Dramatic happenings, for just one week. But obviously you could pick any week of the year and find headlines as dramatic and more. There is no shortage of news to titillate, to irritate, to infuriate.
And the temptation, nearly always, is to decide: THIS good, THAT bad. THIS right, THAT wrong. To cast judgments shaped by our political and other proclivities -- and then, humans that we are, to seek out affirmation that what we have decided is true.
It’s a great feeling, to be proven right, isn’t it? It scratches such an itch. So we seek it out, again and again. We read from sources that agree with us, so we can point to them: See! I’m not biased or unreasonable! This journalist right here agrees with me!
Like ice cream, the feeling of being right tastes sweet in the moment. But, like ice cream, too much of it, over too long a period, is dangerous.
The danger is that we cease wanting to learn, and only want to know. That we abandon curiosity for certainty. That we ignore the sage advice of French essayist Joseph Joubert (The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress) and seek victory rather than progress.
There is another way.
We can seek analysis from those who challenge us. We can tune into media outlets that represent a complexity of viewpoints, or those that target a demographic wildly different than our own.
We can read outlets like Isaac Saul’s Tangle: “an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum” and then offers Saul's take.
Here’s how he covered the conflict in Israel and Palestine: “There is a pretty consistent rhetorical strategy being used by both sides in this debate. On the right, the issue is consistently framed around Hamas, and around terrorism, and around the way the militant group has treated Jews and even its own people. On the left, the issue is framed around the power imbalance, the strength of Israel, the allegations of apartheid, and the Palestinian citizens who are harmed during these conflicts…
“As a Jew, I’m not going to sit here and pretend those statements don’t erode my sympathy or impact me. But it’s also true that Hamas itself is divided, at times has sought out peace, and does not enjoy total support of the Palestinian people. In fact, support for Hamas is quite divided, and the group even released a new policy document in 2017 that softened its position and accepted the creation of an interim Palestine in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem (while simultaneously not acknowledging Israel). It is, right now, in a power struggle with Abbas and Fatah for the support of Palestinians.”
When I read Tangle, I don’t feel validated. Tangle doesn’t tell me how smart I already am. Tangle makes me smart-er. It helps me become more sophisticated and nuanced in my understanding of the issues. I may still maintain my position, but I have a greater appreciation for why someone might maintain an alternative one.
Tangle isn’t the only solution, obviously. But it is an example of the type of media diet we should be seeking to consume: one that helps us grow into healthy, caring, curious humans, humans who can engage with the full complexity of each other and appreciate that we are all coming at things from different angles.
It’s not the short-term sugar rush of being told we’re right. It’s the long-term joy of a balanced diet. And it’s definitely worth it.