Is be­ing fair old-fash­ioned?

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - PAUL BERTON Paul Berton is edi­tor-in-chief of The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor and thes­pec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pber­ton@thes­pec.com

It is a com­mon af­flic­tion among the el­derly: the older we get, the less we know.

Once upon a time, so­ci­ety took a kindly view of this and la­belled it wis­dom.

To­day, the world is not as char­i­ta­ble.

If you are not com­pletely cer­tain about ev­ery­thing, you find your­self in the mid­dle of many ar­gu­ments, in­creas­ingly a no-win sit­u­a­tion.

Once, that was called be­ing rea­son­able and open-minded. Many news­pa­per ed­i­tors have tra­di­tion­ally been com­fort­able in this place, de­spite some ap­pear­ances.

To­day, es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia, where there is more writ­ing than read­ing, more vent­ing than re­flect­ing, more talk­ing than lis­ten­ing, it’s not so easy.

Some will i mme­di­ately co-opt you — un­will­ingly — to their side. Oth­ers will ac­cuse you of align­ing with the en­emy, even if you are not.

The ma­jor­ity on both sides will charge you with ig­no­rance, and worse, hav­ing an agenda, be­cause you don’t vo­cif­er­ously agree with ev­ery­thing they have to say.

It mat­ters not if the de­bate is about Hamil­ton LRT, Cana­dian par­lia­men­tary politics, Eu­ro­pean unity, in­ter­na­tional trade or plan­e­tary cli­mate change. We live in an in­creas­ingly po­lar­ized world.

Let’s take, for ex­am­ple, the mat­ter of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sia, a world­wide de­bate that reached an­other new crescendo this week.

De­spite what may be in­di­ca­tions to the con­trary, I like to think most jour­nal­ists are un­de­cided on Trump’s in­volve­ment.

To be sure, there is a lot of smoke — but no fire.

And true, each day the bil­low gets a lit­tle higher, much of it fanned by Trump him­self. But good jour­nal­ists are skep­ti­cal of ev­ery­thing, and this should be no dif­fer­ent.

“Oh come on,” say crit­ics, “it’s ob­vi­ous there’s a coverup.”

Oth­ers dis­miss such claims. “You’re just mad Hil­lary lost.” Me? I sim­ply don’t know. Trump is a liar and a lout, and he ap­pears to be us­ing the pres­i­dency to en­rich his fam­ily, but he looks too stupid for a coverup.

He doesn’t seem adult enough for col­lu­sion.

And the ad­min­is­tra­tion seems so in­ept — and so leaky — it’s hard to be­lieve they could keep any­thing un­der wraps, es­pe­cially some­thing as ex­plo­sive as this.

Trump is clearly un­well, but that could be said about any of us.

He is, of course, un­fit for the pres­i­dency, but again, he wouldn’t be the first.

Be­yond this ugly Rus­sia busi­ness, be­ing squarely on one side (or the other) of the en­tire Trump de­bate can also pay div­i­dends, whereas be­ing in the muddy mid­dle can be costly.

“We live in an era now where if you don’t take sides, both sides hate you,” said Jay Leno in a re­cent in­ter­view with the New York Times, in a story about the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fal­lon.”

Fal­lon, who tries to ap­peal to ev­ery­one, has seen his ratings drop in re­cent months, just as Stephen Col­bert, who hosts the “Late Show” and ham­mers Trump mer­ci­lessly, has seen his go up.

Peo­ple, not the least of them me­dia ex­ec­u­tives, are watch­ing.

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