“Who is this Mueller guy? Should I be concerned?” Overheard at a cafe in my hometown on April 18, 2019, the day the Russia report by the special counsel was released and the news generated a rare Washington, D.C., headline on the web site of our Gannett-owned daily newspaper in rural northern California.
How I envy that diner.
Unlike me, her mind isn’t cluttered with crazy-making political gossip and intrigue.
Millions of Americans, I’m sure, are similarly unaware. And probably saner, calmer and happier for it.
I envy that person for her disinterest in the very stuff that drives me crazy and drives my blood pressure up. Stuff that I can neither accept nor change.
I was raised in a political family. My dear departed mother (bless her soul) was a “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming,” “Get the U.S. out of the U.N.,” John Bircher kind of person back in the 60s. My dad, by contrast, was more like the woman at the cafe.
My mother and I rarely agreed, but we enjoyed the jousting and did it with respect. And we never yelled.
If I’m a political junkie today (and I certainly have all the symptoms) I date my first fix to the summer of 1973 and the televised Watergate hearings.
I often wonder how many cells in my brain are taken up with the cast of characters in Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, Monica-gate and, now, Russia-gate.
It could be worse—thank God I don’t have cable TV or I’d really have disappeared down the Fox News, CNN, MSNBC rabbit hole.
The Internet’s bad enough. On my laptop and smart phone I get daily news alerts from the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, along with more helpful commentary and analysis from the Cato Institute and Reason.
It’s hard to give it a break, let alone unplug (which I fantasize about—caretaking a friend’s property in remote southern Chile is a chronic fascination.)
There are some people—like FreedomFest honcho Mark Skousen, I’m told—who can listen to the news and not let it bother them. Not me, alas. It can and often does drive me nuts.
Two cases in point from this week. A headline from Vanity Fair’s website came across my smart phone that read “Mueller Confirms: Don Jr. Was Too Stupid to Collude.” But not a single word in the accompanying article, including a long quote from Robert Mueller’s report, said anything about Trump Jr.’s intelligence. The headline was, as a friend noted, more inciteful than insightful.
I hate it when Trump lies in his tweets. But I hate it even more when the media lies in headlines or deceives readers, listeners and viewers by taking quotes or facts out of contest. Like Trump’s alleged exclamation (“I’m fu**ed!) when he heard that Mueller had been appointed special counsel. The mainstream press, almost without exception, spun this colorful comment as a kind of admission of wrongdoing rather than what Trump clearly meant and said a couple of sentences later—that special counsel probes can and do drag on, dominate the news and undermine a president’s ability to get things done.
The press has really gone downhill since Trump was elected. It’s come to the point that I’m almost ashamed to admit or discuss that I spent about half my career as a journalist (as a business correspondent in Japan and then as a reporter and bureau chief for Forbes magazine).
If only I could swear off politics entirely — except for FreedomFest.
FreedomFest, thankfully, mostly transcends the day-to-day dogfight of national politics. For example, I love getting the long historical view from Cato’s David Boaz, who offers evidence that the world really is getting better and better, not worse and worse, as the media would have us believe. I love hearing and talking with my old boss, Steve Forbes, one of the shrewdest and most insightful political and economic observers on the scene. I also love chatting with the exhibitors, the entrepreneurs in the Pitch Tank, and perhaps most of all, watching the entries in the Anthem Film Festival, curated by Jo Ann Skousen, a long-lost high school classmate and, thanks to FreedomFest, now a dear friend.
You never know what you’ll find at FreedomFest. Past speakers, panels and discussions that have left a mark on me focused on Miguel Cervantes, debates between atheists and believers in life after death, investment opportunities and ex-pats living in Uruguay and other far-flung locales.
This summer at the Anthem Film Festival, for example, there are feature films, documentaries and shorts about online privacy, immigration, trade, “safe spaces” and speech censorship on college campuses.
I wish more of my brain cells were devoted not to politics and the latest scandal or outrage but to the sonnets and soliloquies of Shakespeare, stories from Greek and Roman mythology, world history, the wisdom of Jefferson and Franklin, the oratory of Lincoln and Churchill and the incomparable wit of Twain and Mencken. Perhaps at 66 it’s not to late to start weaning myself from news and politics and focusing on stuff that’s more timeless and important.
In that latter category I’d include FreedomFest. Hope to see you there in July.
Freelance writer Marc Beauchamp lives in far northern California. Among his former jobs he worked for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Kyodo News Service in Tokyo, Forbes magazine in Los Angeles, the Nasdaq Stock Market in Washington, D.C. and an electricity company in Hawaii.
FreedomFestForum is a publication of FreedomFest, the “world’s largest gathering of free minds,” held at Paris Resort Las Vegas July 17-20, 2019. For ticket information, go to www.freedomfest.com.