What’s a journalist? (Sports-related)

The funny thing I found about MMA journalism — most of the sport’s coverage up until the very late 2000s was in the hands of independent journalists who started sites with funny names (Sherdog, Bloody Elbow, MMA Junkie) who are more professional than the organization they’ve covered.

They toss aside the Playboy issues with an Octagon Girl that the UFC is trying to hand out. They hold the UFC accountable to the point of having their access revoked. Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt were both tossed out for asking questions that made Dana White and company uncomfortable. So was Ariel Helwani, however briefly.

And a lot of them have moved into major news organizations. USA TODAY bought MMA Junkie, basically outsourcing its MMA coverage. (That also meant the end of my freelance work for USA TODAY, which had continued after I left the full-time staff, but what really bothered me was that USAT’s new and inexperienced — and short-tenured — sports leadership tossed out a terrific full-time staff reporter.) Bloody Elbow has grown with its parent organization, SB Nation. Luke Thomas has a terrific show at SiriusXM.

I’m glad — because these folks are damn good.

A few soccer folks have done well independently or in the SB Nation fold. But the MMA folks took it to another level. Bloody Elbow has always had brilliant technical analysis along with history and some legal analysis, and it has gone into strong investigative work as well. Most MMA blogs with an audience are rarely, if ever, the province of the fanboy.

With the UFC strong-arming journalists, those journalists have done some careful thinking about the price of access. The UFC tossed Helwani out of the building along with a photographer and videographer who just happened to work for the same site. Dana White backed down on that, despite insisting he wouldn’t, but he has never relented on bringing back Josh Gross and Loretta Hunt, who did nothing more than raise questions that were uncomfortable for White and company.

So a few people in the MMA media have done what we’ve tried to do in soccer with varying success. They formed a journalists’ association. This week, that association spoke up after some mixed messages about whether journalists would be allowed to ask about, say, Greg Hardy and domestic violence. (Here’s the background.)

Luke Thomas offered up a thoughtful take about the association and journalism in general. He didn’t join the former because he thinks he doesn’t do the latter.

I think Luke is setting a very high bar for what’s considered journalism. He does analysis. I’d argue that’s journalism, probably more than I did in a ton of my stories at USA TODAY. We weren’t exactly FRONTLINE in my day. We did aggravate the UFC when my big cover-story splash about the sport led with Kimbo Slice, who was fighting for another organization at the time and leading the way into prime time, but I didn’t uncover a deep, dark secret with the help of anonymous sources. (Post-Jack Kelley, USA TODAY wasn’t big on anonymous sources.) I did original interviews, as he does. I pulled information from those interviews and other readily accessible things to put together stories that were unique, but so does he.

So, Luke, I for one think you’re a journalist.

And yet I understand the reluctance in joining an association, having been in two. I was president of one, and I’m probably at least partially responsible for it falling apart, mostly because I never really figured out what we were supposed to do. Exactly once in my tenure did I have a situation in which I needed to hash things out with an MLS team, and it was ridiculously minor. As Luke says here, a reporter’s editor should be the one doing that.

And yet I have full respect for Josh Gross being an officer of the MMA association. His presence sends a nice message that the members of the group are going to do their jobs whether the UFC likes it or not.

It’s also good to see some unity there. When I was in MMA journalism, I always sensed that many MMA fans figured those of us on the “inside” were compromised. I made every effort to demonstrate that I wasn’t, to the point of taking a gift the UFC had sent me all the way to Vegas to return it in person at UFC 100. The people working the desk surely still think I’m crazy.

(Yeah, they say credentialed reporters are compromised in soccer, too, but that’s because soccer attracts a lot of professional whiners. As I posted to a mailing list this week: “A lot of reporters are accused of not challenging MLS, and the people who raise such accusations won’t be happy until they see a lede like, ‘In a game that doesn’t matter because MLS doesn’t have promotion/relegation and once received a marketing boost from Chuck Blazer, Atlanta United beat the Portland Timbers 4-3 in an MLS Cup final featuring hat tricks by Josef Martinez and Diego Valeri, neither of whom would score that many goals in La Liga.'”)

So just having a variety of names attached is a good thing. I often wished I could show some solidarity with those on the “outside,” and a group like this helps.

Maybe they could do some things to raise their visibility. The UFC rankings (no offense to the one former co-worker and longtime friend of mine who takes his vote very seriously) aren’t particularly credible. What if the MMAJA did their own? The only glue that held together the soccer associations was voting on weekly awards.

Still, what matters more is that the media understand what they’re doing and the ramifications of all of it. Press conferences are often just for show, in MMA especially but sometimes in soccer as well.

And it’s important to pick one’s battles. One time I diverged from my soccer colleagues was when MLS decided to give us some information before MLS Cup but asked us to withhold it until halftime. I had no issue with it, and it gave us time to prepare what we were going to do with it. Others immediately tweeted it out. So what happened? MLS never did that again, so now you get the same info at halftime, and you have to scramble to respond to it while you’re trying to cover a game. Was that “scoop” worth it?

The MMA media have more difficult fights. If I’m being asked not to ask certain questions at a press conference, I’d be inclined not to go, and then I’ll ask the questions elsewhere. We’d have to see if my editors backed that up.

They grasp these issues. They have intelligent discussions on them. It’s impressive. And a lot of us could learn from it.


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My favorite songs of 2018

This list doesn’t feature songs released 2018. I’m a little slow. Some of these songs are from the 90s, and I’m just now catching up. Some of these songs were ever-present in my CD player in my young adulthood, and I’m re-discovering them.

(Yes, I made a Spotify playlist.)

Let’s hit it …

The Tragically Hip – Bobcaygeon 

Gord Downie was considered a national treasure in Canada, and the Hip’s farewell concert was a major television event.

When Downie passed away, a vigil was held in Bobcaygeon, a small town about 160 kilometers from Toronto. Downie had no particular tie to the town, choosing it for this song because it rhymed with “constellation,” but the band later performed there even though it’s not a big town that attracts a lot of touring bands as big as this one.

It’s a simple, beautiful song propelled by Downie’s wonderfully expressive voice.


The Tragically Hip – Nautical Disaster

A sprightly little tune about survivors’ guilt. Must have been one hell of a nasty breakup to compare it to the sinking of a German ship in a World War II naval battle that few people survived.

As with Bobcaygeon, it’s a repetitive melody, but the rhythm is unpredictable, and Downie builds the drama with his authoritative delivery.

This is one of the songs they performed on Saturday Night Live when fellow Canadian Dan Aykroyd (neither the host nor a cast member but appearing in several sketches to prop up a disastrous season) pushed for them and did the intros.

Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons – Green Eyes

There are a few perks to being a fan of a relatively obscure band. I had interacted with Angela on social media a few times before I saw them, but I figured she couldn’t possibly remember every fan she meets online. Then I went to Hill Country BBQ, where I was the only person sitting on my half of the front row. (Attendance was rather spotty, mostly a few curiosity-seekers who wandered downstairs from the restaurant, but they didn’t seem to mind.) I looked up after they took the stage and saw her smiling and waving. I looked behind me, thinking she couldn’t possibly be waving to me. She was.

Afterwards, I chatted with her for a bit, posed for a selfie and got a big hug. I also talked with bass player Billy Zehnal, who has kids around my kids’ ages.

Her songs are often about young love. Dandelion Kisses, which they stretch out with an atmospheric intro in their live performances, is a bittersweet tune in which the protagonist knows the man she’s with is in love with someone else and will eventually win her over. (I often find myself yelling at no one in particular: “Angela, you deserve better than that!”) This one is a little less complicated.

Check out the solidly produced “Stereogram Session” or check out the fun live version.

Nicole Atkins – Listen Up

I’ve also interacted with Nicole a bit on social media, especially when she was hosting a show on SiriusXM. I’m not sure she knows who I am, but she high-fived me on the way out of her concert at The Barns. And this happened …

(I didn’t say that I was so startled that I let out an awkward “Hi!”)

For some reason, she just happened to start and finish in the right aisle where I was sitting, taking advantage of the acoustics to sing sans microphone. At the start of the show, she walked through — starting right next to me — singing the wistful Neptune City, which was recorded with a lush arrangement but sounded great with simple guitar chords. After her set, she once again headed into the aisle and sang an a cappella Over the Rainbow, then strode down the aisle to leave. I had my hand up to wave, and she high-fived me.

Yeah, I’m a 48-year-old fanboy. So sue me.

I wish she’d sung a couple of my old favorites — the foreboding Vultures (one of the songs I practice on drums) or the fun Girl You Look Amazing (which had a video that would’ve been a hit if MTV still played music) — but her new stuff is good as well. For this one, she did another entertaining video.

I’d say she should do comedy, but I wouldn’t want her to waste that gorgeous voice.

PJ Harvey – Man Size

Not sure why her breakthrough album Rid of Me popped back into my head after 20 years or so, but I’m glad it did. She skewers gender stereotypes throughout with raw guitar and some odd time signatures (11/4 here, which is a lot of fun to play on drums).

I think 50 Foot Queenie was the bigger hit, and I’m listening to that one, too. But I flipped a coin and chose this one.

Our Lady Peace – Starseed 

I associate this one with my drives back to Duke when I found too many excuses to go back and visit my friends. It’s back with me now because it’s a terrific drum part that I plan to pitch when School of Rock does its adult session. The drummer, Jeremy Taggart, was 18 years old when he recorded this — the Wikipedia entry for the album says recording was delayed for his high school graduation.


Metric – Dressed to Suppress 

OK, THIS is a new one. I’d worried that Metric had fallen off a bit since their brilliant album Fantasies, but Art of Doubt is a powerful return to form. Emily Haines adds subtle inflections throughout that aren’t just for show — they highlight and illustrate the point.


Belly – Mine

They’re back! And the new album matches up pretty favorably with the two they released in their 1990s heyday. WHFS would’ve loved this one.

Drummer Chris Gorman is also an artist, and he’s made intriguing videos for this one and Shiny One, in which Tanya Donelly sings about parenthood over a rumbling bass groove and soaring guitars. The Shiny One video seems to be paying tribute to their hit Feed the Tree, for which the video was set in a forest.

And check out the live version of Mine, which is more ragged here than when I saw them live, but it captures Tanya’s joy at being back on stage with her band as well as bassist (and cancer survivor — let’s keep Obamacare, OK?) Gail Greenwood’s propensity for cool rock-star poses.

Screaming Trees – Dying Days

Not sure I heard this one way back when it was released. I mostly knew Screaming Trees for Nearly Lost You, as I think most of us did, as well as All I Know. This one was a reflection on all the tragedies in the Seattle music community, but I actually find it uplifting somehow.

I’d recommend not watching the video for this, which is just contortions of a grotesque bit of album art, but put it on in the background and listen.

Or just listen to …

the full Spotify playlist! It also includes a few extras, such as …

Heart, Barracuda — Believe it or not, our local School of Rock has a girl who can sing this. That’s some serious talent.

The Mars Volta, Cotopaxi – Believe it or not, our local School of Rock has musicians who can work their way through the crazy time signatures here.

Rush, La Villa Strangiato – The School of Rock Rush show director has challenged the gang to play this one.

Chris Stapleton, Midnight Train to Memphis – I don’t listen to a lot of country, so I’m going to call this “roots rock” instead. Great voice, and I have fun playing this one with the snare drum tuned way down low.

The Stone Roses, Love Spreads – I will come up with a reasonable drum part for this. I will come up with a reasonable drum part for this. I will come up with …

Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood – Another drum-workout track.

Rancid, Rejected – Believe it or not, School of Rock has a bass player who looks like a shy, studious girl who can play this part.

Throwing Muses, Sunray Venus – Tanya Donelly’s stepsister, Kristin Hersh, is still going strong, and she’s had the same trio now for a couple of decades.

The Cardigans, I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer – A perennial. That’s my jam, period.

And I’ve included some comedy. Enjoy.



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Please make me quit chronicling the cruelty of the president …

Today, our commander-in-chief …

… threatened to cut off aid to California in response to … the fires that are ravaging California. 

A few issues with that:

Trump has failed to note that more than half the forested land in California is under federal control, essentially his jurisdiction. One fire expert said Saturday the president’s statements oversimplify a complicated problem.

“To have a president come out and say it’s all because of forest management is ridiculous. It completely ignores the dynamic of what’s going on around us,” said LeRoy Westerling, a climate and fire scientist at UC Merced.

He said rising temperatures and longer spells of dry weather were the main culprits in the increased number and ferocity of wildfires.

Source: SF Chronicle

“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong,” California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice said in a statement on Saturday.

“Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography,” he continued in the statement. “Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.

Source: ABC News, though this statement has been widely circulated.

Not the first time, of course:

In August he tweeted, “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”

“We have plenty of water to fight these fires,” Deputy Cal Fire Chief Scott McLean said in a statement in August. Nonetheless, the Trump administration announced it would override the Endangered Species Act to provide extra water — not needed by the fire crews.

(Same ABC story)

Trump made these comments while attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of one of the most brutal … wait, what?

OK, back to our initial ellipsis …

… skipped out on a World War I ceremony because of a light rain.

To which Winston Churchill’s grandson replied …

Our forefathers broke away from a mad king (George III). Now we’ve elected one.





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About last night …

The tyranny of the minority party is over.

Make no mistake — the Republicans are the minority party. In 2016, Trump was elected with 46.1% of the popular vote. Republicans did eke out a narrow victory in the number of votes cast in 2016 House races — 49.1% to 48.0% — but not this time. Granted, the Democratic margin this time is smaller than expected — currently 51.1% to 47.2%. In gubernatorial races, it was 49.2 to 48.3. (The weirdest result — Democrats lead 56.8% to 41.6% in Senate voting but will lose at least two seats, likely more.)

The media will keep pushing the “polarization” narrative. That’s not accurate. We have one sort-of “pole” in the progressive/socialist wing of the Democratic Party, but it actually overlaps a little bit with the populists who voted for Trump. Last night proved we still have an awful lot of centrists. Then we have one “pole” that is rooted in hate and preys on fear, ignorance and prejudice.

Remember the 2016 narrative suggesting Trump was all bluster. “Oh, he talks that way, but he’ll really be a reasonable guy who reaches out to everyone. He won’t threaten LGBT rights. He’ll call on independents and Democrats to help him govern. Maybe he’ll even nominate Merrick Garland or even Barack Obama to the Supreme Court.”

Oops. Instead, we have a guy who makes no effort whatsoever to fulfill even the basic civility of the office. Not with Congress. Not with our international allies. Not even with any voters outside the 40-ish percent of people who have stood by him. Again — we’re talking about a minority party.

And the country said yesterday it will not put up with that.

We’re not “polarized.” We don’t have rabid enthusiasm for the Democratic Party. We have pockets of people, mostly progressive, who will line up behind certain candidates. But that only goes so far — witness the resounding Democratic loss in the gubernatorial race is overwhelmingly blue Maryland, where one of the last reasonable Republicans (Larry Hogan) wiped out the surprise progressive winner of the Democratic primary, Ben Jealous.

And Trump isn’t likely to take last night’s results to heart and reach out to the majority. Here’s Republican-turned-independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin:

My service with the Central Intelligence Agency taught me that leaders committed to self-preservation through authoritarianism do not curtail their efforts to dismantle checks on their power under the threat of accountability. They hasten them.

We have maybe 30% of the country that buys into the Trumpistas’ scapegoating of everything from asylum-seekers to George Soros. We have another 10% or so that desperately believes, in defiance of all evidence, that manufacturing and coal jobs are the future, not just the past. And then we have some people who’ll vote for their local Republicans out of unquestioned party loyalty or because they’re actually decent people. (Welcome back to the center, Mitt Romney, and I hope you’ll be a voice of reason in the Senate.)

And we’re stuck with a Senate that may resemble the general population less and less. Millennials aren’t just voting at the ballot box — they’re voting with their feet. (I’ve written about this before — Millennials are leaving small towns, though it’s interesting that the ones who stay tend to go into politics.)

Everyone else is looking for a direction. It’s exhausting to be campaigning against hate rather than campaigning for something.

Maybe something more positive would win over the rural voters who are clearly looking for something else. Trump and company are buying off rural voters with the notion that he’s looking out for their jobs. But it’s all short term. Democrats (or a more reasonable Republican) should be pushing the notion that they’re looking out for the long term and investing in their futures.

But what I’ll push here is something I’ve been pushing for a long time …

Chip away at the two-party apparatus.

Push for more races — including Electoral College decisions — to be decided by runoffs. No more “wins” with 45 percent of the vote.

Because the Founders never intended for this to happen. Let’s end with a couple of quotes:

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.” – George Washington

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” – John Adams (good explanation in this link of how this quote pre-dates the U.S. Constitution)

With that, I’m getting back to all the work I have piled up, including a book deadline. And the next few Mostly Modern Media posts will be about music.

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Whatever happens Tuesday …

… there will be too many people motivated by prejudice and fear. They accept stereotypes of immigrants while turning a blind eye to the violence of people whose families have been for generations. They will ignore the industries and farms that need immigrants to do their work because white people find such work beneath them and demand handouts. They have no problem with voter suppression, sometimes rooted in an unfair judicial system.

… there will be too many people with no concern for the future. They put their head in the sand over climate change or massive deficits — the latter being useful when we need a boost but ridiculous when the economy has been humming along for several years. They will favor short-term tokens — hey, more jobs in coal — over investment that will keep people employed.

… there will be too many people who are afraid of change. They long for an impossible return to a time of high-paid manufacturing jobs, which are being automated, or fossil-fuel jobs, which devastate the planet. (The irony is that journalists, a particular punching bag for such people, have had to deal with the slow death of their industry, but you don’t hear them demanding a return to the good ol’ days.) Some of them long for a time in which people of color, different faiths or different gender identities knew their places.

… there will be too many outright racists who feel empowered. The shooting in Pittsburgh was not some isolated incident of harassment and violence against Jews. White supremacists are walking hand-in-hand with elected officials.

All of the above will be true even if a “Blue Wave” takes the House along with some key gubernatorial races that may help overturn the gerrymandering that has allowed Republicans to control national politics with a minority of the votes and an overwhelming minority of support within academia, the media and other people who pay close attention and understand context.

But here’s the good news.

… there will be a majority of people, especially among younger generations, who reject the racism, religious intolerance and homophobia of their elders. (I’m not sure about the sexism, unfortunately.)

… there will be public pressure on governments and businesses to do the right thing. The same businesses that act irresponsibly with their lobbying efforts know they have to find ways to sell their products to better-educated consumers.

… there will be people who do great work through charity.

… there will be cities and states that respect all their residents and even put their own environmental regulations in place.

… there will be scientists who find advancements in health care and environmental solutions.

A decade and a half ago, I was entranced by the History of Britain miniseries. In each episode, we saw how British rulers were robber barons at best and genocidal maniacs at worst.

And yet, Britain progressed. British people made incredible strides in science, literature, economics and every field of academic inquiry. They even invented soccer.

We’re not going to get rid of horrible politicians and the people who reflexively vote for them. And it’s not going to be easy to make progress as long as such people exist in significant numbers. But the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice.

One site worth watching is The World in Data. Follow their leader Max Roser on Twitter. They have statistics that should depress us, but they have plenty of statistics that show just how much progress we’re making on extreme poverty, child mortality and other measures.

That progress often happened despite government. Not because of it.

None of this means you shouldn’t vote or that it doesn’t matter. We need a bulkhead against hate and short-sighted policies that will make progress more difficult for us and much more difficult for future generations. If you haven’t gotten the message yet, read this. Then get reluctant young people to get out and vote. We’ve had too many years of neglect that have allowed negative forces to gain control — too little watchdog work, too many midterms in which people stay home and allow the gerrymanderers to gain power.

We have a lot of progress to make. Too many people still in poverty. Too many people who see life as a dead-end. Too many people living with a constant threat of violence.

We’ll use many tools to do this work. Voting is the easiest. Do it. And then embrace the good people around you and get back to work with them.


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On negativity and reaching out to snowflakes

Let’s first be clear about who’s a “snowflake” and who isn’t.

Much of the country cares about immigrant families. Even if they want to keep everyone out and have even stronger border security than we currently have, they don’t want families separated, and they don’t want to absurdity of 3-year-olds, wondering if they’ll ever see their mothers again, standing in front of a judge.

Much of the country cares about sexual-abuse survivors, and they care more about Christine Blasey Ford being harassed out of her home than they do serial liar Brett Kavanaugh being questioned on said lies. (Funny how many — not all, mind you — of the same people who are outraged about Kavanaugh’s “harassment” didn’t feel the same way about Bill Clinton, whose affair with Monica Lewinsky was far less relevant to his fitness to be in office than Kavanaugh’s offenses and whose alleged perjury was far less convincing than Kavanaugh’s.)

Much of the country cares about our standing in the world being undermined by a bully with a Twitter account in the White House.

Much of the country cares about the poor, the uninsured and a wage gap that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The Democrats, to be sure, never did much about the wage gap, but they’re being held accountable for it by a new wave of younger candidates. Republican candidates are not.

Much of the country cares about the truth.

Much of the country cares about the rights of journalists to do their jobs without being assaulted or murdered.

Now a lot of this “much of the country” crowd actually benefits personally from GOP policy. Low taxes help out your “liberal elites” as much as they help your local hedge-fund managers (some of whom are actually “liberal elites” themselves, or at least concerned about the direction of the country and its short-term bets on deficit spending and dying industries).

But they care.

And for that, they’re labeled “snowflakes.”

Meanwhile, you have people who are backing Trump and his GOP lackeys because … um … let’s see … ah, here we go …

Because liberal elites are mean to them. 

Liberal (and progressive) people tell them their beliefs are wrong … and they freak out.

Senators do their jobs to try to hold Brett Kavanaugh accountable … and they say they’re more motivated to vote Republican because of it.

Bottom line: They’re afraid to face the facts. Instead of facing the reality that crime is a complex matter, they find scapegoats. Instead of facing the reality of climate change, they strain to find any scientist who tells them it’ll be OK — or maybe they convince themselves God will fix it all. Some of them know Trump has taken lying to new levels, lying about things that aren’t even in the slightest dispute (remember Sweden?), but they don’t care because it’s comforting to be in that alternative reality.

And yes, some of them are shying away from a complex world by craving the “simpler time” of their childhoods — maybe convincing themselves they’re not being racist or sexist or homophobic even though the world of the past was “simpler” because people of other gender identities or colors knew their place. (And because manufacturing jobs were plentiful, an unrealistic long-term view today because of automation.)

So tell me: Who’s the snowflake? 

Let’s be sure we understand here: A majority of people in this country — by popular vote, by any poll you can find — are worried about other people, and yes, that stresses them out. A minority of people in this country fret about feeling invalidated because their views don’t hold up under any scrutiny by the media, academia or the overwhelming majority of educated people.

And the handful of educated people supporting this minority are doing so out of naked self-interest. Tax cuts for the very rich. Cozy corporate jobs for those who ignore the evidence and come up with screeds denying humanity’s role in climate change. Easy cable pundit gigs by networks desperate for anyone who can defend this nonsense with a straight face.

So what do the rest of us do?

As I’ve said before, we can’t deal with the hard-core cultists. We simply have to limit their damage. Maybe when they lose their enablers within the Republican Party, they’ll start to question their beliefs privately. Maybe.

But we need to win over everyone else, which is a challenge because it forces you to be humble and to be somewhat nice to people who have abhorrent or unsubstantiated views.

So we the majority (which, I should point out, isn’t limited to either wing of the Democratic Party and includes a great number of people with justified skepticism of the Democratic establishment) need to strike a balance between these two notions:

First: Fighting back against the movement of the Overton window. We don’t need to let white supremacists into polite society. Journalists need to drop the notion of “both sides.”

(Profanity alert here …)

Second: Patiently associating with people who aren’t deep into the weeds. As hard as it is to believe, there are people who have been voting for Trump, McConnell and other reprehensible politicians who are good people who’ve simply been hoodwinked. We’re all hoodwinked at some point. I grew up a creationist homophobe. I got over it. If I had been left to rot in an echo chamber, maybe I wouldn’t have done so.

Consider the effects of travel and meeting people outside your circle. It’s easy to hate Muslims when you don’t know any. It’s more difficult when you work alongside Muslims and see that they’re humans just like you are. I grew up with negative stereotypes of Northeast “elites” until I went to school with them and started working alongside them — now I realize they’re hard-working, empathetic people.

Along those lines, here’s a warning …

Hey, Millennials — drop the judgmental bullshit on Twitter. 

If someone’s using the wrong word, quit treating them like they need to be thrown through the Overton window. Quit turning life into a contest to be the most woke.

If you are the most woke, congratulations. You will have judged everyone else out of your life. And there’s no way in hell they’re going to vote with you.

So we have a tough line to walk. We have to engage with a lot of people while refusing to validate the extremes of the “other side” on race, climate change, inequitable economics, etc.

But we can do it. Because we aren’t snowflakes.

For more writing on this election, see “Why we should reject the liberal label” and the catch-all “Why you have to vote.” Then vote.

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Why we should reject the “liberal” label

“Liberals” these days are under attack. Seems unfair, given that the dictionary definition simply refers to being open-minded and interested in education.

To some extent, that isn’t new. A few decades ago, Saturday Night Live had a sketch that was a mock TV show called The Liberal, a bit like the Incredible Hulk in that it was someone running for his life from town to town while being hunted by virtually everyone.

But it’s worse these days because even “progressives” have hopped on board. “Conservatives” have yet to realize this, but they’re thrilled that people we once called “centrist” (like the Clintons) are now “liberal.” They can move the Overton window that much further.

But I reject the “liberal” label for one reason, and it’s the same reason I reject other labels. It’s convenient shorthand for dismissing what people have to say. Period.

When you call someone “liberal,” that’s code to me for “I’m scared to deal with your opinion.” It’s a “hasty generalization” fallacy — or even simple ad hominem.

Maybe it shouldn’t be that way. Maybe instead of progressive, liberal, centrist and conservative, we should just have “honest” and “dishonest.” Fox is dishonest. The “liberals” who did Whale Wars are dishonest.

And let’s have the honest people talk. For a change.

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