On Wednesday, ex-PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff produced an 11-minute report on a Stanford professor seeking to “depolarize” our political debates, and they talked about the harmful effects of divisive cable news. As if PBS isn’t partisan or divisive or polarizing in its approach to Republicans? In her own recent reports, Woodruff blamed Republicans for ruining Oklahoma, and blamed Republicans for wrecking Wisconsin civility.
The central figure of this segment was Robb Willer, who runs something called the Polarization and Social Change Lab, which she described as “dedicated to studying what’s driving division in this country and how we might overcome it.”
It’s a noble goal to build civility and democratic stability, but it inevitably turned into blaming others for spoiling the country’s soup.
ROBB WILLER: Then you have, most of all, I think social media platforms, but also cable news networks have a lot of potential influence, a lot of power, but the problem, not a lot of motivation to take action on this problem. In fact, they may have the reverse. They may be benefiting from polarization and from increasing it. And then you don’t have really any obvious actors who have an interest in, you know, and the means to effectively intervene on this problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, while we’re waiting for cable news to change some of its typical ways of focusing on division in politics, while we’re waiting on social media, while we’re waiting on the donors to reward working together, rather than going to the extremes, what can people do? What can individuals do, do you think?
WILLER: Well, I think one thing is to engage across lines of political difference in a respectful way, try to run towards the fire, rather than away from it, have conversations with your socialist or Tea Party-supporting uncle. It’s always the uncles. I don’t know why.
This is the myth of PBS NewsHour, that they host respectful conversations of opposing views. No, they air conversations where liberal people mostly agree with each other. When David Brooks truly angers Jonathan Capehart with a disagreement, it causes a mild panic on the set.
Woodruff noted “Willer and others were heartened by the 2022 midterm results, in which Many Republican candidates who promoted election conspiracies lost their races….And yet, with former President Donald Trump, who continues to deny his own loss in 2020, looking like the strongest contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, Willer says we are not out of the woods yet.”
Accepting election results is civil. But PBS also promoted uncivil speech in Montana, when the Republican supermajority in the state legislature pushed “anti-trans” legislation. They celebrated transgender leftist Zooey Zephyr telling her foes they have “blood on their hands.” NewsHour host Amna Nawaz only added to the smears: ”You know, when you spoke in your defense before the vote today, you said that you felt you were being asked to be — quote — ‘complicit in the eradication of your community.’ What did you mean by that?”