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Sprinkle: Why Americans are tuning out the impeachment

Ever wonder what muse inspired Shakespeare to write that wonderful line from Henry VI: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”? Were it not for the improbability of a time warp, one might suspect that Bill had been kidnapped and forced to endure the endless droning and repetition of the Trump impeachment trial. I don’t care on which side of the political aisle you fall, you didn’t need Morpheus’ dozing dust to nod off.

And the public responded accordingly. TV ratings for those stations carrying live coverage of the impeachment trial plummeted as Americans began to tune out.

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The crucial question is: “Why?” Everything is on the line — the overturning of a duly elected president, domestic and foreign policy, issues concerning healthcare, abortion, immigration, and even the U.S. Constitution itself. Are these not sufficient reasons for every American to be concerned and attentive to the process?

We could blame the lawyer-politicians but for the bothersome truth that it’s their job to make the most of whatever “facts” they have at their disposal to propel their client’s case to a successful conclusion — even, if need be, applying the Felix Cohen Rule of Law: “What really matters is the name you succeed in imposing on the facts, not the facts themselves.”

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Intellectually, we understand that every adversarial position deserves effective representation, but we also have that internal sense of right and wrong that makes us recoil when truth is twisted and turned and bent to the point of breakage.

And let’s face it, unless you’re a lawyer or specifically interested in the intricate and convoluted path of legal discourse, deep-diving into the nuances of the law is drip-by-drip legalese akin to water torture.

But lawyer-politicians are not the only source of frustration. Before, during, and after each trial day, Americans are bombarded by the lawyer-politicians’ and the media’s interpretation of what happened, what is happening, and what will happen — most soundbites slanted to project a one-sided political point of view.

Many people point to the media as having lost its “watchdog-of-democracy” status because of the infiltration of political bias so pervasive in much of its reporting. Too frequently, the media present one side of a story, neglecting the other, when truthful point and counterpoint are essential to arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

Those people with whom I’ve spoken say they simply want the news media to present facts. They neither need nor want commentators putting in their biased two cents. It seems many Americans tend to agree with the late director and writer, Peter McWilliams: “The media tends to report rumors, speculations, and projections as facts ... you can find some expert who will say something hopelessly hopeless about anything.”

Most of the media’s audience simply wants all of the unaltered, unfiltered facts, devoid of commentary by those with intent to influence public opinion.

That applies to all media — print and vocal, liberal and conservative, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, and all of the other media outlets that insist on peppering their daily news not with “fact,” but rather with “opinion” disguised as fact. While there is, indeed, need and room for both, fact cannot masquerade as opinion, and opinion cannot claim to be fact.

In short, if it’s opinion, that needs to be acknowledged upfront. It’s a matter of ethics.

I’m not a fan of Malcolm X, but on this topic, he is spot on: “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

While we expect lawyer-politicians to advance their own agendas, it is essential that the American media refrain from doing so. We need the media to be the “guardians of democracy.” We need them to speak unbiased truth to the American people. They hold enormous power. Let’s pray they use it wisely.

M.K. Sprinkle writes from Hampstead. Her column appears every other Saturday. Email her at sprinklemk@comcast.net.

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