So after his column was published, the Times tells us that, “readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions. Death threats poured in by mail. His television program was pulled from the air.”
Turns out that two major gun manufacturers called Metcalf’s editor and told him “in no uncertain terms” they could no longer do business with the company that publishes the magazine and produces the TV show if Metcalf worked there.
That’s when he was fired.
Welcome to our brave new world where you can’t even call for a discussion about guns – or a hundred other topics – without the lynch mob coming after you.
When I read the Times’ story I thought about an issue that keeps popping up in my commentary: The polarization of America. We’re at a point now where neither side in any controversial debate, whether it’s about guns or anything else, wants to hear what the other side has to say. Neither side even likes the other side. So we seal ourselves off from opinions we don’t want to hear. We impose a kind of apartheid based not on skin color but ideology.
We go to the Internet and cable TV and talk radio to get our already entrenched views validated, not to learn anything. This is not good for America.
Yes, the two sides, left and right, have deeply held beliefs and legitimate differences, differences about the size and role of government, about our foreign policy, and many other issues. But not every issue is worth going to war over. But more and more that’s what we do. Cable TV, talk radio and the Internet can take a story about littering and blow it up into World War III.
The Internet, cable TV and talk radio didn’t start the fire. They didn’t create the polarization and nastiness. But they happily provide the battlefield where the two sides can go to war non-stop 24 hours a day. And the result shouldn’t surprise us: more polarization and more anger. That may be good for business but it’s not good for the country.
Those media platforms, of course, have also done a lot of good. They give outsiders (like me) a seatat the table and let them have a say in the national conversation. The old media – the networks and the big city newspapers – have guards at the door and are careful about who they let in to express an opinion. (My first book Bias, which went after the so-called mainstream media, was the number one book in the country, but no network showed the slightest interest in having me on to talk about it.) And cable and talk radio and the Internet play up the kinds of news stories that the so-called mainstream media either downplay or flat out ignore. They deserve our thanks for that.