And now for something completely different…..

Like a lot of people around the world, I have been become a little obsessed with American politics, with the rise of the then candidate Trump on wave of nationalism and populism, through the republican primaries and on to the general election, waiting his campaign to run off the rails…for him to utter that one lie, make that one gaff that so great or offensive that even his 5th Avenue base would have to walk away.  Now 9 months into the first term of the 45th President of the United States the campaign rolls on in much the same fashion as the campaign…except now he has nukes and twitter…what could possibility go wrong…. oh yeah…. now I remember….

I followed the coverage provided by local media outlets and got quite of lot of my daily news diet from shows like The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, or Larry Wilmore’s, “The Nightly Show” (Larry we miss you.)  But this wasn’t enough, I wasn’t getting the detail I wanted on the inner working of the US political establishment and the people that sort to deconstruct the administrative state (which I originally though was a name of a bad novel Bannon was trying to promote.)

One evening my partner had suggested listening to a podcast from NPR called the “Politics Podcast” and it was great, it was informative, fun and had the detail I was looking for. She then suggested something called Five Thirty-Eight, a podcast that uses polling and statistical data to frame discussions about the significate political stories of the week (538 is the number of electoral college votes needed to become president) and then she played an episode of “G’day Patriot’s” a podcast on US politics as seen from an irreverent Australian perspective. From that point on our lives have never been the same (I sometimes wonder if she regrets introducing me to podcasts).

NPR ONE App, led me to “Embedded”, which led me to “Reveal”, which led me to “The GIST”, which led me “Trumpcare”, which led me to “Trumpcast”, which led me to “Politico”. As I got around to Sunday rolled around each week, and I had consumed my plateful of pods, I went in search of more.

I found Crooked Media, a media outlet created by four former members of President Obama’s staff and their stable of smart, informative, podcasts on political and social issues (and if you have ever wanted to rant about your friends and they’re in ability to stay quiet during Game of Thrones, then you will love their commercials).

My daily fix of political and social commentary is the “The Gist” from Slate, the host, Mike Pesca is irreverent, funny, his thoughtful use of the English language makes for entertaining listening and he has a really great variety of guests. I enjoy it very much, even though I don’t always agree with some of his conclusions.

Something that he mentioned in of his podcasts, was that he found it important that listen the opinions of others who may disagree him with on various issues. To see things from their perspectives, and that got me thinking……most of the hosts of a lot of the podcasts I really enjoy listening to, share to some degree or another many of my views.

It is a this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I need to outline the following:

  1. I am a straight white man who is addicted to podcasts, (obviously), science fiction & olives (the green pitted kind, that come in brine).
  2. According to the PEW research centre’s political Typology Quiz am a “Solid Liberal”.
  3. I did just make the “Pew Pew” sound effect in my head when I wrote the previous sentence.
  4. Given point 2, the following may be redundant but I’m going to say it anyway. I support social and legal equality for all, regardless of race, sex, religion or sexual preference.

Mike’s comment really resonated with me so I decided then and there, to seek out podcasts whose hosts had opinions, which didn’t necessarily agree with my own. Believe me, they’re out there…and by that, I mean some of them are “OUT THERE”.

I finally settled on a conservative commentator named Ben Shipro, Ben is the founder of dailywire.com, author and lawyer who left Breitbart as editor-at-large over Steve Bannon’s stewardship of the site, that his friend and mentor Andrew Breitbart had created.

Ben has principles, no question, he does not blindly defend the behaviour of those on the right and the current administration when they clearly deserve to called out on their nonsense. He does however, clearly despise the left. I don’t know if this simply his personal beliefs which he holds to firmly and that should be respected for, or if it’s also partly because he trying to grow a brand and this is the sort of thing his paying subscribers want to here.

I don’t necessary agree with a lot of Ben’s opinions, however on certain issues I think he makes fair and reasonable points. (In fact a normal podcast goes something like this.. “Okay this guys getting on my nerves I’m going to sto….hmm that’s a good point, I hadn’t thought about it that way…..no…now we are back to getting on my nerves”)

I think it’s important to see things from the other’s perspective.  Ben does the lecture circuits at US universities, and made headlines recently when an address to students at UC Berkley prompted the university to spend and estimated $600 000 dollars on security in case extreme elements from either side of the political divide incited violence because of something contained in Ben’s speech.  This is one of the things I agree with Ben on. Your opinions are just that, your opinion, and you should be able to have a discussion especially with those you disagree with, along as you not inciting people to violence and hatred of others.

There seems to a culture today of shielding ourselves from opinions we don’t like, if we only listen to people we agree with how do we get enough information to make a truly informed decision, how do we teach our children to consider all sides of an argument before forming their own conclusion? If we can’t, do it, we can hardly expect them to. This attitude seems to most prevalent in universities which I find stunning, this should be the place there is full throated discussion and debate should be encouraged.

What really frustrates me about Ben is not necessarily his opinions health care, tax reform, marriage equality, or gun control…. although quite a few of them make me roll my eyes.  It is the language he uses when he attacks people on the left or the left itself, “their stupid, their disgusting, their morons” to me it seems contradictory, he wants to elevate the level of public debate on these issues but he resorts to name calling. I don’t consider myself a delicate snowflake, but I don’t think much of the idea of trying to have a debate when the other side is constantly calling me a moron, no one likes that…. ask the President. 

Please before you start sending me nasty tweets. We on the left are just as guilty of this language, the crooked media boys referred to the GOP as a bunch of “Shady Motherfuckers” during the first few attempts as repealing the affordable care act and pushing through the travel ban. I’m not saying there aren’t people in the GOP (or in the Democratic party for that matter) that are worthy of that epithet, but there are also people of decency and respect and I think we all need to remember that.  I should also point out that crooked media have lots of great discussions on current and proposed domestic and international policy and make no bones about being democratic political activists, and I am most certainly a “Friend of the Pod”.

If we can’t have a civil debate then the partisanship and polarisation of society will simply get worse and worse and the world in 20 years (assuming it’s still here) may be completely unrecognisable, and what kind of world would that be for those who come after us.

“there may not be anything anymore that outpaces the hatred the right feels for the left or the tonnage of disrespect the left feels for the right.” – Josh Lyman, The West Wing, “Evidence of things not seen”, Episode #420.

I’m not going to stop listening to my daily dose of Ben Shipro or Mike Pesca (or Crooked Media) they are my Ying and Yang of political and social discussion. I think no matter which side of the political divide you call home. I recommend you find a news website or podcast or radio show or TV show that you disagree with and for a brief period everyday expose yourself to a different way of looking at the world.

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