Who watches the watchmen?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? When you stop inviting the press who questions you and asks you to prove your position? No one.
– Me, via @skhoot on twitter

A friend of mine (who lives here in town, and whom I will call M) responded to that twitter post I made via my Facebook. He and another good friend of mine (B) had a discussion there, and both made several good points. It’s very easy for me to agree with B. The current administration is the current problem with how it’s handling the press and facts in general. Bringing up the past administration, no matter how wrong it was, only feels like it does one thing: it takes the focus off the current issues.

It distracts from the now.

Ultimately, though, I feel I need to respond to M’s real question, which is this:

Not to condone the current but where was the outrage 6 yrs ago?

Indulge me a moment, while I try to help people see where I’m coming from. I find both parties distasteful at best and full of self-serving scoundrels at worst. I am registered as an Independent. I used to be a Republican until I saw what I consider to be the Party of Responsible Government becoming the Party of the Far Right Extremist Bringing White Supremacy and the Christian Version of Sharia Law to Government. I find the Democratic party to be more in line with my social justice concerns, but also Usually As Far Left As The Republicans are Far Right.

Both groups of politicians seem only interested in how to stay in power and look like they’ll say anything to sway the middle.

I skew liberal on social justice issues. I believe you should be able to Be Who You AreTM. Gay/Straight, Trans/Cis, Ethnic group (and white is an ethnic group, too), polyamourous/monogamous, Star Trek/Star Wars, whatever. As long as you’re not cruel to animals or abusing or killing humans, society should stay out of it. There are still discussions to be had around what constitutes harming or killing people, but that’s a discussion for another day. See also: pro-life vs. pro-choice (and how those two groups talk past one another.)

The way I see it, your right to religious freedom is like your right to swing your arms wildly in a circle: It ends at my nose. You swing your arms and hit me in the face, that’s no longer freedom of expression, that’s assault. You no more get to tell me I should follow your religious beliefs than I get to tell you that you should have certain religious beliefs. (or not have religious beliefs at all.)

I value scientific inquiry and rational thought. I do not always succeed at those. I also appreciate spiritual exploration and believe emotions can bring valuable insights into a conversation. I usually don’t identify as Christian anymore because I tend not to think what most people who use that method of identification believe. I consider myself a humanist because, in everything I do, my first thought is “Does this help humankind? Does it make people’s lives better?”

I skew libertarian for wanting the government to be smaller and less invasive. I believe that personal liberty is social justice issue. With more personal freedom, I think there are more opportunities for people to pursue happiness.

This combination makes me a libtard snowflake to some people, a wingnut whacko to others, and a sellout to still others when they realize that I believe that compromise and balance are possible between the two extremes.

If someone doesn’t like who you are, they can politely shuffle off. In person, I will likely word this more strongly to you, indulging in curt Anglo-Saxon words.

The key word is this: politely.

Say what you about political correctness, it’s politeness that’s the most important thing to a civilized discussion.

On the one hand, sticks and stones, baby. I don’t give a dive a damn what you call me. I do, however, think less of you for resorting to ad hominem attacks.

On the other, slurs of any kind are just plain rude, and I refuse to condone this type of rudeness. Freedom of speech says you can say what you want short of yelling fire in a crowded theater that isn’t on fire (which constitutes a public hazard), not that what you say has no social consequences.

Life is lived in the middle of the road, dodging traffic. It’s messy, and you don’t always get what you want, and that’s just the nature of life. The goal is to try to balance things, so the majority of people get what they need and as few people as possible fall through the cracks.

It’s a teeter-totter: someone’s left dangling and someone’s in danger of falling off when you overbalance to one side. It’s this balance that I find important.

I want balanced press coverage and some of the presidential abuse of the press is very much news to me. Balanced press coverage should be “news.” Not liberal news. Not conservative news. Not libertarian news. Just news. Report the facts and don’t editorialize all the time. By the same token, if you’re in public office, you’re subject to public scrutiny and that means that sometimes, maybe even all the time, the press should be asking you tough, uncomfortable questions.

Which brings me to M’s question: Where was the outrage 6 years ago?

For myself: I didn’t know about it six years ago. Because the previous administration wasn’t as obviously ignoring social justice (or actively working against it IMO), it flew under my radar. That’s my ignorance (possibly naive trust). I’m learning more about the historic problems as well. I can’t change the past, though. I can change the present and the future.

That said, in my opinion, the current administration is looking at the past one and saying “I can be even more authoritarian and people will love me for it, too. Hold my beer.”

I don’t care who did it first. Nixon? Roosevelt? George F-ing Washington? It doesn’t matter. Throwing out everyone who disagrees with you and only questioning people who ask “friendly questions” is wrong no matter who does it.

I’m now aware and if I’d known about it in the past administration I’d have cared about ending it then, too. I’ll say one thing for the current situation: It’s brought out an older breed of journalist who believes in integrity and finding truth, vs just saying whatever will ‘sell papers/generate clicks,’ which I think will revitalize journalism in general.

Ultimately, I’d hope people who are saying “It’s been happening all along” could be happy that people are waking up to the excesses of both the government and the press.

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