There’s a good chance that you actually watched comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondence Dinner this week. You might have also caught Prime Minister Netanyahu’s dramatic prime time reveal of data taken in a bold nighttime raid in Teheran earlier this year. And I’m guessing that not many of you watched President Abbas’ address to the Palestine National Council. But if you are reading this blog and interested in the same kind of content that I am, you are most certainly aware of all three presentations, along with the multitude of responses that each elicited.
This week, like so many other weeks these days, the original media event took place, and was then followed by a voluminous and raucous debate unpacking the meaning and political import of said remarks. My inbox runneth over time and again, my social media feeds overflowed with comments, the blogs I track had hot take after hot take. And I couldn’t help feeling that most of what I was reading was predictable, and that precious little of it was all that interesting.
By and large, the commentator who was a fan of the President or had interests with the White House (including a lot of correspondents whose careers hinge on West Wing access) excoriated Wolf. And the commentator who cut his or her teeth the past 18 months on portraying President Trump as a monster applauded Wolf’s performance. If someone was opposed to the JCPOA (the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action, aka the Iran Deal) in 2015, the hot take was that Bibi’s remarks were a game changer, and if one supported the Iran Deal at the time, then the Prime Minister’s remarks were seen as validation for keeping the deal. Granted, Abbas’ virulently anti-Semitic remarks drew something close to wall-to-wall condemnation, but even there I saw some fringe-left groups trying to pivot back quickly to their standard “what aboutism” criticism of Israel.
My gut reaction to all of this? I desperately want to tune out all this chatter. Why bother reading another op-ed if I know – based on the source – exactly where they will land before I start reading it? Confirmation biases have taken over and the only facts that seem to matter are the ones that affirm a pre-existing point of view.
My point is this: We live in an era where there’s more yelling going on than ever before, but very few people are actually saying anything.
And that’s a shame. Because, amidst the chatter, there were important things said this week. And there are important discussions we need to have about them. Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water, and yes, cable news has profited tremendously through its role in the rise of President Trump (and in the fostering and feeding of our toxic discourse). There are serious strategic issues to address in preventing Iran from expanding its reach in the region. And we need a bipartisan strategy for the US and our allies to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear capability. While there may not be partners for peace at the leadership level, there are good people – both Palestinian and Israeli – who want and are working for a better future for themselves and their children.
Those are the conversations I want to have. So how do we cut through all the noise and have them?
I welcome your thoughts.