Like many of you, I heard a snippet from President Obama’s interview with Prince Harry. The snippet had to do with the role of the media and how the internet was being misused for some purpose other than the pure exchange of societal truths and honest political dialogue.
Was it a swipe at President Trump?
I was reassured that I would learn the answer of the significance of President Obama’s comments after the intervening commercial break. Disgusted, and fearful of the signaling of another attack on the First Amendment, I waited patiently through the commercials for the answer, only to hear pundits yell at and talk over each other with no answer being proposed.
So I did the most remarkable thing, I listened to the interview.
And after listening, I found the answer these so-called pundits were fighting over, (yes there is an answer). I also found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the former President (a rarity for me) and came to the same realization I had come to multiple times before, but had once again forgotten: The media is doing its best to dupe the rest of us — and Americans deserve better.
First, let us frame the point of the conversation with Prince Harry where the issue of social media came up. It starts 20’36” into the podcast. President Obama was talking about engaging workers in light of the shrinking role of unions and then turned his attention to the importance of engaging “young people” and the role of the internet.
In response, Prince Harry observed the astuteness with which President Obama had used social media to build a political following as he worked to become President of the United States, but he said there had been multiple issues that had subsequently arisen with social media, issues such as trolling, extremism, fake news and cyber bullying. Prince Harry then asked the President a historical question: Is there anything more that he believes he could have done to prevent these problems?
Obama’s response was direct, precise, and actually quite insightful. There was no double entendre and no satire in his voice. Instead, his manner was of someone who was honestly attempting to answer a question — a question dealing with the use of digital communications to promote dialogue.
Surprisingly to me, President Obama actually began with acknowledging that these activities to which Prince Harry alluded were taking place outside the sphere of government and then paid homage to the protections of free speech engrained in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Then he said, “The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows for a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a balkanization of our society, but rather promotes ways to continue to find common ground.”
This, as many of you know, is the snippet that’s being played by the news outlets. It is also the bite I heard preceding the animated arguments amongst the paid pundits. If one only hears this, a concern for the protection of the First Amendment naturally arises, and yes, you wonder if President Obama is taking a swipe at President Trump.
But then President Obama said this “I’m not sure that government can legislate that,” (the emphasis is all mine) before going on to explain that all members of leadership should be working (as individuals) to “recreate a common space in the internet.” He goes on to explain how easily individuals may place themselves in a virtual echo chamber of sorts that excludes others. They immerse themselves in their prepackaged reality, ignoring the complexities of the world and isolating themselves from the people around them. (And let’s acknowledge all of these comments shared by President are true and they express the same sentiments we on the right routinely share.)
Then he speaks of how those same people need to get out of their virtual boxes and meet others, like in a pub, where they can share a drink. One might find, he said, that the person with whom they so vehemently disagree on the internet on a particular issue, may actually have some things in common with that person. They may root for the same sports team or be great parents.
Most notably, within President Obama’s observations, there was no reference to, or even an implication of, President Trump. The observations were limited to the conduct of everyday people, and of the need to escape the confines of the virtual world to interact in the real world and the benefit that such live interactions would have.
Fascinatingly, the media has turned these observations, far removed from President Trump’s twitter behavior as they may be, into an opportunity to create a completely fabricated confrontation between two presidents, a confrontation benefitting only the media itself. In other words, once again, we the people have been duped by an agenda driven press. In this case, the press’s agenda is not the promulgation of the leftist’s cause as we have seen time and again from the likes of CNN. Rather, here the agenda is far simpler, to sell more newspapers or get more viewers; even if it means negatively changing the facts of a story.
Ironically, only by having access to a free and a robust internet, was I able to see this agenda play out when Harry met Barry.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.