Can’t Hear, Won’t Hear

Terry H. Schwadron

It’s worth noting that even the same information fuels opposite headlines and political emotion — depending on your political point of view.

In the week’s news were details about meetings between Team Trump and reporting about Obama officials scrambling in that administration’s waning days to ensure that copies of documents and declassified analysis related to such meetings were sufficiently spread among Congress members and even with foreign intelligence folks as to guarantee that the information would eventually bubble up.

The bigger headlines concerned Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ troubles from having appeared to lie during his confirmation hearings about meeting the Russian ambassador.

But if you read or listen to Rush Limbaugh or Red State or other right-leaning websites, the headlines were loud in CONFIRMATION that Obama had acted to undermine Team Trump or “wiretap” Trump phones. They were proof that Obama should be jailed or at least put under investigation, all on the basis of Mr. Trump’s made-up tweet.

If you read or listen to “mainstream” news sites, the headlines were about Sessions, while asserting that Obama underlings had been active in trying to preserve documents from being destroyed or ignored by the incoming administration. And they noted that NSA intercepts against various Russian targets would have been traced back to any phones used by Team Trump.

If you read some left-leaning sites, you were re-reading the same mainstream information with labeled opinion that lying politicians should be impeached, and that most of the Trump pushbacks are attempted deflections. Overall, you get the idea that that anyone connected with Trump should be sent to the gulag.

Mind you, none of the base information had changed — it was the same set of “facts” in each case I looked at, plus the opinionated tweets. But different sites offered different interpretations laden with “intention” from Obama, for example. We can’t know the mindset of those individuals involved, we can only now know that the documents and materials were made available at all, never mind the intentions of spreading the word. And that there are legal limitations that would have prevented “wiretaps,” especially when no information is presented. Even the FBI is calling for rejections of the latest Trump counter-charges.

This is not the only case, of course, which is what is behind cries of “fake news” and “lame-stream” media and the rest. Once again, people increasingly only want to find and hear the information that reinforces their life view.

All this is exaggerated by a White House that insists on replacing fact with propaganda, and policy-making with sloganeering.

One result is that everything apparently needs translation and endless repetition to be able to understand it. Another result is that actuality may lag well behind the created perception of action. Yet another is that each agenda item becomes a tug-of-war among points of view.

Cutbacks in environmental protections and eliminations of consumer protections are either the equivalent of sticking one’s head in the sand or actively making things better for business. Illegal immigration is either a scourge running amok in the country or a net negative migration among immigrants who arrived illegally. We are either at a low point in unemployment or there are 94 million people who are going without jobs. Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts or only providing needed non-abortion women’s health in rural America. The list is endless.

So there is no question about the existence of deep division. The division governs what questions can be asked, what answers are possible, what processes and protections even can be in place to govern resolution of those divide questions.

There has got to be a better way. What I recommend is looking at the effects of an executive order or legislation. You can tell a lot by who benefits, by whose life is improved or made miserable by the issue at hand. Or whether it even matters.

By those measures, what is important in this swirling mess over Russian contacts is 1) whether we intend to substantively change our international agreements, alliances or sanction-setting, 2) whether we can persuade or force Russia not to interfere with records, 3) and whether we can ever rely on Team Trump members, up to the President, to be truthful about what appears to concern people rather than try to conceal contacts.

If the meetings were social and even “relationship-building,” why appear to hide them? If they are about substantial change, let’s get that out in the open under the name of policy. And if they are, as some suspect, the result of some personal or financial issues that make the President vulnerable to Russian pressures, let’s see it and see if we can be of help in resolving them. This is no “witch-hunt.” It is genuine terror that we don’t know what we’re doing, and lying about it all over the place to cover it up.

One way to Make America Great is to invite questions that make seem less than comfortable, and actually listening to the response.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer