Think­ing in­side your comfort zone

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional columnist. He can be reached, or re­motely at­tacked, in­sulted, threat­ened or com­pli­mented, at rus­sell.wanger­sky@ — Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. The thing is, some­times that picture re­places im­por­tant words with mean­ing­less cute.

Take this photo cap­tion, from news­pa­pers on Mon­day: “Ju­lian As­sange’s cat, all dressed up with a col­lar and tie, looks out from a win­dow of the Ecuado­rian em­bassy in Lon­don, Nov. 14.”

Cute picture. Cute cat.

It ac­com­pa­nies a much larger story, about a Swedish pros­e­cu­tor ar­riv­ing in Lon­don to talk to As­sange, who is the founder of Wik­ileaks, about al­leged sex­ual of­fences com­mit­ted by As­sange six years ago in Swe­den. As­sange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean em­bassy for years, and has a clearly frac­tious re­la­tion­ship with the United States government, which he main­tains is try­ing to get him to face U.S. charges. Wik­ileaks played a role in the U.S. elec­tion with the strate­gic re­lease of ma­te­rial that dam­aged the Clin­ton cam­paign. Wik­ileaks may or may not have done that with the as­sis­tance of the Rus­sian government. Rus­sian of­fi­cials have hinted they helped ob­tain ma­te­rial for Wik­ileaks, while As­sange has de­nied Rus­sian in­volve­ment. But the Rus­sian have also said they met with Don­ald Trump dur­ing the elec- tion; he, like As­sange, de­nies it. It’s a big, big story about for­eign govern­ments and out­side “me­chan­ics” po­ten­tially ma­nip­u­lat­ing a sov­er­eign coun­try’s elec­tion. But, cute cat. The cat will get more “hits” than in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing about whether or not tar­geted score-set­tling by an in­for­ma­tion age rene­gade dam­aged a can­di­date he per­son­ally didn’t like. And therein lies the prob­lem. One thing I no­tice more and more — the peo­ple who agree with what I write say what I write is fine work, while those who dis­agree tend to write and post that I’m a bought-and-paid-for left wing me­dia shill, an id­iot or a mem­ber of the elite. Or all three. (A for­mer com­pa­triot of mine Tweeted quite ac­cu­rately that peo­ple are usu­ally ac­cused of be­ing “elites” when they have the temer­ity to use those trou­ble­some fact things.)

The world doesn’t go around based on what we like or don’t like; we can all, un­for­tu­nately, be wrong at one time or another.

But more and more, we’re con­di­tioned by the twin echo cham­bers of so­cial me­dia and an ever-more strat­i­fied me­dia to pay at­ten­tion only to the things we al­ready agree with.

That, in its own way, is as dan­ger­ous and shal­low as our ad­dic­tion to cat pictures.

I wrote about it six years ago, af­ter near-toxic ex­po­sure to U.S. rage ra­dio: “The ques­tion that springs to mind im­me­di­ately is, how do the two soli­tudes ever ac­tu­ally speak to each other? And I don’t mean the two soli­tudes of English and French Canada. I mean the two soli­tudes of Amer­i­can lib­er­als, and the other edge of the coun­try, the peo­ple nine de­grees past Repub­li­can. The United States seems like a very strange place — or­di­nary places and or­di­nary peo­ple seem just like here when you meet and talk to them face to face. Ev­ery­day Amer­ica seems like it did 10 or 20 years ago: a coun­try con­cerned about in­di­vid­ual rights and the Con­sti­tu­tion’s role in main­tain­ing those. But there’s lit­tle on the ra­dio that isn’t com­pletely seething with rage, and it can’t help but make you won­der if there isn’t plenty of other anger boil­ing away be­hind a na­tion’s closed doors.”

Truth is, as long as I’m get­ting in­put from both sides, I hope in a small way that there’s a dis­cus­sion go­ing on, that we haven’t reached that point any­one who doesn’t like what I write about sim­ply dis­misses it as “all lies” with­out both­er­ing to sin­gle out even one lie.

Tell me where I’m wrong — I read ev­ery­thing I get.

If you can’t be both­ered, well, there’s al­ways a cat.

In a neck­tie.

The cat will get more “hits” than in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing about whether or not tar­geted score­set­tling by an in­for­ma­tion age rene­gade dam­aged a can­di­date he per­son­ally didn’t like.

Rus­sell Wanger­sky East­ern Pas­sages

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