Joseph Stalin (USSR), Winston Churchill (Great Britain) and Harry Truman (United States) met in Potsdam, Germany from July 17 to August 02, 1945 to “establish the post WWII order”. In 1945 the earth had 74 recognized countries. Some of the other 71 countries felt they should have been invited to the conference and have exhibited their displeasure from time to time since 1945.
When I turn on cable TV I sense that the heads of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC may have had their own Potsdam Conference and divided up the world’s news cycles. While it may appear to us viewers the news networks are competing, I suspect each is happy in its own sphere of influence. CNN regurgitates their favorite kicking boy Donald Trump whenever it wants to change the subject. For example, when they wish to ignore the question of whether Andrew Cuomo should lose his one-time COVID-19 sainthood. MSNBC has Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski vilify the conservatives in Congress whenever their ratings sag, which is often. And Fox News revels in finding stories of liberal policies run amok.
But I suspect the umbrage each cable news anchor evidences is more act than actuality. They all appear pretty well situated in their own tunnel vision. The problem for the rest of us is there are actual problems that need to be addressed other than whether some celebrity has fallen from their pedestal. We need news! What we don’t need are mere opinions in search of agendas.
I have a modest suggestion. I recommend every cable news executive and anchor read a book. I know it is a lot to ask but instead of just talking heads we need heads with something in them. This was apparently what my best friend, Dr. Walter Jordan of Martinsville, Indiana, thought about me. He sent me a book for my birthday entitled Think Again. He has known me long enough to know I need the advice.
Adam Grant’s book suggests we all could be happier and more productive if we would approach life actively open-minded and instead of always searching for reasons we must be right search for reasons we might be wrong. Grant is an organizational psychology professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He’s a smart guy but his book is still actually useful and fun to read.
Grant posits that we have two general biases that impact our inability to see the fallacies in our extreme positions, such as, should we get a COVID vaccination or not? One is confirmation bias where we see or hear what we expect to see and hear. The other is desirability bias where we see and hear what we want to. Grant suggests we need to be more scientific in our approach to life and instead of analyzing issues by starting with what we want and expect, that is, starting with a set answer, we should lead with questions and look for all the evidence.
Of course, my particular experience as a judge leads me to believe that gathering all the relevant evidence on a topic before one reaches a conclusion is the best approach. First glean the facts, then decide. But I certainly have fallen short of this goal from time to time. What I find dangerous about cable news attempts to set our society’s agendas is that the cable news networks seem to have it as their talisman that their desired outcomes are the facts. They can and should do better and so must we.
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