I blocked my uncle on Facebook today. This is a guy who could pass for a gentle, skinny Santa Claus, but I couldn’t take it anymore.
And this is just weeks after my brother-in-law threatened to block ME, after I posted several stories about Donald Trump (and a few on Hillary Clinton). Factual stories. Stories from trustworthy, mainstream media outlets reporting on the women alleging he sexually molested them. The 150 Republican officials who don’t support him, by the New York Times. The way he treated his alcoholic brother, also by the Times. The 199 most provocative things Trump has said, by Politico. The many appearances he’s made in Playboy, by The Hill.
This did not go over well with some of my Facebook friends.
If you’re one of those people who’s still confused about who Trump supporters are, let me help: They are my high school classmates — people who seemed liberal to me back then. They are my cousins – you might call a few of them rednecks. They are my mother, my father, and probably three of my four siblings. And yes, they mostly hail from rural, Red states. And I love them all. They are salt of the earth, hard-working, mostly Christian people who would do anything for me, and probably you.
But my decision to post news stories about Trump unleashed a fury I have not seen in them before. My uncle began incessantly posting wrinkly-faced, Hillary-bashing memes and “stories” on my timeline. When he started attacking my bleeding-heart liberal daughter, I pulled the plug on our Facebook friendship.
What struck me about his timeline attack were his sources: Places like Patriots Reborn, ClashDaily.com, The American Patriot, Conservative News Today, John Q. Logic, ViralLiberty.com and LibertyWriters.
And then there’s my mom. She began rebutting my posts with her own, with sources like Minuteman Militia, FreedomDaily.com and the Conservative Tribune. Now I don’t think she’s a regular reader of these “publications,” but they fulfilled her need for return fire.
I pay attention to sources, because I’ve been a journalist covering all kinds of government for about 25 years. I know the source of information is crucial. If your source cannot be trusted, your story can’t be trusted.
And I think this, right here, is a big part of what has gotten Trump where he is. As the media landscape eroded with the arrival of the Internet, all kinds of questionable websites and “news outlets” have cropped up. FOX News paved the way with its “fair and balanced” (wink, wink) reporting – which my dad listens to non-stop and recites.
No longer do people just watch the evening news and read the daily newspaper to get their news; they can pick and choose whatever kind of news matches their opinion.
In fact, for several years I worked for one of those new news outlets. Sold as investigative journalism, Watchdog.org sought to fill the increasingly wide gap in coverage of U.S. statehouses with what it sometimes called point-of-view journalism. Over time, I learned this nonprofit was funded by right-leaning libertarians who liked things like fossil fuels and charter schools.
I saw how these news outlets work to further the causes of those that give them money, but ironically, many people no longer trust the “lamestream media” which tries to keep a wall between advertising and the newsroom.
Most of my Facebook friends seem to put more faith in FOX and whatever cockamamie news site they stumble upon while scrolling through their timelines. One of them said ABC, CBS and NBC are brainwashing America. Not FOX. Not MSNBC.
Here’s an example: My sister, a nurse, told me she’d never vote for Clinton “because of what she said about nurses.” What did she say about nurses? I asked. She called them glorified babysitters, my sister said. It took me about 10 seconds to Google that claim, and find that Snopes.com (which attempts to separate fact from fiction in urban myths and Internet rumors) found no evidence she ever said such a thing.
When I reported that back to my sister, she said, “Of course.”
In other words, of course the mainstream media says it’s not true. Of course her biased news source has it right. Of course her brainwashed journalist sister has it wrong.
Now, I know all journalists have their biases. Some are downright bad at hiding theirs. I’ve been guilty of that. But most of the journalists I’ve worked with do their level best to be fair and balanced – and not the FOX kind of fair.
But this election has made it crystal clear that many people no longer trust the mainstream media to give them the facts. They are more likely to believe one of Trump’s wild allegations – something he “heard” – than the New York Times.
When I was recently asked to be a stringer for the New York Times, I didn’t call my parents to tell them. In fact, I didn’t tell a single family member. Maybe I knew they wouldn’t necessarily be proud. I think two decades ago, early in my career, they would’ve. But things have changed. The New York Times is now the enemy. Trump has made that clear.
The day I heard Trump brag about how he wants to make it easier to sue journalists and bring down the Times was a sad day for me, as I listened to his crowd cheer. As it says on the Nebraska capitol, ““The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen.” But if we don’t trust the journalists who are watching most closely, if the truth no longer matters — only our truth, as we see it — then where are we headed?
My parents are die-hard Christians – and so am I – but they’ve been thoroughly FOX-ified. Having covered politics for so long, I’ve seen good and bad people on both sides of the aisle. My family seems to think God is a Republican.
And so we argue about how Christians can support Trump, or Hillary. (I support neither.)
Which is why I don’t want to go home for Thanksgiving this year – for the first time in my life. We are not a family that dreads Thanksgiving. We are not a family who fights. We’re a family who loves each other truly, madly, deeply.
But I know my father won’t be able to restrain himself from talking politics, no matter who wins the election, and a battle will ensue. This election has exposed a huge divide between us: They don’t trust journalists like me anymore. And I don’t think we can turn back the clock to a time when they did. Not in my family, and not in America.
This afternoon I talked to the artist who made this — we’ll call it an artistic lean-to — that is outside the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s journalism school, as he began setting up a second tent next to it as the Occupation of Lincoln expanded north from its home a couple blocks away on Centennial Mall.
The artist responsible for this art on plywood wore sideburns, aviator sunglasses and a red and white striped shirt as he began assembling a second tent next to his artsy shelter. He said his name was Troy Davis, but seemed so reluctant to divulge that information I cannot be sure of it. On the inside of the lean-to is a picture of Che Guevara, the Argentine doctor who worked to emancipate the poor and has become a ubiquitous symbol of unyielding resistance.
“I just do art to make the world a better place,” Troy said.
Also working to expand the Occupation was a young man who said his name is Charles Holm. He graduated from UNL two years ago and has struggled to parlay his degree in international studies into a job. He worked for the AFSCME (union that represents public workers) in another state for awhile but returned to Lincoln and now works as a barback (bartender’s assistant). Holm has helped organize Lincoln’s version of the Wall Street Occupation, and said there are now about 60 people on the mall — 30 to 40 of them campers willing to brave the elements. He said they have nightly meetings in their camp, but they’re thinking about moving that meeting to the capitol steps to make more of a statement.
He said many of the protesters are college students, people who work downtown and a couple of families. He said the group is trying to get more students to join the protest (hence, the creep toward campus).
They serve three square meals a day, and yes, some homeless people have been partaking in the free food. He said the protestors went to the local food bank to get blankets for the homeless and when they saw how barren the shelves were, they decided to try to help raise funds for the bank. So far, the city hasn’t hassled them about camping out on the mall.
That’s because city officials can’t find anything illegal about what they’re doing: Centennial Mall is not a park. When it was converted from a street to a mall, it remained a right-of-way, so it’s a public space with no closing hours. Mayor Chris Beutler told radio show hosts Jack & John that the camping protests are a concern, but the city can’t really do anything about it without infringing upon their free speech rights.
Beutler indicated the law “needs further refinement” — but indicated that won’t be done right now, because it would be seen as targeting this protest. One caller questioned the legality of serving three meals a day without any permits, and the mayor said he’d look into that. The caller also questioned where the protesters are, uh, relieving themselves.
To which the mayor said, “You raise pertinent issues.”
Lincoln’s own Joel Sartore shares the life-threatening experience he had in Africa earlier this year:
Africa’s Albertine Rift – A Special Essay by Joel Sartore – National Geographic Magazine.
Why did Lake McConaughy get a $42,000 federal terrorism-fighting grant? And why did Cherry County get thousands of dollars in federal Homeland Security dollars to protect cows?
Find out by reading this interesting story in the Los Angeles Times, called Is Homeland Security spending paying off?.
How cool is this?
Speaking of huge, devastating, unsolved fires, I noticed the other day that Romantix — the downtown adult store that was destroyed by fire earlier this year — has reopened in a new location on Highway 2, next door to Subway. This may only be relevant to some of you, and you know who you are.
The city fire inspector was unable to determine the cause of the fire — in part because the building was too unstable and winter too hostile to even enter the site for 111 days. Evidence was inconclusive, Bill Moody said.
Sunday was not going to be a day of rest for many Lincolnites after a thunderstorm ripped through the city Saturday night, taking many trees with it.
Left in the wake of damage were many trees resting on roofs, trees blocking entire streets (including 16th Street south of the capitol) and trees downing power lines.
(Ironically, tomorrow the City Council will be holding a public hearing on the city budget, which would eliminate the city forester position.)
Do you have a storm story or photo? Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I always notice this big baby-blue Victorian house when I’m headed home from downtown on South 16th Street. With its expansive wrap-around porch and seemingly acres of space, I watched with hope when the “for sale” sign went up — hoping someone would snatch it up and take care of the grand old girl.
But time went by and the grass turned into a weed patch and the porch seemed to sag more. It’s amazing how fast a how starts to degenerate without a human there to keep her in shape — ever notice how you can leave for a week of vacation and come home to a haggard house?
And then my Mom came to town for Easter, and the blue house caught her eye right away, too. In fact, she demanded I call the realtor and get us in to see it. She seemed ready to make an offer, on the spot. Give up her retirement savings for this old girl.
We stopped and looked at the outside of the house while I called the number on the sign — the interior looked like it needed some TLC and indeed the porch was not in great shape. There was no garage but what a treasure trove for someone who loves to renovate old houses.
But when I finally reached the real estate agent, he said the house was sold. Mom’s dream of cashing in her 401K for an old house two states away from her fizzled.
I kept an eye on Old Blue, and recently, the work trucks started showing up and the doors were propped open and construction workers suddenly were climbing all over the house. A sign recently went up out front announcing that it will be the future home of the Alpha Delta Pi Sorority.
I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that another of Lincoln’s gems will not be chopped up into apartments or allowed to fall into disrepair. Lincoln has so many historic homes that need someone to take care of them — I’ve lived in four states and never have I seen so many great old homes. It’s my favorite thing about Lincoln.
I wish the city would create more incentive programs to help people buy old homes in the Everett and Near South areas and renovate them. I know there are some programs, like NIFA, but other cities do more. Lincoln could do more.
So here’s hoping those sorority girls will take good care of this old girl as she begins a new chapter in her undoubtedly storied life.
UPDATE: Three months after the LPS fire, police have made an arrest in the case of a 44-year-old school employee now accused of arson. Read the story here.
Am I the only one kind of amazed that we may never know what caused the last two major fires we’ve had in Lincoln — the school district headquarters and an adult store downtown?
A cause was never determined on the fire that destroyed a downtown adult store called Romantix. The city’s chief fire inspector, Bill Moody, said, “111 days and the Nebraska winter was not kind to us.” Evidence was recovered, but not conclusive.
And the school superintendent, Steve Joel, told a radio show host today that they still have no idea what caused the fire that took down the LPS headquarters and that it will be a long investigation.
It seems incredible to me that we can’t figure out what caused such disastrous fires, when inspectors in California can pinpoint the cause of major wildfires — down to a thrown cigarette butt. Anybody able to enlighten me? I’m all ears.
Good story for an enterprising young (or old) reporter to tackle.