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RIP John McLaughlin

It was almost 1980 and my parents bought a huge, yuge, YUGE, enormous standing box of a television set that they plunked down in the living room.

I remember very vividly how I watched "Video Killed The Radio Star" -- the first music video ever shown on MTV.

I used to watch the preachers Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker with my mother.

Oh how we loved them - and Tammy Faye in particular, with the dripping mascara - because she was just so real when she cried.

It was great - she cried literally every week!

You probably never heard of The New Way Gourmet but we used to watch them too. It was a TV show that featured two California hippies, completely mellow and probably completely high, patchkeying around the kitchen.

Loved it.

I remember we used to eat in front of the TV and nobody cared. We made macaroni 'n' cheese the old-fashioned way, with Mueller's elbow noodles and butter and milk and a ton of Miller's kosher American cheese from the stack. We must have put twenty pieces of cheese in every pot of noodles we made.

I remember those times as good times. For better or for worse, TV was my connection to the world. There was no Internet or social media, and what I saw on that screen was a kind of schooling.

We were a politically interested family. Not politically active - because as a Holocaust-surviving family we feared what the authorities might do to people who demonstrated about anything in public. But certainly politically interested, in the sense that we talked about politics all the time, we devoured the news about current events and we watched Sunday morning talk shows in particular most religiously.

It was in that context that I watched The McLaughlin Group avidly. With the death of John McLaughlin, may he rest in peace, I am jolted back into the Sundays of my childhood, watching that amazing show. I remember Eleanor Clift sparring with Patrick Buchanan, and marveling at their incredible ability to think on their feet while marshaling a ton of knowledge. The diversity of views. The deliberately staccato manner in which McLaughlin, interrogated his panel. The good humor with which they went back and forth. And the agreement to disagree at the end, collegially.

What a different world we live in today. I read yesterday that two journalists I deeply respect, Sean Hannity of Fox News and Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, got into a war of words, and the words got pretty nasty.

I don't remember the prime-time journalists of yesteryear descending to such a level. They took sides, sure - but they weren't so ideologically biased that their minds seemed literally closed.

You see this trend - like a hardening of the mind - not just among conservatives, and not just among liberals, but even among those who are considered the "regular," "mainstream" media, a.k.a. the "MSM."

I don't think it's just me that has noticed it. Not at all - for as the AP reported in April 2016, only 6% of Americans have "a lot of confidence in the media." (The source is a study by "the Media Insight Project," funded jointly by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute.)

When you combine Americans' overwhelming distrust of the media with their record-low mistrust of the government (Pew Research Center), and the increasingly "politically correct" tilt of our colleges and universities, the result is that ordinary citizens have no reliable information sources to turn to anymore. This makes them ripe targets for radicalization and disinformation -- by anyone with an Internet connection and a keyboard -- whether that person is part of the formal institutions of knowledge dissemination or not.

So I feel very upset at the passing of John McLaughlin. Now there are no more Sundays in front of the talk shows, the programs I could trust to teach me how to think, and how to be a citizen.

In the absence of facts we can believe without question --

With the loss of experts whose rationality we trust --

We now live in a world where your facts, not just your guess, is as good as mine.


All opinions my own. Screenshot of The McLaughlin Group via YouTube.

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