Getting hung up on is never fun, but this time it felt even worse.
This wasn’t an old squeeze or potential employer abruptly ending a call. It was one of my closest friends, someone I’ve known for north of 20 years.
And, of course, it was about politics.
It didn’t start that way. My conversation with “Steve” eventually steered toward COVID-19, the Dumbo in any room at this point. We both agreed it’s not a great idea to finger point at the moment. It’s still too new, too raw, and that would be counter productive.
Later? Of course.
Still, I was curious what he thought about the media’s coverage of the pandemic. Specifically, how journalists predicted the Republican Governors of Georgia and Florida would have “blood on their hands” for cautiously reopening their states while ignoring the significant miscues made by Team New York – specifically Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Steve had previously set his anti-Trump rage aside to say the media had been behaving badly in the Age of Trump. I suspected we had more common ground to tread.
Not even close.
Steve extolled Cuomo’s leadership, comparing the governor’s press conferences to what he called President Donald Trump’s meandering, counter-productive pressers.
Yeah, I saw several shades of red. I actually appreciated Cuomo’s tone and tenor at first. And, as an ex-New Yorker, his accent and moxie struck something tribal within me.
Then I learned from untraditional media outlets how he allowed infected patients into New York nursing homes, dooming hundreds, if not thousands, of elderly Americans. Later, he began sanitizing subway cars many weeks after the virus hit the Big Apple hard.
I wasn’t ready, or eager, to defend some of the president’s clumsier comments. Still, it’s clear the media framed reality in such a monstrously one-sided fashion it was worth noting. Surely Steve knew about the nursing homes scandal surrounding Cuomo’s leadership, the one reporters have dragged their feet on for weeks, but that found legs on social media?
A corrupt press helps no one, even if it temporarily boosts “your side” for a spell. When half the country doesn’t trust the media, that’s a big, dangerous deal.
Instead, Steve stood by Cuomo like Tammy Wynette clinging to her beau. This wasn’t some clueless bumpkin. I’d guess Steve is smarter than I am, with plenty of real-world experience at his back.
What other false narratives did he believe?
I pushed further, bringing up the Russian collusion hoax, another example of extreme press malfeasance.
“Oh, I believe Trump colluded with Russia,” Steve said.
At this point the conversation got more heated, but we weren’t shouting or hurling epithets at each other. We were having a debate, even though I’d rather be quizzing him about TV shows he’s been watching or memories of our favorite pizza joints.
Then he hung up on me.
Was that the end of our friendship? It’s doubtful, but why would he treat a longtime friend this way? Our bond deserved better than a move reserved for pesky telemarketers.
He could have just said, “Let’s change the subject.” I’m OK with that. I’ve done it before when a conversation turned up the heat. Looking back, I should have done so myself.
Then I gave it some thought.
Pre-Trump, Steve would probably fit as a center-right voter with some socially liberal views. Trump changed much of that. I’m guessing he began feasting on the media’s insane anti-Trump narratives from Inauguration day onward.
Day after day, pseudo scandal after pseudo scandal, the media messages likely took hold.
Remember, “The walls are closing in…?”
It didn’t help that Bad Trump often appeared on the scene, sharing toxic Tweets or getting in the gutter when attacked.
I certainly share some of the blame for our dustup. I’ve gotten better about bailing on heated political debates before they go too far.
Not this time. That’s on me.
I’m not really angry with Steve. Most people assume the media is mostly fair and balanced well enough. They don’t have time to seek out smart alternate news sites. They have jobs to do, meals to make, and wee ones to tuck in for a safe goodnight.
Extreme media bias is getting worse as we speak. Think the Covington Kids, the Jussie Smollett case or, more recently, the ballad of Tara Reade.
CNN anchors might literally wave pom poms to promote Joe Biden’s White House bid come October, assuming the media’s attempt to hide his sad decline holds fast. Other reporters may act in lock step, with or without the theatrics.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson recently blasted the media’s distortions regarding the pandemic.
“So, no, CNN and MSNBC aren’t bringing you science. They’re peddling panic and reckless moral judgement. It’s hurting the country,” he said.
President Trump famously said “Fake News” is the enemy of the people, then expanded the phrase to include the press in toto.
Sadly, the latter is increasingly right. It’s also partially to blame for pushing old friendships to the breaking point.
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