed journalism standards during the 2016 election to the point of eliminating fair reporting: “He’s the one who decided that fairness and nonpartisanship could be abandoned without consequence.” Goodwin fears that the media will never recover the trust from the public as it once had.
There is a silver lining in all of this. Though discussion of politics may divide families, and real political discussion becomes almost impossible, the signs of a fight shows promise of moral conviction. When we see something in all its tones, and chose to ignore faults, it is us who have failed. But now, when journalists withhold the whole truth, and just focus on one side of an issue, the response they get is the reaction to perceived injustice. A reaction to injustices, though based off a disproportionate presentation of reality, proves the existence of moral compasses. It is my hope that we will shed scales from our eyes, and finally see how our pursuit for justice and that which is good is manipulated, and seek truth thoroughly by other means.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.