There are so many important issues that can directly affect each and every one of us, but the news media, exploiting sensationalism at the expense of providing us with needed information, seems intent upon fanning the flames of discontent, division and partisanship.
Which news are you watching tonight? ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC or the Fox News Channel? Too often we find ourselves watching the one we trust, which really means the one with which we most agree. Some of us, in order to provide balance, switch back and forth from one news channel to another trying to figure out some semblance of truth.
Let’s examine the current media effort with regard to Russia’s attempts to influence our electoral process. If you listen to the FNC, the emphasis is all on incidental collection, unmasking and leaks, as though those were the central issues. If you listen to MSNBC, it is all about Trump campaign officials colluding with the Russians. Again, as if that was the central issue. It kind of reminds me of that late 1960s song by Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth,” and the words “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear” and “There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” and “Singing songs and carrying signs, mostly say, hooray for our side.” 50 years later and we find ourselves right in the same place.
The left screams about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, while the right demands that Susan Rice be held accountable and leakers be prosecuted. My question is, why all the partisanship and divisiveness?
The central issue, which almost everyone can agree with, is that Russia tried to chip away at our confidence in the recent presidential election. Not that the United Sates hasn’t taken similar actions and tried to influence elections in other countries, most recently in Israel. Still, we need to be fully aware of what Putin is trying to do and counter his actions to best protect our national interests. One way to do that would be to stop fighting among ourselves because extreme partisanship does nothing but make his job easier. As I’ve said before in this Food For Thought column – a house divided against itself can not stand.
At the risk of being skewered by both the left and the right let me suggest that there are three issues at play here and that we can investigate all of them concurrently. Yes, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.
The three issues are:
1. What is the extent of Russia’s (or any other country’s) attempts to subvert our electoral process? What are their capabilities? And, how do we counter them?
2. Is there proof of Trump campaign officials colluding with the Russians? Did the Clinton campaign have any troublesome ties to the Russians? Were campaign officials duped or was there intentional collusion?
3. We know there was incidental collection and unmasking of Trump campaign officials. What we don’t know is who leaked information to the news media. Leaking classified information is not conducive to our national security.
So far, the Senate Intelligence Committee looks to be the adults in the room. I have faith that, if they keep a lid on partisanship and just simply investigate the three issues above, we can strengthen our democracy. This process should also include some very serious recommendations regarding our cyber security.
We will only be successful in this effort if the politicians involved are willing to put aside their differences for the sake of all of us. The media could help in this regard if they would stop trying to stir us up and simply report the facts. And the FBI could help if it would expedite its investigation instead of leaving us in the dark. The longer the drip, drip, drip continues, the more the media will have a field day dividing us even further along party lines. That’s what they do. And, trust me, that is exactly what Mr. Putin wants. It is almost as though the media is aiding and abetting Russia’s cause.
No wonder the public’s faith in the media is at an all time low. It seems like disgust and distrust of the media is the one thing a majority of us can agree with.
Brian F. Sullivan is a senior fellow at the American Leadership and Policy Foundation. He is a retired Army Military Police lieutenant colonel and former FAA special agent, risk program management specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration. He has more than 30 years of security experience and was presented with a Platinum REMI at the Houston International Film Festival in 2011 for his narration of the aviation security documentary, “Please Remove Your Shoes.”