Exacerbating the concern is the 24-hour news cycle. I am almost sympathetic with the production and editorial staff of TV news channels and major newspapers whose customers expect to know everything about everything immediately. And so many people have television news as their constant companion. When I lived in New York City, my mother used to call me at work to ask if I was OK following some event there that she had heard about on TV — a subway problem or bomb scare or exploding underground pipe. Not once had I even been aware that anything had happened.
Added to the problem is the proliferation of pundits who wax eloquent at a moment’s notice irrespective of whether they actually know anything about the subject. Of course, they sound good. Got to keep the viewers entertained (I won’t use the term informed) by getting something, anything, on the air immediately.
In real life, though, it takes a pretty good while just to figure out what the heck happened. Analyzing the situation is much more complex. My advice is to disregard anything that is said on a “news” show in the first two days after a coup, invasion, natural disaster or alleged terrorist event; double that if it occurred in the developing world. And if anyone purports to explain the geopolitical consequences of what just happened, turn off the TV and go see a movie.
I have recently finished a fine autobiographical memoir, “Duty,” written by Robert Gates, in which he reflects on his 4½ years as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Gates recounts the insider story of the several wars he fought: the military wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the political war with Congress, the interagency war with the White House staff and others in the national security apparatus and the bureaucratic war within the Pentagon.
If you want to understand how our government functions, read this account by a brilliant and conscientious public servant. You will learn that no situation is clear, that there is never sufficient information, that our leaders must make crucial decisions amid infighting among their inner circle and that no action taken will be without a downside. Keep that in mind when you hear someone on TV giving a glib and facile “solution” to some domestic or international concern about which they know next to nothing.
And I will not respect a politician, local or national, who panders to the public with a simplistic sound bite instead of acknowledging that a complex situation requires an understanding of the nuances involved.
Linda Watt is a resident of Ivins City.