Centrists and good sense are alive and well on the left.
In what period of history is humanity currently living?
Is this still the Information Age?
Historians may someday argue the finer points. When does one age end, exactly? Precisely when does the next one begin?
Our advanced age of 2022, like the Stone Age or the Bronze Age, will probably be easier to define and understand in retrospect, long after political and social considerations are nullified by time, distance, and dust to dust.
It is doubtful that the inhabitants of earlier epochs knew in what age they were enduring. They might not have cared anyway, as one age gave way to the next.
But it is possible that the Information Age, as we have known it, is already long over.
We have perhaps already entered a new age, a post-Information Age. It is an age we probably never left: The Opinion Age.
Opinion is even more ubiquitous than information in our current age, and it isn’t entirely clear we can tell the difference anymore.
Newspapers aren’t printed for the masses in 2022; journalists aren’t disinterested observers of history following The Big Story wherever it may lead.
What independent journalist and new media extraordinaire Matt Taibbi calls “audience optimization” has corrupted the news business in a hostile takeover that some are only now beginning to notice.
News media companies are entertainment companies now; order takers. And order takers have to give the people what they want.
Most people don’t want truth or facts as much as they want to be right. Knowing this, news media outlets have developed a kind of new age catnip for human beings. Like Skinner’s lab rats, we keep hitting refresh on our favorite opinion news sites, flying high on a constant diet of confirmation bias and ego stroking.
“Welcome to the newspaper, I see you’re a progressive/conservative: What can I tell you today that will make you come back for more tomorrow? Would you like fries with that?”
That this current state of mainstream media is exponentially adding to the political polarization of America is almost a given at this point. Whether audiences are tuning in to hear Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow tell them how right they are about everything — and always have been — the net result is the same.
Conservatives and progressives are barely living on the same planet anymore. They certainly aren’t watching the same news programs or reading the same papers.
As we are living in the Opinion Age, the internet is full of opinions on the so-called Twitter Files.
Almost without exception, conservatives and conservative media outlets are proclaiming the Twitter Files to be the most significant application of disinfecting sunlight since Watergate. Almost equally without exception, progressive media outlets are panning the Twitter Files as a big fat nothing-burger with nothing on it, nothing on the side.
The truth, whatever that has come to mean in the Opinion Age, is usually found somewhere in between the two extremes.
In our current hyper-politicized environment, made worse by the ravages of the Opinion Age, meeting a true centrist, a voice of reason in the madding Capitol Hill crowd, is like stumbling into the cool, verdant paradise of a desert oasis on the verge of dying of thirst.
One of the biggest revelations of the Twitter Files, as far as surprises go, was the actions of Rep. Ro Khanna.
Unlike his Democratic Party fellows, Khanna was perhaps the only progressive to voice any concern whatsoever about the rise of censorship at Twitter in 2020.
“The Twitter Files and the Future of the Democratic Party With Silicon Valley’s Congressman,” reported Bari Weiss for The Free Press on Saturday.
“Ro Khanna is a progressive congressman representing California’s 17th District — the wealthiest congressional district in America,” began Weiss. “He’s Silicon Valley’s congressman, so his constituents are the coastal elites of the elites.”
“But if you didn’t know any of that, you might think Ro Khanna was a congressman from a place like Indiana,” Weiss continued.
“In fact, sometimes when you listen to Khanna — he says we need to ‘make more stuff here,’ and ‘buy American’— he kind of sounds like . . . Donald Trump,” Weiss mused, noting that, “sort of tells you everything you need to know about our current political moment.”
“The old rules — about what is left and what is right, about which party represents the working class and which party represents the elites — no longer apply,” wrote Weiss.
“Maybe most unusual of all, Khanna’s policies on Big Tech are not exactly the ones you’d imagine coming from the congressman whose neighbors are the creators of the next Googles and Facebooks,” she went on.
It’s true: Khanna thinks Big Tech needs to be broken up.
“He was also one of the only Democrats to diverge from his party’s censorious impulses when he reached out directly to Twitter in October 2020 to criticize its decision to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story in the runup to the election,” Weiss reported.
“I was candidly concerned that they were censoring a newspaper,” Rep. Khanna told Weiss of his decision to reach out to Twitter execs in 2020. “I just couldn’t believe that they were actually telling the New York Post that they couldn’t print an article.”
“Now, I’m no partisan for the New York Post,” Khanna felt the need to clarify. “The New York Post has never written a positive article about me. But I just couldn’t fathom this idea that we wouldn’t want journalism like The Post to be read. And I thought that the backlash to censoring that would be far worse than anything that they had written.”
“I think they were very surprised that I was standing up for these First Amendment principles because they had seen me on television making the case for President Biden,” Khanna told Weiss. “It’s still my view that Hunter Biden is a private citizen, but just because something is my view doesn’t mean I get to decide what the American people get to read.”
Khanna’s understanding of the difference between opinion and empirical truth is more than an abstraction. He makes the best case against censorship of any kind by reminding liberals how easily a progressive media outlet could be censored in the future.
“Both sides have a stake in this conversation because what happened to The New York Post in 2020 could happen to a liberal or progressive outlet in 2024 or 2028,” Khanna is correct to remind his fellow progressives.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, free speech is a cornerstone of Democracy. Rep. Khanna is correct to remind all of us — left, right, and center — just how fundamental it truly is.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)