NOTHSTINE: Shutting out the media noise

Demonstrators and counter-protesters face off during a protest at the America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker

The Friday “anti-hate” protests in Durham should serve as a lesson for the nation to take a step back from media induced hysteria and controversies. While many protestors can be lauded for acting out of good intentions by taking to the streets to protest possible white supremacists, it was the rumor mill that led to confrontation with the police and a portion of the city being shut down. Whether it’s the 24-hour news cycle or incessant social media debates, Americans of all kinds would be wise to tamp down on their consumption of divisive media narratives.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell noted in news interviews that there was no verification of the presence of armed white supremacists, which was ginned up on social media by attorney Scott Holmes and Durham Council Member Jillian Johnson. Holmes is the attorney representing the eight defendants arrested for toppling a Confederate statue on August 14. Bell softly chided public officials for spreading the rumors in the absence of facts. At any rate, it’s hard to fathom even white supremacists being stupid enough to attempt a meaningful show of force at noon in downtown Durham.

These past few weeks, Americans were supposed to be debating important topics like spending ($20 trillion federal debt) and tax cuts, but instead devoted way too much time to the largely non-controversial topic of the evils of Nazis and white supremacists. According to a recent Marist poll, 94 percent of Americans disagree with the views of the Klu Klux Klan. Yes, it should be even higher but it’s uncertain if the wording of the poll is to blame or maybe our current identity politics and divisive media is driving a minority on both sides toward hatred.

Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans are neither consumed or participating in the appeal to hysteria. And, why should they? It has little to do with the rhythms of their daily lives, a life already steeped in tolerance, living within the largest cultural melting pot in all the world. Fewer Americans today than ever, probably even know a white supremacist.

Neil Postman, author of the brilliant book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” noted, “Where people once sought information to manage the real contexts of their lives, now they had to invent contexts in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use.”

In the past, many Americans looked to news anchors and pundits to help explain current events. More importantly, national media figures often served as a stabilizing force within the daily life. It was Walter Cronkite’s infamous monologue during his 1968 assessment of the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hue that began to turn the tide of the popularity of the Vietnam War across middle America. Now the perpetual noise is more about the need for constant calamity, angst, and national strife.

That kind of reporting and digesting of news plays into the progressive desire for national division and upheaval. For many media moguls, chaos creates more coverage and ratings. The need to create constant drama only fuels the anxiety and anger of a heart not at rest.

However, the opposite of chaos and upheaval is a well ordered and morally balanced life. This requires discernment and most importantly, virtue and wisdom. This is one reason why the American framers believed so deeply that virtue was a requirement for self-government.

Those that advocate for limited government and ordered liberty should take a step back from the noise. The left has a strong propensity to overreach and the perpetual grievance culture is tiresome for many hard-working Americans who have little time for the antics constantly bombarding their devices. No industry is probably in need of creative destruction more so than cable news. But unfortunately, it will only get worse before it gets better.

The 20th Century philosopher Eric Voegelin declared, “No one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crises of society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid the folly and live his life in order.” That’s sound advice.

Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.

About Ray Nothstine 7 Articles
Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.