I Watch CNN Because The Fringes Don’t

It’s ok, read on...

I tend to say things that are unpopular.

As a writer it’s not a bad thing when your words tick off both sides. To me, it just means you might be closer to the truth.

I like news outlets that do the same. I have a special place in my heart for local reporting, as it tends to focus more on hard news and relevant stories than overarching national narratives and politics.

However, for national politics, I am all over the map. I read the Wall Street Journal, NPR, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Blaze, and I read/watch CNN.

Yeah, that one.

Fellow conservatives I’ve grown up and lived with my entire life have become so tribal in their near-unanimous hatred for this particular network, but I find it soothing. How?!

In an age where cable news has created three major networks to contrast the traditional three over-the-air networks, why do I watch the one activists do not?

That’s why. Because the fringes don’t. Diehard Berniebots and red meat trumpanzees both hate CNN. So CNN gets bad ratings. And that makes me go, “hmm.”

While Slate and Huffpo praise the MSNBC solar system, with the planets O’Donnell and Hayes circling their sun god Rachel Maddow, Breitbart and GatewayPundit equally adore their Borg hive at the latest rage-du-jour, Newsmax and OAN. (Note: FoxNews is now considered too liberal for the cultish sort.)

But the axiom “there are three sides to every story” rings true here. The late Robert Evans paraphrased it best when he said:

“There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.”

Before you dismay, this is not a push for relativism. I am a constitutional conservative, and I won’t change. This is a distinction I must make. I spent years teaching constitutional history in public schools and universities, and I still irritate the local political class with my liberty talk.

But, conservatives often are too willing to throw out constitutional principles for political, or cultural gain.

Most of my problems arise when I attempt to be consistent, and end up disagreeing with the conservative collective. Theirs is the same wavelength that caused millions to vote for a corrupted, lying narcissist in 2016, so we could beat another corrupted, lying narcissist. It happened again last November, so we could beat a vanilla ice cream Democrat.

TO ERR IS HUMAN; THAT MEANS US TOO

So that brings me to my preferred TV network. (Note: not preferred source, that would be in the NPR-Politico range)

All networks are run by human beings. All human beings have a tendency to make mistakes, be negligent, and even have their own agendas. But that’s why editorial staffs exist. And most of the time, it works the way it’s supposed to. Mistakes, and even some inherent bias do not negate the truth of the facts.

But recently, we saw a perfect example of two networks handling human error and bias differently.

  • On the one hand, CNN’s special investigative unit reported a Trump story with only one unverified source, and without going through the normal editorial process. It was quickly debunked, and retracted. An apology was made, and three people lost their jobs. Another layer of accountability was also added to the unit.

  • On the other hand, FOXNews reported a story about James Comey, claiming he and his wife were buddying up with the New York Times. When it was revealed they were attending a charity event at the same office building, FoxNews did not retract the story (many days later, their morning show tweeted that it was incorrect), did not apologize for it, and no one was fired. They also spent days recently claiming Megan Markle and Prince Harry were paid to do their Oprah interview. But it turns out CBS paid Oprah the $7 million to air the interview. The young couple didn’t receive a penny. There was no retraction. I don’t even need to get into the whole Seth Rich conspiracy story. At least they retracted that one. But they’re not going to fire Sean Hannity for pushing it… for weeks.

MSNBC is guilty of the same things FOXNews has been. For its part, The Blaze tends to do a better job staying out of the tabloid fray, and even called out Fox for its error.  But fake news is usually far more subtle.

All media reporting has flaws. But not all lean into it with dishonesty.

The most common political refrain of the day is anti-CNN “fake news” epithets. But in nearly every case trying to prove liberal bias, conservative bias is committed. Where selective editing is accused, selective editing is done in order to prove it.

They dislike the fact that the headlines don’t say what they want, how they want, or when they think it should happen. Anything less than confirmation bias is considered bias itself. I’m kind of over that.

The recent James O’Keefe videos are a perfect example of this irony.

The alleged “Commie News Network” is supposedly an arm of the DNC, but when they point out the misleading ads of Joe Biden’s campaign, Charlie Kirk is shockingly silent.

When CNN’s medical team decided to begin using the word “pandemic” in discussing the Covid-19 outbreak on March 9, 2020, they were criticized for doing so when even the WHO had not. Exactly one year and 530,000 deaths later, Sean Hannity isn’t dismissing their consistency like he did then.

At the end of the day, CNN’s greatest fault is they attempt to appeal to both sides. They ignore the saying that “you can’t make everyone happy,” so they consistently host panels all day made of contributors from all sides. “All,” including the additional side created among conservatives who oppose the circus show that was the trump administration.  (Thank you Matt Lewis, Tara Setmeyer and Amanda Carpenter for Making Me Sane Again.)

It results in lower ratings, and yet our fellow conservatives focus on them the most. Why? Perhaps it’s because it most threatens the bubble?  Maybe conservatives who don’t buy into the groupthink (like me) are the real annoyance.

So yes, I watch CNN because I find refuge there. It isn’t screeching all the time. I don’t mind hearing the other side express their own opinions. My side expresses their own. Occasionally, both do a lousy job. On Fox and MSNBC, they’re made prime time anchor.

PRINCIPLES MATTER

I am often accused of having to be right, but don’t we all? Each of us have our own opinions because of the sum of our experiences. We believe we’re right, as we should. Why should we believe something that may be wrong? That’s nonsense. The problem comes when we isolate ourselves to information bubbles that only confirm our biases. And now, social media has blurred the lines that once kept us unaware of our neighbor’s strongest opinions.

And here’s a thought: how can I ever find out if I’m wrong if I only wax politic with those I agree?

I would rather be accused by a conservative of being a liberal (at least a dozen times every day), than to be accused by a liberal of being closed-minded, and unable to reach them with a persuasive argument.  I don’t need to  persuade conservatives to vote the way I do. And I don’t need an “attaboy” to feel good about my writing. But I do want to positively influence the world, which means I must engage the other side to grow mine.

I try to practice a little William F Buckley, and intellectually spar with liberals when I get the chance. But social media has made sure I end up debating my fellow conservatives even more, and it’s less than pleasant.

(I am currently serving a 30 day FB jail sentence for criticizing their loyalty to One America News/OAN.)

So, I will continue to watch CNN, because while I find myself disagreeing with some of their hosts, and occasionally yelling at the TV because I don’t like something that’s being said, it also gives me the chance to hear the most arguments from the most people, all who believe strongly in what they’re saying.

I’M STILL ME

It is possible to be a consistent, constitutional conservative willing to take uncomfortable positions in order to be honest, and still allow yourself to listen to liberals when they talk about their own.

My mind is not changed by liberal arguments. But defending my own becomes sharper by listening to them. I want to be challenged. I won’t watch MSNBC, outside of occasional entertainment, because they consistently demean and berate conservative philosophy. So, why would I want to watch conservatives do the same? They can both be unreasonable and don’t even try to persuade.

Buckley and Milton Friedman may be dead and gone, but the spirit that drove them to stand up for conservative principles and even persuade our liberal friends is not.

In this era of cable news and social media our intellect may have dropped a few notches, but we can work with what we’ve got. And usually that means being willing to listen to those we don’t like to hear, and publish pieces that make you yell a bit on Facebook about how I’m a liberal sell out for not being as loud as you.

I suppose I’d rather be listened to for my logic than my volume.

You can contact Ed Willing on Facebook.

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