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Dick Yarbrough: Is there no place these days for thoughtful discourse?
Dick Yarbrough

My column last week on a radio commentary by the late Paul Harvey drew a lot of reader response from across the state, all of it positive. As you will recall if you saw the column, some 55 years ago Harvey penned a piece entitled, “If I Were the Devil,’ that was frighteningly prescient.

He talked about the moral decay rife in the nation and how the devil would hasten our demise with attacks on organized religion, the anything-goes trash coming out of the entertainment business, overflowing prisons, the promotion of a culture of drugs, drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors in our schools, attacking the institution of marriage and taking from those who have and giving it to those who want until you have killed the incentive of the ambitious.

Remember, this was written in 1965. I can only imagine what the man would say if he were still here. Most of what he observed then is coming to pass now.

I can’t think of anyone around today that could be compared to Paul Harvey. His commentaries were thoughtfully conceived and gently and ofttimes humorously delivered. He was Middle America. Alas, that is not the ground occupied today by commentators. There seems to be no place for thoughtfulness and fairness in our media these days. (I hope this column is an occasional exception, but that is for you to decide.)

We have allowed ourselves to be drawn into what author Jackie Cushman called “tribes” in her book, “Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening.” Ironic advice from the daughter of one-time House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was the Rajah of Rants.

Cushman says 64% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans have few or no friends in the opposite party. She calls it tribalism — “My tribe is better than your tribe.” Cushman cautions that this kind of narrow-minded view encourages us all to be members of a tribe before members of a country. That is frightening and, for that, I put the blame on the wingnuts on both sides of the political spectrum. Donald Trump is either evil-personified or somebody willing to take on the liberal establishment and make American great again, depending on what side of the spectrum your tribe exists and who can holler the loudest.

Those of us in the middle wish the president would quit picking needless fights with unworthy opponents like late-night TV talk show hosts, cut the hyperbole and stow his Twitter machine. At the same time, those of us in the middle also think he is dead-on correct about the overt bias of the national media.

No less an authority than Van Gordon Sauter, former president of CBS thinks the national media’s tilt to the left is passing the point of no return. In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Sauter said the daily newspapers in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston “are now decidedly liberal. On the home screen, the three broadcast network divisions still have their liberal tilt. Two of the three leading cable news sources are unrelentingly liberal in their fear and loathing of President Trump.”

He goes on to say, “To many journalists, objectivity, balance and fairness—once the gold standard of reporting — are not mandatory in a divided political era and in a country they believe to be severely flawed.” That’s fine for the inch-wide-and-inch-deep political commentators and columnists who have the gravitas of a sand gnat but not on the news side, please.

The same thing applies on the other side with conservative radio hosts and a couple of cable networks that defend the president with the same vigor the liberals demean him. There is no middle ground anymore. We don’t know who to believe so we end up believing only those who think as we do.

That is why we are poorer for having no Paul Harveys around these days to infuse a little perspective and humor and, yes, some thoughtfulness into a world badly in need of it.

As for the devil, he is still making mischief and trying to turn us against one another just as Paul Harvey predicted. Unless we cease to be hyphenated Americans and special interest Americans and tribal Americans, we will cease to be at all and will fade into the history books like the once-mighty Roman Empire. The devil would like nothing better. And now you know the rest of the story. Good day.

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