Distant Dome is co-published by Manchester Ink Link and InDepthNH.org
By GARRY RAYNO, Distant Dome
Unfathomable quantities of information are easily accessed today with a computer, an internet connection and a desire to learn.
The opportunities for personal growth are enormous, but so are the pathways to the darker side of human nature.
Every terrorist organization, psychopath, radical on any side of the political spectrum, and just plain crazies have access to unbridled information as well and use it to further their goals.
The information age has expanded a person’s reach around the world, but is also used as a tool to close the minds of those too lazy to think or for sinister motives.
Someone not willing to listen to different views who seeks to denigrate the opposition finds like-minded folks and organizations and together they form their own silo, shutting out reason, critical thinking and empathy for anyone but themselves.
Social media is not the genesis of the problem, but it is the kindling for the conflagration it has become.
Both sides of the political spectrum practice the art of deception, half truth, outright lies and confrontation making it almost impossible to govern when election wars are over. Instead the heated rhetoric continues when calm reason is needed to find political solutions.
Confirmation bias is the state of today’s political environment in the Granite State and in our nation’s capital as partisanship and polarization rule.
Common ground is no longer an attribute when compromise is a dirty word creating Republican solutions and Democratic solutions as the pendulum swings back and forth election after election.
What is missing is a real solution when neither side “wins” but everyone receives a little something to take back home and say, “This is not perfect but it’s a start, and we’ll keep working.”
If both parties are involved, no one party can run ads attacking the other side for its failure to do this or that.
That once was the case in the New Hampshire legislature, but the Granite State has become more and more similar to Washington and its partisan battles.
And if any more divisiveness is needed, personal attacks based on what someone did last week or years ago is fair game and a popular technique to turn elections.
The politics of personal destruction or demonization has been around for some time but is now the preferred strategy beginning early in a campaign. Hit your opponent hard and at his or her core before he or she can hit you.
It should be no surprise that civility is one of the first casualties of the polluted air surrounding politics today.
The rhetoric and nastiness begat an increase in violent confrontations, police calls about a student sleeping in a college lounge, cars driven into demonstrators and death treats.
In this atmosphere no one is spared and one of the targets has been the media both from the administration and from people like conservative Milo Yiannopoulos who said he “can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists.”
A teenage intern for US Sen. Maggie Hassan yells “Fxxx you” at a sitting president who mocked a disabled reporter, calls immigrants rapists and thieves, talks about “sxxxhole countries” and calls the media “the enemy.”
Republicans want to make a political point rallying their base by calling for the intern’s firing while ignoring their president’s words, which Democrats quickly seize to rally their base.
Is this the political atmosphere that will bring the best and brightest to the table?
Is it any wonder that last week five people were shot to death at a Maryland newspaper, four of them journalists.
It is always easier to blame the messenger, but the attacks on the news media are dangerous both for those in the business and for our democracy which depends on an independent and fair fourth estate.
Last week, many politicians — including the president — sent their thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of the five who were killed. That is meaningless unless they are willing to do something to turn down the volume on the hate.
Coming into a crucial mid-term election, that is not going to happen.
The media world has changed and the lines have blurred between reporting and commentary with political agendas driving the content.
But the Capital Gazette newspaper of Annapolis, Maryland, is not in that category or in the business of uncovering the abuses of federal government officials or agencies.
The Capital Gazette is a “hometown newspaper” that covers city council, school and planning board meetings, and local sports, happenings, characters and businesses. And it also covers courts and police.
Having worked on hometown newspapers, nothing draws hostility like court reports and police activity stories.
Someone’s embarrassment does not make the story “fake news” or inaccurate, but that isn’t the way the subject of the story views the situation.
A simple statement of fact from a court report may end a career, but is that the reporters’ fault or the person’s who committed the crime?
Most reporters, photographers and editors work hard for long hours and at odd times with little financial reward. Most are in the news business to make their little section of the world a better place by being the eyes and ears of a community.
Financial reward is not the driving force behind community journalism and the people who practice the craft as it is for media empires run by moguls.
But the current political climate driven by social media means even community journalist are threatened for what they do everyday.
Social media has turned everyone into a reporter, politician, social critic and commentator, and “the truth” has become the victim.
The post-truth world doesn’t mean you cannot find the truth, it means everyone can determine what is true for themselves whether it is the truth or not and that is a very dangerous situation.
If we cannot agree what the truth is, then what can we agree upon?
Correction: Last week’s Distant Dome omitted a candidate running for state Senate in District 11, Democrat Roger Tilton of Milford who is in a primary with Shannon Chandley of Amherst. The winner faces incumbent Gary Daniels of Milford.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.