On the Opposite of a Tweet & a Woman President (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary vlog– episode #20)

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper.

TRANSCRIPT:

“G’Day folks! Today there are two things I want to discuss with you.

First, I want to clarify my purpose for making these vlogs.

You see, YouTube recommends I work on a trailer to make this channel more enticing so you and so many other people will want to subscribe. Like a college student who wants to get a 100 percent on his senior capstone thesis, I’m trying to adhere to every bit of seemingly reasonable advice. It comes highly suggested that I explain to you my purpose, that I describe my content, the type of videos I produce, and what you can expect to get out of my channel.

Well, this is a video diary. What does one get out of watching such a thing?

In theory, greater knowledge of humanity, “the human condition,” “the human experience” as artists, philosophers and readers might say (?)… greater knowledge of….a RECORD OF what people, in their deepest depths, appear to be like.

The way I look at it…someone has got to do the record keeping of the so called soul searching, of the individual’s streaming consciousness, or thoughts, or mind… whatever you might want to call that phenomena which is that “inner life of the self.”

I figure it is logical for me to do this because I’m in love with uninhibited personal thoughts that seek clarity of meaning in life because I believe it leads to greater universal understanding, thus facilitating a deepening empathy among us.

Like my favorite essayist Michel de Montaigne— and I’m gonna quote the back of my book collection of his essays here:

he discussed subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women generally.

My goal is to follow in his footsteps, and explore humanity’s inner nature within the medium of the vlog which I believe is a most revolutionary form of self expression for its intense intimacy. Video hasn’t been around much longer than a somewhat over a century compared to other art mediums, and vlogging in particular is radically new.

I’d like these vlogs also to reflect…somehow…a spirit of unconventionality married to logic (as I think all good innovation is)–…. And since the medium of the vlog really still is in its early, early infancy, I think now is a perfect time to try it–I want do talk to you in a way that is (and forgive me for the brief oncoming  adjective storm here)…in a way that is philosophical yet artistic, theoretical yet practical, intellectual yet emotionally open, to utter the opposite of a tweet– I mean the opposite of fast paced, short, off the cuff thoughts on this and that. Instead, I strive for depth and the fulfillment of an aspiration I’ve clung to since I was 18 (I’m 33 now) which has been to do contribute to something culturally exciting, revolutionary and which makes the world a better place.

Some people that come to my mind: Like Michel de Montaigne, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Helen Keller, Dostoevsky, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Martin Luther King Jr., Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Ariana Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama— they’re not the only ones but I hope they might bring to your mind a sense of what I aspire to.

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper. (I do want to also point out that I am not alone in this point of view, though I did think maybe I was as I hadn’t stolen this or adopted this opinion from anyone on tv or in the media. But I did discover this morning an article from VOX, written by Matthew Yglesias also calling for us all to vote for a woman president.

My friend William Scott Smith from West Texas deeply disagrees with me here and remarked that I “blame gender” in general for the fact that a woman has never been president of the United States.

To be clear, I do not and never said I do “blame gender.”

I do blame misogyny and sexism though.

Sadly, anti-woman thinking is all around us which is perhaps most evident in the anti-abortion laws emerging, especially the one in Alabama which outlaws abortion entirely, even when the woman is raped, unless the procedure will save her life. (It is ultimately a woman’s body, and I do think nature makes it therefore, quite clear that the woman should be in charge of what goes on with respect to what she does about her pregnancy. One could ask, “what about the body of a fetus, and what about when it can live outside the womb?” which I do think is a fair question however my answer to this, to the best of my thinking is that you have to ask, is a woman a slave to that which is unborn inside her and until outside of her, subject to her body?

Metaphysically speaking, the answer seems to speak for itself. I wonder then if it might be fair to suggest that constitutionally protected, defined person-hood should begin at birth. I would think, if we are contemplating from the point of view of moral theories, that the Natural Rights theory, properly applied would suggest as much.)

William Scott Smith also says I am “voting for a woman because she is a woman” which he adds is “identity politics.” Maybe it is identity politics but that doesn’t prove it’s illogical or destructive politics. When someone expresses something with greater clarity than I can I like to cite that person, so I’m gonna cite Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen here. She asks:

[what about] a form [of identity politics] that goes mostly unrecognized and unacknowledged. A minority with power and money — white men, mostly wealthy, often religious or pretending to be so — [which] has controlled societal and political norms so effectively that when those left outside simply insist on their rights, they are viewed as angry, resentful, demanding and divisive. When ‘identity politics’ is practiced in such a way that it allows a small group to access and maintain power, it gets labeled as ‘norms’ and treated as simply the way the world works.’

To that I say “amen!”

Part of understanding the well-being of the individual must include the well-being of the individuals within the wider society. In a society that fails to value inclusiveness and diversity sufficiently there is prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, exploitation, elitism– unhealthy social trends run amok.

And in the interest of improving society and thus…to speak figuratively here…cleaning up and purifying the air on this earth which we ALL breathe,  we do need to ask, what actions can we take to bring more inclusiveness and diversity to our society, to our global community.

Does that mean I am voting for a woman simply because she is a woman?

No.

I am voting for a woman because there are so many candidates, men and women, who are in my estimation, equally qualified, (among the men for example, I think Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro are qualified) that it complicates the usual criteria and that we thus need to look to other criteria for how we elect a president and how we understand what it means to elect a president as well as what we understand the role of the president to be …(versus the question also of what the presidency ought to be. For example, I do not think a president ought to have as much power as the president has come to possess. Foreign Affairs and Washington Post have both written about how the excessive power of the president and the weakness of the congress– how this imbalance has harmed America on various fronts…)

But based on where we are now, as Matthew Iglesias puts it:

“One of the important ways electing a woman to the presidency would matter is by providing a role model. Role models make a large, quantifiable difference in life. Detailed empirical studies by the Equality of Opportunity Project show that girls who grow up in places where there are an unusually large number of woman inventors are unusually likely to themselves grow up to become inventors. Similarly, Amelia Showalter’s research shows that when women get elected to statewide office, more women start running for state legislature.”

(With respect to role modeling and the power of images in media I would also refer you to research I cited in my essay on Native AMerican writer elissa Washuta and her approach to bringing down stereotyping)

The bottom line is that in a pool of so many talented people of different demographic sorts, when the leadership position in this country has for so long exluded those qualified demographic sorts, it is fair to say it is time for us to open that leadership position up to those who for so long have been denied it.

I am going to leave it there for today and want to thank you for your time. Please let me know what you think in the comments below and I hope you subscribe to my channel!

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


CBS’ SCOTT PELLEY: “I TRULY, DEEPLY, DO NOT CARE”; “MAYBE IT’S A GENTIC DEFECT”

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the College Media Association (CMA) Spring National College Media Convention in Times Square, where I got to ask CBS’s Scott Pelley a few questions about freedom and bias.

The CMA describes itself on its website (http://www.collegemedia.org/site/about.html) as “the preeminent source for education and support for professionals and students engaged in creating all forms of student produced media on college and university campuses.”

Also according to the website, it was founded in 1954 and has more than 900 members.

The CMA published a program for the convention and inside that program it says they hold two annual conventions. Every Spring they hold a convention in New York City, and every fall the convention “convenes at varying sites across the country.”

One of the convention’s keynote speakers was CBS’ Evening New’s managing editor, Mr. Scott Pelley.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-2-02-45-pm
Photo by Sean O’Connor 

When I got to question Mr. Pelley I mentioned some specific things that I found to be troubling that prompted me to ask my question: things such as the Washington Post article about former CBS employee Sharyl Attkisson, who resigned due to the network’s alleged liberal bias, and their alleged refusal to air certain stories on the Benghazi scandal (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/03/10/sharyl-attkisson-leaves-cbs-news/) , and a commentary in the USA TODAY that day on America’s drastic loss of freedom of the press. (Preserve Freedom Of The Press; Jonathan Turley; 3/13/14).

(It is worth noting that I was later told by an advisor at the convention who once interviewed President Barack Obama, that one should never ask someone in a political position to “comment” on something, because it only gives them the opportunity to dance around the issue. A point well made.)

While Mr. Pelley responded by saying “I will put The CBS Evening News- of which I am managing editor- up against any news organization, broadcast or print, when it comes to coverage of Benghazi”, and that he has been accused of having both a liberal and conservative bias, which in his opinion means he has “nailed” his interviews, he said nothing about whether or not he believed we are losing the freedom of the press.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-2-04-48-pm
Photo by Sean O’Connor 

For Mr. Pelley to fail to point out that the U.S. Justice Department seized phone records of reporters and editors of the Associated Press,and seized records of Fox News phone lines, and that the FCC had planned to monitor news rooms, and grill journalists on how their organizations select news stories, and that these events are problematic, is, on his part, most discouraging, especially because he is a veteran journalist, and was in a room full of people who will become future members of the media industry.

It was also rather inconsistent with the message he began his speech with, as he spoke of how without a free press there is no democracy.

He identified the lack of free press in Syria but failed to mention a single attack on free press here in America. Considering how important the issue theoretically is to him, he should have at least raised questions: Should the government monitor news organizations?

If it does, what is the difference between news that is officially run by the state, and news which is unofficially run by the state?

Why do we call the unofficial state ownership of the press “free press”?

There is something else Mr. Pelley said, in response to another person’s question. Mr. Pelley was asked if he worries about being a tool of the government. He said he did not worry about that and then added “I don’t care whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. I don’t care which party is in the leadership, on either side of the house or senate. Maybe it’s a genetic defect that I have of some kind, but I truly, deeply, do not care. My job is to report on what those people do or say and illustrate the contrast between what they do and say.” He said he is neither a conservative or a liberal, and that he just tries to “inflict as much pain on both of them” as he “possibly can, because…that’s what journalists do.”

It is one thing for a reporter to be unbiased in his official report, and another thing for him to have an opinion. Having an opinion does not make a reporter’s report inherently biased. Injecting an opinion into a report and refusing to tell all sides of the story is biased and is essentially what we would refer to as propaganda. I wonder what Mr. Pelley would say in response that.

I also wonder: was Mr. Pelley being honest?

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-2-06-53-pm
Photo by Sean O’Connor

Does he just tell us what he thinks we want to hear so we’ll like him and trust him, or does he mean it when he says he “truly, deeply [does] not care” whether America is led by Republicans or Democrats?

While I wish I could speculate that by not caring, he means that he believes both the Republicans and Democrats are corrupt and he himself is an independent, unfortunately his comment that “maybe it is a genetic defect” suggests that he doesn’t think that deeply about it, and instead, considers his apparent political apathy to be just some bizarre and very paradoxical aspect of his personality.

When he said that his job is to “report what those people do and say and illustrate the difference” and that “we [at the CBS Evening News] just try to inflict as much pain on both of them as we possibly can” it comes across as impersonal, detached, and somewhat nihilistic.

What does he mean when he says he tries to “inflict pain”?

Even supposing he is speaking figuratively, it still comes across as arbitrary since he “truly, deeply [does] not care” about who is leading America, causing his projected ideal image of a journalist to look, not like a person with a moral consciousness, but rather a sadomasochist who views an interview as a means of “inflicting pain” on people merely because it is his job to do so.

A journalist should care about the state of the universe. All people should care about everything that is produced, from ideas to food.

As for journalists in particular, it should be their rational consciences that prompt them to ask the questions they ask and report events honestly. No, not all journalists have to broadcast or publish commentaries.

Perhaps some would rather let reporters report, and commentators publish and broadcast their opinions. That is fine. But all people- no matter what job they work- should most certainly analyze the news and have opinions and share them if asked and act on those opinions.

I would have loved to ask Mr. Pelley if he even votes, and why or why not, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ask a follow up question.

As I mentioned earlier, the CMA describes itself as “the preeminent source for education and support for professionals and students engaged in creating all forms of student produced media on college and university campuses”. If the association is what it claims to be, then it should be clear to students, that above all things, they should never be politically apathetic like Mr. Pelley, because in doing so, further attempts by the U.S. government to manipulate the media would grow more and more successful, would trickle down to the college media, and reach a point where American media begins to resemble the Syrian media that Mr. Pelley rightfully condemned.