Rant or comment?

By Ralph Wallace | May 16, 2019

My college journalism professor admonished our class, “… never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Well, sorry, Dr. Wilson, here I go again. This time my “someone” is Reade Brower, the owner of this newspaper. Laudably, he has promised not to dictate the editorial position of the paper. However, he recently wrote a column on “The Art of Writing Political Commentary,” wherein he quickly gets to his hypothesis, “There is no art to political commentary; it is an abyss of preaching to the choir.” Wow!

Understandably, Mr. Brower’s dour view on commentary appears to be primarily informed by the current political climate. He cites the condition of the views on our current president: “Those who are anti-Trump see it one way. Those who are pro-Trump see it another way.” But does not that presuppose that the entire polity (our country) is of a binary mind – pro or con Trump? Surely the political landscape of America is a little more nuanced than that. Numerous commentators on the right have groused about Trump’s narcissism, while at the same time, some on the left have acknowledged his economic achievements. That is a value of political commentary – to stretch the reader’s mind to at least consider another view -- the title of this present column.

I would also advance yet another view on political commentary. Too often (especially in the current climate), a “rant” is offered as “comment.” The speaker or writer simply rails at the moon, often throwing out insults with ad hominem attacks. Take a look at the letters to the editor in the newspapers today and witness the outpouring of vitriol upon the president – often little more than name-calling and emotional diatribe with no examination of the issues. Here Mr. Brower’s point is perfectly made – no opinions are changed; the rant does nothing indeed but provide “a stick in the eye.”

Mr. Brower advances the notion that perhaps it is time to make commentary focus “less about politics and more about humanity.” Here again, I have another view. I would submit that commentary on humanity can be de facto political commentary and can have a profound impact on the reader's views. Prior to retiring to the gentler state of Maine, I was a superintendent of schools and thrust into the hurly-burly of state and national debates on public education. I can most assuredly confirm to this readership that political commentary had a profound impact on the condition of education and attendant public policies.

Just consider the impact of Brown vs. the Board of Education or Title IX or "school choice." The news media of those times were rife with commentary on the humanity of those issues – and when it came to the implementation of laws on those matters, political commentary from the left and right helped drive needed legislation. And, yes, there was large bipartisan agreement on what needed to be done. Would it not be great if the commentary that attended those issues could serve as a guide for commentary today?

We should now address a couple of finishing points on this present political commentary. Invariably the publication of this column is met with an immediate riposte (rant?) from a regular entity that will tell the author how wrong he is. Today, I will be in trouble for merely suggesting that there are economic achievements under Trump. I leave it to readers to judge whether that is a rant or a comment. More importantly, I pray that Mr. Brower will consider that there may be value in this effort, and that “Another View” will continue to see the light of day in the genre of political commentary.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | May 16, 2019 19:08

You're starting to sound just a little paranoid, Ralph, or were my ears simply burning?

And really, when I hear a conservative express concern for a political commentary “less about politics and more about humanity" I have to compare it to an Alabama rapist expressing concern for his unborn child.

"Today, I will be in trouble for merely suggesting that there are economic achievements under Trump."  And those would be...   what?  Surely you're not talking about borrowing billions from the very people he's slapped tariffs on to pay off the Americans suffering under those tariffs?  Would you call that an "economic achievement?"  Of course you would.  Conservatives have that alternative reality thing going for them.

You do realize, don't you, that the current distraction about Iran will result in great economic benefits for our president's favorite friend.  Putin's oil revenues will increase thanks to the sanctions on Iranian oil.  But you probably knew that.  The tragedy is not that you don't realize how harmful trump has become to America and it's influence in the world.  The tragedy is that you don't care.

It's not the "light of day" that concerns you but your own personal darkness.



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 16, 2019 17:37

WOW!  My sympathy Mr. Brower. But comment Here is freedom of the press for sure



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