Putting it Plainly

Page 6 of the Aug. 15 edition of the Alameda Sun was especially thought-provoking, featuring poignant commentary on mass shootings and the fact that ideological commentary has replaced journalism as people’s main source of information: two issues that have already done irreparable harm to the political and social fabric of our nation. 

The cartoon depicted a great white shark in front of a sign reading “Warning; Go Near Shore at Your Own Risk — Angry White Males with Easy Access To Guns.” Directly below that cartoon was a letter decrying a lack of conservative viewpoints in the Sun and ascribing it to an imagined takeover of “young millennials” (“Make Sun’s Spin More Conservative,” Aug. 15). The piece concluded, “Hopefully you have not become fearful of the apparent Bay Area Leftist cabal.” 

Upon seeing the cartoon and the editorial next to each other, I imagined the dichotomous argument that would erupt in the comments section online or on a Facebook page. (I did not imagine this happening in-person at the local coffee shop or bar). In a millisecond, an intractable divide emerged: I felt defeated before I even engaged. 

I decided to dig in and do some research. I started with the political cartoon, considering the inevitable mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The cartoon’s comment was indeed rooted in truth: despite the many definitions of what constitutes a mass shooting, non-Hispanic white males were responsible for 54 to 63 percent of them between 1982 and August 2019. Although guns cannot kill people on their own, people with guns can kill other people with much greater speed and efficiency than people without guns.

I then turned my attention to lack of conservative opinions in the Sun. I think that the letter represents the discomfort that some people feel when they are confronted with information outside of the warmth, safety and comfort of their ideological bubble. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and other channels began life as broadcast news sources, they no longer feature actual reporting. Now they offer only social and political commentary and lifestyle programming. Usually, they provide commentary on reporting done by other news sources like the New York Times, Washington Post or BuzzFeed that is then debated for 3 to 7 minutes by a “panel of experts.” 

Most people no longer engage with real reporting, rather they consume interpretations of other reporting flavored by their preferred ideology, usually without knowing the difference. 

As a result, facts and the very concept of reality are in grave danger. The friction between the various flavors of “truth” and “fact” or “alternative facts” wears on the fabric of our nation. At the same time every bullet from every shooting creates a hole that can never be patched. We used to talk about the weather and the time to avoid the subject of politics, but the weather is now political, too. Hopefully, we still have the time. 

Because the Sun’s focus is entirely local and is largely devoid of a palpable ideology, and spin-free, it is a true outlier in today’s media landscape. Keep up the good work, I am grateful for it.