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April 23, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-04-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Unfriendly Persuasion

111 any
corn-
menta-
tors
feel that the current
presidential race may
reach new levels of
nastiness. We do
seem to be off to a
GEORGE
rip-roaring start.
CANTOR
There are those
Reality
who blame television
Check
and the 24-hour
news channels for
this severe polariza-
tion. The spectacle of zealots from
both ends of the political spectrum
sitting around a table and screeching
at each. other is somewhat less than
edifying.
But I wonder if there was ever a
time in this country when the pub-
lic debate was con-
ducted on civil
terms and care-
fully reasoned
argument.
From what I
read of 19th
century elections,
it was much
worse then.
Candidates rou-
tinely accused each
other of lechery,
drunkenness, treason,
corruption, miscegena-
tion and poor personal
hygiene. They called each
other apes, lunatics, murderers.
After that, it really got mean.
In my own voting experience, I
have been told that every
Republican candidate was a big stu-
pid (with the exception of Richard
Nixon, who was a big sleaze). And
every Democrat was a spineless
wimp, wild-eyed taxaholic or prison-
er of big labor (with the exception
of Bill Clinton, who was a prisoner
of love).
And we're supposed to shudder at
what may come this year?
But there does seem to be a grow-
ing intolerance towards contrary
opinions. While people urge others
to question their beliefs, they are
not so eager to do the same with
their own.
When I wrote columns for the

George Cantor's e-mail address is
gcantor@thejewishnews. corn

Detroit News, for example, I don't
know how many times I was told by
Jewish friends that they wished I
worked for the other paper.
When I asked them why, a sur-
prising number said that they
wouldn't allow the News in their
homes. They hated its "right wing"
editorial page. And I'm sure an
equal number of readers feel the Free
Press is farther left than a fish fork.
Believe me, I have no interest
whatsoever in defending the News.
But there is also no question about
its consistently solid defense of Israel
on its editorial page; whereas the
Free Press stance towards Israel can
best be described as incoherent.
It seems to come .as a constantly
renewable shock that some of Israel's
firmest friends are among social con-
servatives and its
most implaca-
ble enemies
are on the
hard left.
But so
many
readers
never
seem
to get
beyond
the basic
ideological
mindset.
This attitude puz-
zled me; and, as a journalist,
it distressed me. We had a very con- •
servative editorial page in the city
and a very liberal one. You pays your
money and you takes your choice. I
thought that was a good thing.
And maybe, once in a while, you
would be persuaded by something
you read in the other paper.
But I came to realize that this is
fanciful. I find that those who read
editorials and columns do it prima-
rily for affirmation of their own
beliefs, not to hold up these beliefs
to critical examination.
I still believe in the power of jour-
nalism to inform and educate; and
for less publicized local elections and
issues, an editorial endorsement by a
newspaper can make a big differ-
ence.
But on the big stuff, it's mostly a
case of the convinced preaching to
the committed, with the sound rush-
ing past the ears of everyone else. ❑

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