Dan­ger­ous dog­ma­tists

The Compass - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­[email protected]­gram.com Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

This will come as no sur­prise to rea­son­able peo­ple.

We’ve dou­bled down on dog­ma­tism.

We’ve built a wall, and nei­ther side - once you get out to the ex­tremes - has the high ground any more.

Any­one who reads my col­umn prob­a­bly can guess where I stand on most is­sues - to the left of cen­ter, for sure. That’s meant I’ve been un­com­fort­able with the ra­bid side of right-wing pol­i­tics for years. I don’t think every­one should be armed, or that every­one who com­mits a crime should be locked up in­def­i­nitely. I think im­mi­gra­tion is nec­es­sary in an ag­ing na­tion with a slow­ing birth rate. I think peo­ple de­serve ac­cess to food and hous­ing.

But I’ve be­gun to be­come just as un­com­fort­able with the far left - be­cause, like most peo­ple, I think that you can’t de­cide to pun­ish some­one un­til there’s ev­i­dence enough that crime’s ac­tu­ally been com­mit­ted. I can’t agree that it’s wrong to take some­one’s vote away be­cause the cur­rent gov­ern­ment can fine-tune elec­tion rules, but it’s some­how fine, be­cause you are in the cur­rently pop­u­lar group, to tell any­one what they are and aren’t al­lowed to write.

Look, if I write an of­fen­sive opin­ion, you have a lot of choices. You can write to my boss to ar­gue I shouldn’t be pub­lished any more: you can stage a boy­cott of my col­umns and books if you like. But you can’t sim­ply is­sue a dik­tat say­ing what writ­ers like me are and aren’t al­lowed to write about. That’s just a slip­pery slope to cen­sor­ship.

Hear me clearly on this, though: I’m not say­ing I should be ab­solved from the con­se­quences of what I’ve de­cided to write, just that no one should get to de­cide what I should be al­lowed to write. (I’m not talk­ing here about a blan­ket pro­vi­sion to break hate laws or laws against child porn - there are laws, af­ter all, to deal with those is­sues)

But dogma is sim­ply an or­der to march to the beat of par­tic­u­lar drum­mer, and it doesn’t mat­ter if that drum­mer is a hide­bound con­ser­va­tive or a stri­dent left-winger.

How do you know if you’re dog­matic? Well, there’s a sim­ple test. If you jump like a fish at a fly when some­thing comes up that den­i­grates the other side, and you can’t move fast enough to retweet it or post it on your Face­book site - and when it’s later proven false, you say and do ab­so­lutely noth­ing at all, well, you’re dog­matic.

The in­ter­net has cer­tainly made things worse. The need for speed in the me­dia has meant that things get posted be­fore all the needed work is done on a story.

But I also blame some of the prob­lem on met­rics: the me­dia has never had bet­ter num­bers for what peo­ple are look­ing at, and how far through it they are read­ing. I can tell you that far fewer peo­ple read through a story tak­ing a mea­sured look at the fi­nan­cial im­pacts of longterm gov­ern­ment debt than read through a story about a cat res­cu­ing five kit­tens from a fire. Yet the debt story could fore­warn what could hap­pen to a place for gen­er­a­tions.

So the me­dia, now with the best met­rics ever, has been re­ac­tive.

Like I said, if you think what I’m say­ing is wrong, com­plain. But don’t claim to tell me what I am not al­lowed to say.

I am sure - I ac­tu­ally count on the fact - that there is a great ma­jor­ity out there who are ac­tu­ally rea­son­able, ra­tio­nal peo­ple, and that they are sit­ting on their hands dur­ing this dreck-storm and just shak­ing their heads. I’m also afraid that the great and silent ma­jor­ity may be fed up, back­ing away from it all.

Mean­while, the cir­cus, both left and right, works it­self into a right­eous froth. A plague on both their houses.

How do you know if you’re dog­matic? Well, there’s a sim­ple test.

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