Editor's letter: Nourishing blind certitude
Today it’s all too easy to self-select a media environment where one's convictions are never challenged.
Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t want to “get upset” in the morning, we learned this week from his refreshingly candid interview in New York magazine. That’s why he limits his newspaper consumption to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times—reliably conservative outlets—and avoids the “so shrilly, shrilly liberal” Washington Post. In the car to and from the Supreme Court, he listens mostly to conservative talk radio, including the call-in show of his “good friend” Bill Bennett, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education. Bennett’s producers, Scalia says, “keep off stupid people.”
Now, Justice Scalia has a tough job and deserves all the peace of mind he can muster. It’s too bad, though, that he feels it necessary to inhabit a media bubble where his ideological convictions are always confirmed and never challenged. He’s hardly alone, of course: Plenty of other people—maybe even a liberal justice or two—confine themselves to an opposing media diet of NPR, HuffingtonPost.com, and The New York Times. Today it’s all too easy to self-select a media environment that nourishes blind certitude, and that tendency, I’m convinced, is one seed of the current debacle in Washington. Part of the nation hears only that the Tea Party’s rage over Obamacare will bring the world economy to its knees, while another is told that the government is undergoing not a shutdown but a “slimdown”—so why worry? Many Americans live on one side of a battle trench, never talking to The Enemy. Exposure to a wide variety of views—which is, not incidentally, what we try to provide at The Week—won’t lead to peace, love, and understanding. But, like eating your spinach, it can’t hurt.