DeMarco: A prescription for treating mental obesity

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

The root cause of America’s obesity epidemic and the rise of political polarization are linked. The former is due to unhealthy food choices, the latter to unhealthy media ones. A side effect of living in a developed country where food and media are inexpensive and widely available is that we consume too much of the insalubrious types of both.

Our news and opinion diet is often filled with transiently satisfying but non-nutritive calories, producing a mental obesity. We pick up our phones and succumb to the same temptation that a bakery case provides.

Certain habits put you at risk for physical obesity. If someone eats fast food frequently, regularly consumes high-calorie snacks, and rarely exercises, he or she is at high risk for being obese. Similarly, if someone watches long periods of cable news that offer a liberal or conservative bias, solidifies that bias by viewing social media with that same slant, and does not expend the mental energy to challenge himself or herself with other viewpoints, mental obesity is likely.

One unique difficulty in combatting mental obesity is that it is hard to recognize in ourselves. There is no scale for this type of obesity. Try this as a diagnostic tool: Pick any common policy disagreement and cogently argue it from the other side. If you are pro-life, explain why someone might rationally choose abortion. If you are pro-choice, explain why someone might rationally oppose it. The inability (or lack of desire) to accept that people with whom you disagree are not universally evil, crazy, stupid or un-American is a cardinal symptom.

Most importantly, what do we do about it? The treatment of physical and mental obesity is similar.

Portion Control

For most of our history, Americans received our news in aliquots: newspapers, radio news at the top of the hour, TV evening news. In my early adulthood in the 1980s, before cable news was ubiquitous, a common pattern was to read the morning paper, go the whole day without any interruption by current events, come home and read the evening paper and/or watch the evening news. We weren’t hounded by “breaking news” that was neither, or sent unsolicited push notifications. The wonder of finding the latest score or stock price comes with an invisible threat to our mental health if we aren’t conscientious internet consumers. We become angrier, less tolerant, and more partisan, the chronic diseases associated with wanton media overconsumption.

Consume the Rainbow

Healthy plates are often filled with color. The wholesome green of vegetables and the many colors of a fruit salad are indications of their goodness. If your information diet is monochrome, take heed.

When I give patients medical advice, it is often based on what I try to apply (albeit imperfectly) in my own life. My advice here will be the same. I still get the newsprint edition of the Florence Morning News (I’m going to pause for a moment to let my younger readers’ laughter quiet). It’s a nice way to ease into the daily news. The articles are usually right down the middle, written by local reporters or the Associated Press. Then, properly nourished, I will often listen to the conservative talk radio show, “Wake Up Carolina,” on the drive to work. The show’s host, former lieutenant governor Ken Ard, and I have many things in common. We are both are husbands and fathers, we love our families, and we care deeply about our neighbors in the Pee Dee. We occasionally text about the issues of the day and share a mutual respect. Our political opinions are often at odds. For example, we disagree completely about Anthony Fauci, whom I admire and whom Ken wants to fire.

Our disagreements are not always so stark. Sometimes we find common ground, as when he talks about the plight of America’s blue-collar workers. Do I slap my head in frustration some mornings? Yes, but that’s the point. Ken is an opinion commentator, who is not bound to journalistic standards. The fact that he has many faithful listeners who trust him makes him someone I want to hear. If you listen to someone with whom you agree completely, you have accomplished nothing by having your already formed opinion buttressed. It’s the mental equivalent of mindlessly eating a bag of chips.

I balance “Wake Up Carolina” with NPR. I check the Fox News app and then the CNN app, recognizing the biases of both those outlets. I have digital subscriptions to the Washington Post and The New York Times. My next purchase will be the Wall Street Journal. I’m only hesitating because it gets expensive after the first year and I’m not sure I’ll have time to read it. I listen to podcasts of all stripes, and enjoy the depth and nuance that can be conveyed in that format. And of course, when I want scintillating opinion pieces and erudite commentary, I come here.

If you were my obese patient, I’d have some gentle advice and encouragement for you. As your columnist, I also have some instruction. If you agree with me most of the time, I prescribe regular exposure to a more conservative columnist. If you read my column every month and our stances often differ, I’m pleased. Consider me informational broccoli. Now, treat yourself (briefly) to a news source with which you agree.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, S.C. Reach him at A version of this column (sadly without the reference to this blog) appeared in the Florence Morning News on 3/2/22.

37 thoughts on “DeMarco: A prescription for treating mental obesity

  1. Barry

    I’m not sure how I feel about these ideas.

    There are plenty of issues where I don’t care what ideas espoused by the other side happen to be. I could listen to them for 100 years and I’m not changing my view or respecting the other view. Those are issues that there is no compromise on. There are some issues that important.

    If the other person is talking tax policy- I have no issues listening to their viewpoint -at least to a degree.

    For example, in the last week Republican legislators in 2 states have proposed bills that would seek to ban terminating ectopic pregnancies. There is ZERO compromise with extremists that would propose such barbaric law.

    A Missouri legislator is proposing to ban women from travelling to other states to seek out abortion services. This legislator would bring the power of state government into someone’s home to decide what she and her family are travelling to another state.

    I would never even care to listen to someone like this talk about such a law. If I had a friend that supported it, I’d end the friendship. I’m too told to waste a second of my time on people that support such a thing.

    Life is too short to waste on people where profound disagreements exist on fundamental issues, where people’s basic core values are completely different from one another.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, life is indeed short, but it’s not that short.

      In fact, it’s not really worth living if you’re not willing to grow. And listening to views with which you disagree is pretty essential to that.

      That does NOT mean taking a break from listening to the talking points of one “side” in order to listen to the equally (or even more) rigid talking points of the other “side.”

      Such points are too seldom conducive to actual thought. In fact, more and more, they are crafted to prevent thought. Which brings me back to the constant reshaping of Newspeak in 1984

      1. Barry

        It’s almost impossible to avoid listening to other ideas unless one sets a radio or tv dial and never changes it.

        For example, as I have said before, my favorite channel on radio or tv is the Michael Smerconish program on Sirius radio each morning from 9am-12noon. 2nd on that list is the Dan Abrams program on the same Sirius channel at 2pm. The 3rd on that list is when Brian Ross or Steve Scully host during the 12-2pm hour on the same channel on Sirius.

        That’s because all of those hosts are not carrying the water for any political party. Michael, for example, prides himself on being independent. He’s not shy of disagreeing with Joe Biden or a policy of the Democrats and at the same time disagreeing with Republican opposition or tactics. I enjoy that because it’s one of the rare places I can find such an approach. Plus, he has the greatest guests that reflect such a diversity of viewpoints. But the guests are not slinging talking points or Michael will push back. They are discussing issues in-depth- much more in-depth than you can find on NPR because Michael has much more time to explore an issue.

        But with that said, there are some issues where there is no compromise possible and I have no interest in hearing someone’s viewpoint.

        If someone wants to ban treatment for ectopic pregnancy and call such an abortion, they are an extremist that doesn’t deserve to be listened to. These people would prefer women bleed to death in their home than seek out a safe surgical procedure that will save their life or preserve the quality of their lives. There is NO compromise with someone on this issue- NONE. I don’t care what their opinion is on the subject. It’s as irrelevant to me as someone whose opinion is that a dirty glass needs to be blown up with dynamite.

        Or if someone wants to try to ignore the existence of growing numbers of gay or trans people in the world and treat them like they don’t matter or that they shouldn’t be as free to talk about their lives as anyone else, I am not interested in their viewpoint at all. No compromise on my part at all.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    My reactions to Paul’s piece…

    Overall, of course, another good one, making me glad to share his stuff here on the blog.

    A quibble or two, though. For instance, my eyebrows rose at this comparison: “I check the Fox News app and then the CNN app, recognizing the biases of both those outlets.”

    OK, I don’t watch this stuff, beyond the rare circumstances of being trapped in a place where there’s a TV pumping it out. But that seemed a bit off. There’s hardly anything out there that can compare to the slant Fox puts on things. It’s such a huge part of the network’s reason for being. Of course, a Fox fan might SAY CNN does the same, to the left, but in my very limited experience I haven’t really run into evidence supporting that assertion. Saying that is simply a part of a larger phenomenon — one that long predates the existence of Fox — of people on the right asserting that all major straight-news outlets are “biased” toward the left.

    If I felt it necessary to make such a comparison, I’d have mentioned MSNBC. Again, I don’t watch it, but enough evidence filters in to me to suggest something at least distantly comparable to Fox.

    Actually, I had a similar problem with the preceding sentence: “I balance ‘Wake Up Carolina’ with NPR.” And here I’m on more solid ground, since I have long been a regular listener (although less so recently, as I’ve found myself consuming less news, period). Ever since I first started listening decades ago, I have been astounded at the depth and quality of the reporting provided by this outlet. Absolutely nothing in the broadcast universe compares to it, and very few in the realm of the written word.

    Of course, I’m not a person who twitches in indignation at what so many term “bias.” Long ago, I came to prefer getting my news from opinion writing, rather than from front pages. I find it far more valuable to read an item in which an intelligent person is trying to SAY something about what is happening than I do merely being fed the “who, what, where, when” stuff.

    Opinion makes the brain start working. I not only learn the facts, but I start evaluating whether the writer is assessing the situation in a rational and helpful way. I care less about the writer’s point of view than about the quality of the argument being made in THIS particular instance. Mind you, when I say “opinion,” I mean something from a reputable outlet, written by someone who has earned my attention, not some idiot yammering on Facebook, or a talking head paid to fill time on a 24/7 cable “news” outlet.

    Of course, that’s the problem Paul is addressing here. Too many people, lacking discernment, don’t distinguish between well-considered, and well-backed, opinion and blathering nonsense — and they gorge themselves with the latter, because there is SO much of it out there, free for consumption.

    This is not the same thing, but it’s related to the “rabbit hole” problem I keep writing about. For that reason I included “Rabbit Hole” among the several categories I assigned it to, so that it will come up when I go back to review posts addressing that phenomenon.

    Anyway, as always, thanks, Paul…

    1. bud

      If I felt it necessary to make such a comparison, I’d have mentioned MSNBC. Again, I don’t watch it, but enough evidence filters in to me to suggest something at least distantly comparable to Fox.

      Lets just replace MSNBC with The New York Times and Fox with The Federalist.

      If I felt it necessary to make such a comparison, I’d have mentioned The New York Times. Again, I don’t read it, but enough evidence filters in to me to suggest something at least distantly comparable to The Washington Times.

      You see how ridiculous that sounds. So unless you’re actually going to watch TV news you really should stop commenting on it. MSNBC is decidedly not in any way the flip side of FOX News. In fact they ran a series of stories early in Biden’s presidency that were highly critical of his Mexican border policy. Hardly a sign of unwavering left pro Democratic bias. Generally speaking I find MSNBC far more enlightening than the crap written by the likes of Bret Stephens or David Brooks.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yes, that DOES sound ridiculous, because it is — and completely different from what I said.

        But since I didn’t mention WHY I said that — because it have been complicated, and I didn’t think it necessary — let me just give one, quick example of what I’m talking about.

        A lot of people on the left react to MSNBC and its celebrities in a very similar, emotional way that the fans of Fox react to Sean Hannity, et al.

        For instance, as I’ve mentioned before, since I worked on James’ campaign in 2018, I seem to be on every Democratic Party fund-raiser mailing list that exists. As y’all may know, fund-raising emails are not famous for presenting carefully reasoned arguments. Instead, they try to elicit an emotional response in people that might motivate them to cough up some money. I find it all quite mysterious, because I can’t imagine that it works — but it must, because they keep doing it.

        Intellectually, these messages are pretty much on the level of pro-Trump appeals — or to reality TV, which also mystifies me. Both universes are people by “heroes” and “villains” that stimulate these emotional responses, just by being mentioned. In the Trump universe, the main “hero” is Trump himself, while there is a large group of villains, some of the favorites being Dr. Fauci and Nancy Pelosi.

        Of course, I don’t get many of those, thank God. I’m inundated in the ones from the other side. Some of the main villains are Mitch McConnell and Marjorie Taylor Greene. More to my point, there are a bunch of heroes, or perhaps I should say “heroines,” given the examples that are popping into my head at the moment. Speaker Pelosi is one, of course, and then there are odder, less-relevant ones like Stacey Abrams (her prominence in this constellation continues to elude me — but celebrity is like that). Lately — and this might really blow Bud’s mind in particular — Liz Cheney has been playing a heroine role. Just today, I got an email that was headlined “Liz Cheney just HUMILIATED Marjorie Taylor Greene [!!]”

        But one of the constant favorites is Rachel Maddow. She seems to get mentioned in this “don’t you love her?” role as much as Nancy Pelosi.

        Which is kind of weird, unless you recognize that her show on MSNBC has given her a status on the left that is similar, on an emotional level, to the way Trump fans react to the leading Fox personalities.

        That’s one example. The bottom line is that there is a bit of a cult on the left, having to do with MSNBC, that in some ways is like the role Fox plays on the right.

        Is it exactly the same? Of course not. At least, I don’t think so — I can’t be sure, since I don’t watch either.

        But it makes sense to point to a similarity. And it makes no sense to do so with the NYT…

        1. bud

          Is it exactly the same? Of course not. At least, I don’t think so — I can’t be sure, since I don’t watch either.

          Since you don’t watch either you have zero credibility to comment. Apparently you’re very proud of the fact that you don’t watch either, as is your prerogative. But it excludes you from making an informed pronouncement on them. My assertion stands. You just come across as an ignorant contrarian when you make these asinine observations.

          As to your specific comment about Rachel Maddow, Most liberals I know do indeed like her. She’s thoughtful, knowledgeable and fair. Her show does a terrific job of giving historic perspective to current events. Currently she’s working on a book about Spiro Agnew and is taking a break from her show. But she’s hardly regarded as a cult figure. Heck, the way you carry on about people like Bret Stephens perhaps you are engaged in a sort of cult like obsession with the New York Times.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Since you don’t watch either you have zero credibility to comment.”

            Yeah, I guess we’d better shut the blog down, then, since most of us haven’t personally experienced many of the things we write about. For instance, I’ve never been to Ukraine, so I guess I’d better shut up about that, huh? (Not that I’ve been saying all that much about it, anyway.)

            Or we could set a different standard. How about this one? Have you ever had a personal conversation with Rachel Maddow? I have. She interviewed me back in her radio days. I was very impressed with her. She’s bright as all get-out. I’ve listened to one of her spiels on the TV once or twice, and been impressed — while at the same time disagreeing with her. (The one time I definitely remember was several years ago, and the subject was Afghanistan.) If I thought television was a good place to present political arguments, I’d probably include her among the many people I would listen to.

            But I don’t. I think it’s a terrible medium for expressing such ideas. So I read…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Speaking of which… I was watching a TV show last night — one of the many detective shows I watch on Britbox. This one is called “Traces,” and is set in Scotland.

              Anyway, there was this one scene set in a courtroom during a murder trial. There was this guy the camera kept showing who was furiously typing into his phone. I sort of assumed he was a reporter, and he was Tweeting — or something — about what was happening in real time. At one point, the camera very briefly showed his screen, though, and I couldn’t tell what it was. You know how in movies and on TV they often go way out of their way to create a format that is different from any recognizable software like Twitter or FB or Microsoft Word or anything like that — I guess to protect themselves from getting sued.

              So I couldn’t tell whether he was tweeting or texting somebody or what.

              But it got me thinking about tweeting during news events.

              For the most part, I’ve always thought that was an awesome new innovation in the world of reporting. I appreciate, say, John Monk’s tweets from the courtroom, and I certainly tweet a good deal when I’m at something newsworthy myself (although, of course, I’m not there to cover it in any conventional sense).

              But watching that guy, and not seeing him also typing on a computer screen, I got to worrying about what is lost.

              The big thing that is lost — aside from the fact that your attention is divided and you can miss things that are said or that happen while you’re busy posting — is that you lose perspective. Everything becomes about RIGHT NOW, and the impression you are forming at that particular second. And you lose that process of waiting until the thing is over and considering it as a whole before you try to write something that tells people the whole story about what happened and what was important about it.

              And that’s a huge thing to lose. And of course you not only lose it, but throw it away, in most expressions of opinion on live television. I’m not counting Rachel Maddow’s prepared talks, which she has obviously spent time on (I remember that one about that Afghanistan piece that impressed me). I’m talking about MOST opinion expressed on the telly, which involves people yelling at each other and speaking entirely from the gut.

              Back at the paper, a huge part of the process of both news and opinion is letting your colleagues know what you’re working on and what it will say and when you’ll be done. People need to know those things. But if it was about something I was writing, I hated to tell people. I did it, the best I could, but I hated it. That’s because I so often changed direction during the process of writing. Sometimes I lost faith in the central conclusions I had planned to express.

              That’s because writing something — something as complicated as opinion, as opposed to news — is a process of discovery and discernment. As you work on what you had intended to write, and seek out the answers to questions and double-check the things you thought you knew, you come to see the subject differently — if you’re honest and open-minded about it. Usually, this would just involve minor shifts in emphasis or tone. Sometimes — ridiculously often, if you were someone counting on Brad to write what he said he would — I would scrap the whole project, and write instead about something else that was on my mind and was clearer and more straightforward.

              Anyway, that’s one of the biggest reasons I prefer written opinion. It’s been refined, and is therefore worth reading…

              1. Ken

                “you lose that process of waiting until the thing is over and considering it as a whole before you try to write something that tells people the whole story about what happened and what was important about it.”

                That’s the “history will decide” side of the argument. But one could also argue the opposite: that the 10,000-foot perspective offered by history/historians often misses something very important, namely how people saw and understood things in the moment, as they lived through them. In judging how one event followed from another, that perspective can be invaluable.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  For that reason, it’s good if you can provide both — if you’re that kind of multitasker.

                  But I’m not. I can do the constant Twitter commentary, and I can go back and give you an overview. But I’ll do a better job on the overview if that’s what I’m thinking about all along. If I’m the only guy you’ve got to send, you’d do better to assign me just to do one or the other.

                  Unfortunately, few editors have the luxury of sending two people. So everybody makes do, the best they can…

            2. bud

              Rachel Maddow did win a Grammy so I guess you could call her a rock star:)

              I just watched a great story from Ukraine by Richard Engel. He was showing the damage to an apartment building while interviewing an elderly woman who barely survived. At the end of the interview she spontaneously gave Engel a hug. The normally stoic Engel was visibly moved. You just don’t have that level of powerful reporting from something as impersonal as print media. You can read til the cows come home but you just can’t understand the news without seeing it. TV is a far better way to fully understand current events than written words.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Well, God bless that old lady.

                That’s an interesting example, in terms of what we’re talking about. Basically, you’re describing something that would appall many traditional journalists. They would go on and on about how that violated the tenets of the profession — personal involvement with a subject.

                Personally, I think those people need to get a life, and let humans be humans.

                On the other hand, the personal touch isn’t what I’m looking for, which makes me different from most people, I realize. Television goes WAY overboard in trying to deliver the emotional moment. Forget news for a moment. Think about the way they cover, say, the Olympics — all the lengthy personal profile videos, and setting up the personal video connections to the athletes’ loved ones back home. I saw a couple of the latter interactions during the recent winter games. And they were awkward. The athletes and their families TRIED to go along and interact emotionally, but the effort showed. I imagined these young athletes thinking, “Um, this is just like talking to them on WhatsApp, which I do all the time…”

              2. Barry

                Lester Holt was moved to tears last week doing a story from a hospital that had been damaged. He was interviewing a mom with a tiny baby that was in the hospital and she told him she didn’t know where to go. He was choking up talking to her and when the camera went back to “LIVE” with Lester looking into the camera to continue on with the news, he had tears in his eyes and his voice was slightly cracking.

    2. Barry

      The difference is that Fox News drives the Republican Party much more so than MSNBC or CNN drive the Democratic Party. Fox also drives Democratic opposition to the Republican Party because Fox is often so outrageous.

      I’d argue that MSNBC and CNN have almost no impact on the Democratic Party or base. Maybe they want to have that impact but they simply don’t. I mean I know Liberals that watch MSNBC a lot, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard one speak about MSNBC like they are taking direction from them.

      On the other hand, I also happen to know folks that seem totally unaware of an issue until Fox talks about it and then they are almost obsessed with an issue. (Critical Race Theory, Fox spending so much of their airtime talking about crime in New York, but never mentioning the rising crime rates in in Texas- or South Carolina, or Georgia, or Republican led states).

      Fox has enormous power in the Republican Party (officials, elected officials, etc) and Conservative base. There is no equal on the left side of the aisle.

      Michael Smerconish is from Pennsylvania. He was at a weekend dinner party where he ran into Dr. Mehment Oz right before he announced his Senate candidacy. He tool the opportunity to invite Oz onto his Sirius radio show and his CNN show giving him a nice platform to talk about his Senate run after he made his announcement on Fox. Oz told him that he would love to but didn’t think he could do it until after the primary. He told Michael that Fox and Hannity wouldn’t like it and he couldn’t risk upsetting them. He also said the Oz that he saw at that dinner party was a completely different person that he saw on Fox News talking about his campaign and Democrats.

      Michael discussed the fact that Oz made his announcement on Fox instead of appearing in front of voters in Pennsylvania and talking with voters there and how his campaign was going to more of a Fox News anger campaign than a campaign getting to know Pennsylvania voters in the diners and small towns around the state.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        “The difference is that Fox News drives the Republican Party much more so than MSNBC or CNN drive the Democratic Party. Fox also drives Democratic opposition to the Republican Party because Fox is often so outrageous.”

        I agree with those points, to an extent.

        “I’d argue that MSNBC and CNN have almost no impact on the Democratic Party or base.”

        There you lose me. The people in the Democratic Party who send out fund-raising emails seem to believe differently…

        1. Barry

          They may believe differently but I don’t see or hear MSNBC or CNN being mentioned by the base of the Democratic Party- and I don’t see Democrats in Congress being concerned with what either network talks about. I see Democrats in Congress go on those networks, but they aren’t sticking a finger to the wind like Republicans on FOX.

          Just look what happened with Ted Cruz and Tucker Carlson on Fox a few months ago. You had a United States Senator apologizing to a cable news host and the cable news host scolding him live on TV for calling January 6th “a terrorist attack”

          Here are the comments that angered Carlson

          Fox News host Tucker Carlson lambasted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday for the unforgivable sin of calling the Capitol insurrection a “violent terrorist attack,” accusing the ultra-conservative lawmaker of “repeating the talking points that Merrick Garland has written.”

          “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week,” Cruz said in a Senate Rules Committee hearing. “And it is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives for the Capitol.”

          Here was Tucker’s comments on the air- with Ted Cruz on the air

          “He described Jan. 6 as a violent terrorist attack. Of all the things Jan. 6 was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack. It wasn’t an insurrection,” Carlson exclaimed. “Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack. Sorry! So why are you telling us it was, Ted Cruz?” “What the hell’s going on here? You’re making us think, maybe the Republican Party is as worthless as we suspected it was.”

          Cruz then apologized to Tucker saying he used ““sloppy and frankly dumb phrasing.”

          Maybe someone can point out a similar event on MSNBC but I can’t recall it off hand. Cruz apologizing is pathetic. Feeling the great need to apologize to a cable news host on Fox is more pathetic.

      2. bud

        I mean I know Liberals that watch MSNBC a lot, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard one speak about MSNBC like they are taking direction from them.

        Exactly. That describes me. Many of the hosts on MSNBC do share my liberal thinking. But I’m more than willing to go in a different direction when the evidence takes me there.

  3. Paul V DeMarco

    I appreciate your perspective but I would not be inclined to end friendships over deeply help positions. My guess is the Missouri legislator feels that he is preventing murder and that in his eyes, restricting a woman’s travel makes sense to him. Of course it doesn’t make sense to you or me, but I could still communicate with him. Indeed, I would want to communicate with him and be able to have a respectful dialogue. He would be much more likely to listen to me if my approach was a series of civilized questions exploring the implications of his position. How would it work? How would you know that a woman crossing the state line was pregnant and headed for an abortion clinic? Who would surveil and report her? What would the punishment be? Since the punishment would likely be after the abortion was done, are you criminalizing something that is legal in another state? etc. I would want a maintain a connection with him. It would be the only chance I have to moderate his opinion.

    You are right about the lack of equivalence in my comparisons. CNN is a more accurate, less tabloid version of the news than Fox. But millions of people believe the news and opinion they get from Fox, so I want to know the environment in which they swim. And there is no comparison between NPR and Wake Up Carolina. Those are two different universes, the NPR universe being the one closer to reality. But alot of people in the Pee Dee live in the fairly narrow universe that Ken Ard depicts (less government (because politicians are elitist and incompetent), Trump was a great president, Obama is responsible for the division in our country today, lower taxes, immigration is something to fear, our country’s history of racial and economic injustice is no longer relevant, etc).

    1. Barry

      I appreciate your response.

      I guess the way I view it is a person trying to prevent someone from traveling to another state is a lost cause. Their position is so extreme, whatever their reasoning, that I am not inclined to deal with someone that in my life. I prefer to let others deal with them if they so chose.

      The difference in me – someone that would try to encourage someone not to choose an abortion versus them wanting to use the power of the government to ban people from traveling to where they want to go are world’s apart.

      How do you talk with someone that is convinced that surgery for an ectopic pregnancy is abortion? This person isn’t some joe nobody. This is an elected official in Missouri and now there is another elected official in Ohio proposing a similar law. How do you deal with someone that thinks you are immoral because you provide medical treatment for a woman suffering from bleeding from a ruptured fallopian tube to have surgery to stop the bleeding? Or thinks the woman is choosing abortion because she seeks treatment for bleeding that could kill her?

      I mean it’s hard for me to type the above question and not believe that we are in some twilight zone universe now.

  4. Doug Ross

    Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, and Don Lemon, et al are the modern day diet fad doctors who spew out false information to weak minded individuals looking for a quick fix to their obesity. The rubes will believe anything their new saviors tell them — and will buy, the books, buy the ads, buy the speeches… making the purveyors rich on their gullibility.

  5. Barry

    Another advertisement for the Michael Smerconish program on Sirius

    He has Joel Samuels (former law professor at UofSC) on right now talking about Russia. Samuels is the new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina.

    Joel just said he will be in a roundtable meeting with some folks today including Lindsey Graham. Maybe Lindsey will actually listen instead of talking.

    He’s very good on the radio- good communicator.

  6. Barry

    I have an update from an earlier story I mentioned

    The St Louis Post reporter in Missouri that exposed a security flaw in a state education website will not be prosecuted a Cole County prosecutor announced late on a Friday evening back in February.

    Reminder- A reporter working on a story found private information (Teacher social security numbers and other private employment information) on a state website. The reporter immediately contacted the state agency and told them he discovered the security flaw and the exposed data and gave them time to correct it before reporting on the story.

    When the story came out, the reporter received accolades from the state agency. The governor’s office prepared a press release thanking the reporter for bringing this to their attention, but the Republican governor would not sign off on the press release.

    Instead, the governor shocked nearly everyone and accused the reporter of violating the law and “hacking” the state agency website and exposing the information – none of which was true.

    Due to the potential of “hacking” the FBI took a look at the case initially- quickly dismissing it saying the reporter did the right thing and there was no hacking done- and there was no evidence of hacking by anyone- especially the reporter. The FBI said the reporter didn’t use any special software or even any special knowledge to see the data- that anyone could have used publicly available software to access the same information.

    State law enforcement officials also looked at it and quickly dismissed it saying the reporter did the right thing and there were no laws broken.

    The governor held a press conference- accused the reporter- by name- of illegal activity and hacking and then said he was referring the matter for prosecution to the local Republican county prosecutor.

    The Republican prosecutor had his office investigate the matter for 3-4 months. No one was sure what he was actually investigating. The reporter had to hire legal representation. Finally in February, late on a Friday evening, the Republican prosecutor said that it wouldn’t “serve citizen interest to spend resources to pursue misdemeanor charges” against the reporter.

    But then he stated (to stay in good graces with the political folks that control him) that “it could be argued the law was broken.” (Obviously we have a republican here that doesn’t care about the law since he’s overlooking the law- whatever law that is we have no idea)

    The Republican prosecutor refused to take any questions and has not commented any further on the matter even as many people, and media organizations have inquired as to what “law” he was referring to that would hold someone criminally responsible for reporting a data breach to a state agency. Apparently there is no such law- as anyone with common sense would know.

    Yet another example of a lawyer – in this case a Republican lawyer taking orders from a Republican governor- willing to lie and say anything.

    The reporter- Josh Renaud- stated this was an attempted political prosecution by a Republican governor who didn’t know what he was taking about with respect to the technology involved and refused to correct himself.

    The St Louis Dispatch stood by the reporter- also labeling this a political prosecution.

    The usual Conservative media and talking heads had no use for this story or the attempts to use the courts to prosecute this reporter who has said he is praying for the Governor now.


    1. Barry

      oh- let me add……

      We know what the FBI said in this case to state of Missouri officials -including the governor’s office because the media got ahold of the emails where the FBI’s security specialists told the governor’s office and state officials this was not hacking and that anyone with basic computer skills could have seen the same information

      The FBI stated in one email that the state’s website was “misconfigured” allowing “anyone with basic skills to simply see the information on the website.”

      They also added that the reporter did the right thing- what anyone should do should they come across such information- report it to the state agency- as the reporter did.

      The governor, after knowing that information, had a press conference calling the reporter a “hacker” and accusing him of criminal behavior.

      The Republican prosecutor still hasn’t answered any questions about the now closed investigation and refuses requests to discuss it.

      Such integrity………


    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think Barry is on a quest to become the guy who writes the longest comments — which would mean knocking me off my pedestal… 😉

  7. Barry

    Dan Abrams on his Sirius radio show today did a really good job of deconstructing some recent comments of Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald on Fox News and how they take a little piece of news, twist it, and then pretend they are “just asking honest questions” as it relates to “bio labs” in Ukraine.

    Conversely, last week Dan interviewed an expert who has been to some of these labs in Ukraine and has studied them since the early 1990s and dismissed Carlson and Greenwald’s comments as misinformed at best and ignorant at worst.

    1. Barry

      Dan also put Tulsi Gabbard into the same category- and explained how she had taken a little bit of information, twisted it, and made irresponsible comments.

      He also correctly stated that the only way Tulsi gets any news now is going on Fox News and making some provocative comment that right wingers support. He also noted that she’s virtually incapable of criticizing Putin

    1. Barry

      Yep – several Russian officials have been promoting Tucker’s comments on the air in Russia and on social media there.

      and the “media critics” that work at Fox News – namely Howard Kurtz (who still pretends he’s fair) haven’t mentioned one word about it.

      Howard spent yesterday writing about the fired Chris Cuomo- not his colleague- the #1 rated host at Fox who is spewing Russian propaganda and whose comments are being played on Russian tv every day.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      If you want to contribute to the conversation, please do so. If you just want to be unpleasant to somebody, or about somebody, please do it somewhere else.

      That’s the “game” that’s being played here. Which I post as a reminder to all — those getting deleted, and those not…

      1. Doug Ross

        You approved a comment from barry where he said he would never allow his son to be a lawyer. You know who he was targeting with that comment.

        You allow anonymous commenters free reign in their negativity. You contribute as much to the cesspool of what is considered discourse these days.

        It’s unfortunate that your lingering Trump obsession poisoned this blog. The moment Joe Biden took office, this blog took an even sharper turn for the worse. You lost your whipping boy and now are left with a one term, do nothing puppet who turned out to be nothing like the heroic character you revered.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          1. Nope, I had no idea to whom he was referring. It occurred to me it was a crack at Bryan, since he IS a lawyer. Personally, one of my daughters is a lawyer, but since he said son, I didn’t feel like it was me. So I decided it was just a general comment. One with which I disagree. I take it from your saying this that you have a son in law school. Congratulations.

          2. I know that when you get started on “anonymous commenters,” you’re frequently thinking first and foremost of Barry. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve disallowed comments from three people. You are one. Barry is another. The third is someone else who gets under your skin from time to time. So much for “free rein.” Yes, your disallowed comments outnumber theirs by far. That’s because you keep saying the same things over and over.

          3. Again, you keep saying the same things over and over. Maybe you believe that will make them seem true. Anyway, you don’t need to worry about saying them any more. They are already on the record from the many times I’ve allowed comments containing the exact same assertions.

          Anyway, I’m not answering any more of these. I’m just deleting them. This is a ridiculous waste of time…

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