To better understand what you read, understand who is writing it.
For every presidential election since 2004 the libertarian Reason Magazine has conducted a voluntary survey of and then published the votes or intended votes of their journalists and staff. It should come as no surprise that they lean towards the Libertarian candidate, Jo Jorgensen, but it may be of interest to know that almost no major publications or networks ask their reporters or editors to disclose this information to their readers or viewers.
I like to think that people read what I write because I don’t come off as someone trying to sell you something. I endeavor to honesty in everything but especially in my written work seeing as how that’s how most people know me. But all writing is simultaneously editing – choosing what I write about in the first place is as potentially prejudiced as how I choose to write about it.
In a recent interview with the National Press Club’s Journalism Institute, the editor of Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward, said that the “idea was to puncture some of the self-mythologizing that journalists love to indulge in. The idea that concealing our votes somehow shores up our objectivity is absurd.” I agree 100% and not just because I’m a fan of libertarianism in general and Reason specifically.
Objectivity isn’t synonymous with fairness.
Even if our national media wasn’t, or maybe because it is, splintering even further into competing ideological camps right before our eyes (Fox vs MSNBC, WaPo vs NYP, etc.) over seventy percent of Americans think that there is too much bias in the news. In August, AP reported the results of a survey by the Knight Foundation and Gallup of twenty thousand people revealing that half of us think that journalists often misrepresent the facts while over a quarter of us think they lie outright. Less than half of us “have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the media to report the news fairly.”
Hiding the biases and preferences of a publication’s staff doesn’t make them go away.Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason editor in chief
During my undergraduate history courses we were taught that knowing the biases and cultural preferences of an author or ancient source would help us contextualize the information. I am not the only middle or high school history teacher to teach bias and reliability to our students. The veracity of any author, living or dead, is not — and cannot be — contingent upon their objectivity but knowing their motivations and prejudices are of undoubted use in catching the flagrant liars and frauds.
I’m not issuing some sort of challenge or fatwa for you to ignore or disregard journalists or writers who don’t disclose their votes. There are many reasons for someone to guard their right to a private vote, not least of which is personal security. But I think there’s also value in it. Perhaps if more writers, opinion-makers, and journalists publicly disclosed their votes, the public would have an easier time in separating the signal from the noise. Knowing where I’m coming from may help you understand the decisions I make as a writer and observer.
Maybe knowing my votes and the reasons for them is reason enough to stop reading me. Maybe it will encourage you to read more of my suggested authors. Maybe it will cause you to dig deeper into my source material. Maybe you feel you follow enough people of my persuasion and want more different perspectives. It seems you could get valuable information out of my disclosure so why not?
I also feel that perhaps knowing exactly how I’m thinking of the issues of the day may give you something new to consider. I may disappoint some of you but I’m not really sorry because honesty isn’t something one should regret absent insult or injury.
So, who gets my vote for president?
My vote goes to
I’m thinking about voting for Biden. Yes, I’m one of those undecided voters you hear about. It seems I really only have two choices and I’m honestly unsure which is in my best interest.
To be perfectly clear, Donald Trump is not one of those two choices. I didn’t vote for him before, I won’t now, and Arthur C. Clarke would have trouble envisioning a future where I would. I don’t think he’s sexist or racist or homophobic or fascist. I think he’s a liar, a buffoon, and an asshole. I think he’s been that person his whole adult life, I don’t trust him, I don’t trust him with the office. Donald J. Trump will never get my vote.
But that’s not why I might cast my ballot for Biden.
Who I want to vote for is the Libertarian Party’s Jo Jorgensen. I’ve voted for the LP candidate in every presidential election in which I could vote. I was a state party officer in Alaska for a short spell, I believe in most of the Libertarian Party platform, for the first time registered as a Libertarian officially this year, and was looking forward to voting for Jo. It feels good to vote my values.
However, I’m tired of Trump.
I genuinely never want to hear his name again.
The joke has worn thin. While I appreciate how he continues to expose the pure hypocrisy of our political and media leaders, he is a toxic presence. Trump is a crazy maker – everyone around him is destroyed and every system he’s part of turns to self-parody. Trump Derangement Syndrome is very real, far more widespread and contagious than covid, and (also like covid) the man himself has it.
Trump’s political opponents are incapable of acting like the adults they should be given who they’re facing. The press unwilling to stop their hysterics, contributing even more to our declining trust in them. And the president himself apparently unable to act with the decorum his position requires. They’re all obsessed with him.
I don’t think Biden is a better choice. I don’t trust him more than Trump. I don’t believe in the democratic platform more than I do the republican one. This is not some angry NeverTrump screed, I’m on record defending him and some of his actions.
I’m just sick of the Trump show. And that’s what life in 21st century America feels like. Every channel, every headline, every talk show, all of social media, in line at the store, everywhere and all the time, it’s something about Trump. And I’m done with it.
This is not entirely his fault. Trump makes people froth. Whether or not he is racist may be up for debate, what isn’t is that tens of millions of Americans think he is. Whether or not Trump has designs on dictatorship could be argued but not to the people rioting in the streets right now. And Trump, at the very least by his inarticulate nature, does nearly everything possible to make things worse. Even if I trusted the press to honestly and accurately report what he says, there’s little he could do that wouldn’t provoke a hyperbolic reaction from his political opponents anyway; besides, there’s every chance he would mangle whatever he was trying to say. The partisan divide existed pre-Trump but his very presence makes it worse. Polarizing doesn’t describe what he does to our media and politics.
I want my country back.
I acknowledge that in a large way I am bowing to the mob. I am worried about the violence escalating even further if Trump wins. CNN can keep insulting my intelligence with chyrons like “Fiery but mostly peaceful protests” but the violence has been continuous and in many places, like Portland, basically organized. People are dead. Trump supporter kills protesters. Antifa kills a Trump supporter. Escalation is on everyone’s lips. At this point, who started the violence doesn’t matter, why it is escalating doesn’t even really matter. It is and it is obvious.
It isn’t that I trust Biden to fix anything, including the violence. Biden won’t stop the fire. But Trump is gasoline. I’m thinking about voting for water. Or sand I guess. Whatever.
Just not more gasoline.
Thomas Brown is a history teacher and freelance writer. He runs The Swamp and is featured in Grunge, Quillette, Spiked, The Bipartisan Press, Human Events, among others. Follow him at his Medium page and argue with him on Twitter.
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