There’s an old Chinese curse which translates (roughly) into “may you live in interesting times.” While I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’ve been cursed, these times could certainly be called interesting. I suppose the term applies, but on the whole I could be easily tempted by terms less neutral.

James Madison once said, “Oppressors can tyrannize only when they achieve a standing army, an enslaved press and a disarmed populace.” The standing army part was inevitable. Countries don’t long survive until they become mentally and physically capable of persuading other nations of unsavory intent to stay on the other side of the border and mind their own business.

The enslaved press, on the other hand was once not so. Early on it was a responsible and serious watchdog. Integrity was paramount to the job. To be found patently biased and partisan, either openly or in subterfuge, was at the very least considered despicable and disgraceful. Through the intervening years, however, the press has eschewed self-discipline and allowed itself to drift into ill-disguised partisanship, and thus enslaved itself. With some, the term “drifted” probably need be changed to “running pell-mell into abject servitude.”

A description so damning and ugly as “fake news” could never have been applied, much less stuck, had those to whom it was assigned been demonstrably and relentlessly above reproach. They chose otherwise.

For the consumer, the test is really quite simple. It always has been. It’s a pass/fail deal. If I can tell your politics by what you report, or more critically what you choose not to report, and how you choose to report — oopsy.

Which brings me to the end of this point, and the beginning of the next. They are related.

In advance of a recent progressive shindig, The Texas Tribune announced Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke would be attending with an embarrassing kind of breathless anticipation. The whole tone of the deal put me in mind of a bunch of single 30-somethings in giddy anticipation of binge watching the “Shades Of Grey” series in a dark theater.

Among the solidly leftist lineup of guests was Sarah Eckhardt, a Travis County judge, who — succumbing to the irresistible enticement of a like-minded echo chamber — lost her head and got very honest about her prejudices and existential mindset. She quipped that Gov. Greg Abbott naturally “hates trees because one fell on him.” She apologized, of course — but not until after it went viral.

“In my panel today at the Texas Tribune Festival on ‘Public Enragement’ I spoke about the importance of being able to disagree without being disagreeable. Then I said something disagreeable,” she said.

“I want to apologize to Governor Abbott. I made a flippant comment that was inappropriate. The comment did nothing to further the debate I was participating in, much less further the political discourse in our community, state, and nation. While the Governor and I disagree on a number of issues, that is no excuse to be disagreeable.”

I don’t know about you, but whereas a comment like that might be forgivably uttered in complete bad taste in a private conversation, allowing it to see the light of day in a public forum told me everything I needed to know about that individual — and her complete unworthiness to hold the job she has been hired to do. Equally disturbing was the group-think laugh-track it generated in the audience and Texas Tribune staff. Directly under the masthead on their website, it says, “Nonpartisan. Nonprofit. Support Us.” The first is obviously fiction, by agenda, the second is as well, I’ll let you do with the third as you will.

Speaking of inappropriate and unworthy, and unintended consequences, Robert Francis O’Rourke is a strong candidate for that category poster child. In the future, I would recommend he call the NRA and warn them before he speaks again publicly. They really could use the heads-up to put on some extra staff to handle the resulting influx of membership applications and lifetime renewals.

Before O’Rourke popped off with “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” I did not own, nor have I ever before seriously wanted an AR-15 or AK-47 platform rifle. Still don’t, as a matter of fact. I have used them and can’t complain about their look or function. They are what they are. They are simply not something appropriate to any job I have to do. The typical 16-inch bore and extended magazine design make them a pain in the hind pockets to easily sandbag on the bench or in the field — which is a requirement if I am going to address any target.

And even then success is kinda iffy. I’m not real fond of chasing brass, either. Of course, then again, I’ve never tried the Sheila Jackson Lee .50 caliber version. Maybe that would help. Seems like it might be overkill for marauding coyotes, skunks of any sort and feral pigs though. So I guess I’ll resist the “in-your-face, Beto” temptation and continue to do without. Tis kinda tempting, though.

From the observation booth here at The Paper Radio, I’m just not sure the word interesting actually quite covers it.

Dan Beard is an 12-year Paris import who dabbles in Linux and photography. He has a 30-year history of writing content and columns for newspapers and magazines. His columns are published every Wednesday.

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