Opinion: Daily Journal

A well-read, informed populace could snuff out so-called ‘cold civil war’

Carl Bernstein, a curmudgeon who became immortal because of Watergate, has said the United States has found itself in yet another cold war.

But this war is civil, amongst ourselves and sans nukes.

This war involves differences in politics and culture, ideology and morality. It revolves around CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Around Breitbart and The Huffington Post.

“Our politics has been changed (irreparably) by this right-wing counter-force, whatever you want to call Fox News, but also cable news itself is a different form than we had during the time of Watergate,” Bernstein told Fox News, as reported by the Washington Examiner. “We didn’t see reporters on television discussing their stories. A fact-based environment is almost impossible to maintain as long as the principals are willing to engage in the kind of rhetoric and lying that we have seen in this exchange of late.”

Bernstein is referring to Washington, D.C., of course, which is ground zero for his so-called cold civil war. He has a point, to be sure, yet all this banter — including that from Bernstein — has deflected people’s attention from the goings on in our towns, our cities and our states, which still hold great sway over our money and our freedoms.

Sadly, large conglomerates and corporations have gobbled up our local newspapers, only to learn too late the internet can offer for free what people have long paid for in advertisements. So the corporations downsized and consolidated. The venerable watchdog, once snarling and stretching heavy chains, is most often now a cuddly lapdog begging for a treat. The internet — with a few national print exceptions — is now largely in charge of keeping the gate, along with ubiquitous cable news shows, which, as we know, favor argumentation and analysis over news and thoughtful opinion.

The loudest and most shrill rise to an ear-splitting din, a confusing cacophony that becomes impossible to ignore. People are increasingly failing to read and to fully learn about the intricacies of a topic or matter of contention. Reasoning and pragmatism go by the wayside. Issues and policy lose sway to ideology and dogma. Civil discourse is lost.

In North Carolina, the legislature holds a Republican supermajority. The governor is a Democrat. Seemingly for many state residents, it’s a simple as that. They call Gov. Roy Cooper an overly litigious hyperpartisan who would like nothing better than to drain state coffers and raise taxes exponentially. Others look at Sen. Phil Berger, the Senate leader, and write him off as a miserly elitist lawyer who cares little about the environment, takes from the poor to feed the rich, and believes it’s his duty to dictate gender preferences in regard to using the restroom.

Neither perception is accurate, but that’s where the misinformation begins and the start of where the partisan battle lines are drawn. Zealots and rabble rousers roil the masses and, as the old saying goes, a little knowledge becomes a dangerous thing.

WFMY News2 in Greensboro recently aired a two-minute piece about a public meeting for a planned downtown ballpark project in High Point, which would include shops and restaurants and encompass some 131 acres. The reporter talked to people about the potential for development and a vision of a community-centric ballpark that will attract people from miles around.

What the reporter failed to mention is High Point has no baseball team, and none is imminent.  She didn’t talk about minor league teams in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, each a half-hour or so away. Nor did she mention the public cost of this grand vision. As Julie Tisdale, city and county policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation, has said and written, the High Point City Council voted in April to spend $15 million on the project. “The whole thing will actually cost the city more like $30 million, but this was the first $15 million for land acquisition.”

Bernstein proclaimed a cold civil war, and he’s probably right. But I do think he would agree that an informed, well-read citizenry is essential to sustaining and growing our republic.

It’s time to put down the figurative swords and to pick up a book or a magazine or a even a newspaper. Maybe a published work from a writer with whom you may not normally agree. It may not end a pervasive ignorance, but it’s surely a decent place to start.



  • Nunyadambizness

    “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.”

    – John Adams