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The Unasked Question

By Doug Dworkin

As an unrepentant news junkie, I spend a lot of time watching and listening to interview shows. Yes, they are often repetitive and sometimes downright stupid, especially when the interviewees are adhering to a set of talking points previously agreed upon by whatever faction they represent. Often they just wash over me like a robotic torrent of dreck, as when Mike Pence makes multiple appearances on the Sunday morning shows. Occasionally, a sharp and persistent interviewer can break through the wall of bloviation and make some news, but it rarely happens.

There is another phenomenon I have observed on these programs, and I am sure this is not unique to me: the unasked question. Usually I say to myself, “well, the next interviewer will nail that down, it’s so obvious.” But it’s exasperating when something gets through that allows some tidbit of misinformation or distortion to pass as accepted fact.

An instance of this occurred this past weekend on Fox News Sunday. Yes, I know it’s Fox, but Chris Wallace is an aggressive interviewer who is usually equally tough on everyone. The panel of commentators at the end of the show was bandying about their views on the current controversy over the proposed renaming of U.S. military bases currently named for Confederate generals. During the discussion, Republican analyst Karl Rove asserted “they were named after these confederate leaders as a means of national reconciliation.” As the discussion continued, moderator Wallace, said, “well, let’s move on to the larger question of racism.” But, for me, an unasked question hung in the air: Isn’t racism, in fact, exactly the reason why these bases have their current names? Such a question could have prompted deeper thought that might lead more people to inquire into the history of the century following the Civil War and Reconstruction. Of course, in the limited time available, a whole history was not possible. (Henry Louis Gates, along with other experts like Eric Foner, took four hours to cover it on PBS). But how about this: “Isn’t it true that bestowing these names was not about reconciliation, but a sop to southern politicians who for a century propped up the discredited ‘Lost Cause’ yarn about the Civil War?”

I’m not sayin’—just askin’.

Doug Dworkin is a former junior high school teacher, encyclopedia editor, and IT executive at IBM. Now retired, he Is beginning a new career as a professional dabbler and dilettante.

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