Former NPR CEO Ken Stern’s Epiphany: ‘The America I found is far different from the one depicted in the press and presidential candidates’

Ken Stern, the former CEO of the leftwing network NPR, went looking for America; he embedded himself with the “basket of deplorables” derided by Hillary, and came away with a different impression.

 

From his article at the New York Post

Most reporters and editors are liberal — a now-dated Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.

This may seem like an unusual admission from someone who once ran NPR, but it is borne of recent experience. Spurred by a fear that red and blue America were drifting irrevocably apart, I decided to venture out from my overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhood and engage Republicans where they live, work and pray. For an entire year, I embedded myself with the other side, standing in pit row at a NASCAR race, hanging out at Tea Party meetings and sitting in on Steve Bannon’s radio show. I found an America far different from the one depicted in the press and imagined by presidents (“cling to guns or religion”) and presidential candidates (“basket of deplorables”) alike.

I spent many Sundays in evangelical churches and hung out with 15,000 evangelical youth at the Urbana conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect among thousands of college-age evangelicals, but I certainly didn’t expect the intense discussion of racial equity and refugee issues — how to help them, not how to keep them out — but that is what I got.

At Urbana, I met dozens of people who were dedicating their lives to the mission, spreading the good news of Jesus, of course, but doing so through a life of charity and compassion for others: staffing remote hospitals, building homes for the homeless and, in one case, flying a “powered parachute” over miles of uninhabited jungle in the western Congo to bring a little bit of entertainment, education and relief to some of the remotest villages you could imagine. It was all inspiring — and a little foolhardy, if you ask me about the safety of a powered parachute — but it left me with a very different impression of a community that was previously known to me only through Jerry Falwell and the movie “Footloose.”

……I eventually joined up with a family from Georgia. The group included the grandfather, Paps, and the father, CJ, but it was young Isaac, all of 8 years old, who took on the task of tutoring me in the ways of the hunt. He did a fine job, but we encountered few pigs (and killed none) in our morning walkabout. In the afternoon, with the Georgians heading home, I linked up with a group of friends from Houston who belied the demographic stereotyping of the hunt; collectively we were the equivalent of a bad bar joke: a Hispanic ex-Soldier, a young black family man, a Serbian immigrant and a Jew from DC.

None of my new hunting partners fit the lazy caricature of the angry NRA member. Rather, they saw guns as both a shared sport and as a necessary means to protect their families during uncertain times. In truth, the only one who was even modestly angry was me, and that only had to do with my terrible ineptness as a hunter. In the end, though, I did bag a pig, or at least my new friends were willing to award me a kill, so that we could all glory together in the fraternity of the hunt.

I also spent time in depressed areas of Kentucky and Ohio with workers who felt that their concerns had long fallen on deaf ears and were looking for every opportunity to protest a government and political and media establishment that had left them behind. I drank late into the night at the Royal Oaks Bar in Youngstown and met workers who had been out of the mills for almost two decades and had suffered the interlocking plagues of unemployment, opioid addiction and declining health. They mourned the passing of the old days, when factory jobs were plentiful, lucrative and honored and lamented the destruction and decay of their communities, their livelihoods and their families. To a man (and sometimes a woman), they looked at media and saw stories that did not reflect the world that they knew or the fears that they had.

……Take, for instance, the issue of legitimate defensive gun use (DGU), which is often dismissed by the media as myth. But DGUs happen all the time — 200 times a day, according to the Department of Justice, or 5,000 times a day, according to an overly exuberant Florida State University study. But whichever study you choose to believe, DGUs happen frequently and give credence to my hunting friends who see their guns as the last line of defense for themselves and their families.

……It’s why my new friends in Youngstown, Ohio, and Pikeville, Ky., see media as hopelessly disconnected from their lives, and it is how the media has opened the door to charges of bias.

The mainstream media is constantly under attack by the president. They are “frankly disgusting,” “tremendously dishonest,” “failing,” “they make up the stories” and are now threatened with loss of broadcast licenses if they continue to author “fake news.” And that is just a random Wednesday’s worth of words from Donald Trump.

 

His book “Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right” (Harper) is out Tuesday.

Other liberals have an awakening after experiencing of a good dose of reality, such as Hollywood denizen David Mamet, who came to the realization that America and the military, are actually principled entities which are a force for good in the world.

Leah Libresco, a statistician and former newswriter at data journalism site FiveThirtyEight, and heretofore anti-gun liberal has had an eye opening understanding of gun rights vs the self-serving bias of the media, after a combination of research and a close look at the facts.

 

 

 

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