In a world of 7 billion people, there can be no surprise that people have different views. Even in smaller segments of society, whether in a small town or school, different people could look at a situation and arrive at very different conclusions. One story, two views.
Conclusions may in turn generate additional comparisons. Once an opinion becomes anchored, another similar thought may come to mind. Over time, the two distinct ideas become linked together, in closely related parallel views. Two stories, one view.
THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Much of the world followed the negotiations between six global powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear ambitions. Not only did many people seek different outcomes, even people that sought the SAME outcomes, viewed the deal in completely different ways.
Consider the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Presumably each American newspaper sought a deal which left Iran without nuclear weapons capability. On July 15, each paper ran factual headlines about the outcome of the negotiations. Yet the emphasis for each was extremely different.
The headline for the NYT read: “World Leaders Strike Agreement with Iran to Curb Nuclear Ability and Lift Sanctions.” Sub-headers read “Accord is Based on Verification, Not Trust, Obama Says” and “G.O.P. Pledges to Kill Pact, But Veto Looms.” An article further down the page was entitled “President’s Leap of Faith“.
In the middle of the front page the Times sought to summarize the deal terms in a Q&A format. For anyone reading the answers, it was clear that the deal offered few assurances that Iran was not going to have nuclear weapons within the decade, and certainty that they would have it after a decade.
The portrayal was in sharp contrast to the front page of the WSJ.
The WSJ also led with a factual headline about the reactions to the Iranian deal. “Iran Deal Ignites Fierce Fight” The paper included three large pictures with quotes from the leaders of the United States, Iran and Israel with their views on the deal terms.
Both papers considered that Obama and Iranian leader Rouhani were happy with the deal. That was where the similarities ended.
The Times called out the Republicans as being unhappy, while the Journal highlighted Israel’s unhappiness with the deal. One paper took a more domestic review of the international matter, while the other focused on the international fallout. The NYT used small font to review the dissent of the deal in language that could have been used to describe a capital gains tax hike, while the WSJ used large color photographs in the center of the paper to draw attention to the significant global ramifications of the agreement.
The NYT seemed to tell its readership that if they had faith in Obama, they should have faith in this deal. The WSJ told its readership that a huge fight was brewing overseas, and the US aligned itself with an enemy state and against an ally.
Two papers presumably started at the same spot seeking the same result, but moved in opposite directions when the negotiations concluded.
The head of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Yehuda Kurtzer, also decided to weigh in on the Iranian deal from the ancient Jewish city of Hebron. In a blog called “On Iran, from Hebron” he described his trip with a group of rabbis who came to hear a wide range of narratives from all sorts of people in the city. Kurtzer’s conclusion was that there exists an obvious parallel between the Iranian threat against Israel, and Jews living east of the Green Line. He said: “I am sad and nervous – both about what Israel is doing to itself in places like Hebron with its commitment to structures which risk its unmaking, and about the threats to Israel’s existence from state actors” and continued the parallel in more clear language about “a settlement [Hebron] that constitutes a self-imposed existential threat to Israel, while listening on Twitter to debates about external existential threats.“
Here was a leader of an organization that described itself as a “pluralistic center of research and education deepening and elevating the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world,” equating a Jew living with his family in Hebron, with an Iranian regime shouting “Death to Israel” while it obtained the green light from the world to have nuclear weapons in ten years.
A champion of pluralism drew an equivalence between starkly different stories: Jews living freely in places they lived for thousands of years; and a country that has threatened -and will soon be armed for- a genocide.
I understand different people having different opinions. I respect the concept that two parties can start at the same spot and move in opposite directions. Yet I struggle when a single person can conflate two completely different matters into a single narrative.
The NYT loves Obama and feels that their trust and faith in him has prevailed over his presidency, so why not trust him again now? (Of course, that has nothing to do with trusting Iran, but the Times at least starts consistently). The WSJ has always pointed out the flaws of Obama’s foreign policies and used this bad Iranian deal to point it out again.
But what of the leader of a “pluralistic” organization? Does being pluralistic mean that everything and everyone carry the same weight? Does the notion that “pluralism can mean that no full knowledge of truth is possible” mean that it can be so amazingly wrong to suggest that the “external existential threat” of an Iranian nuclear bomb is the same as a “self-imposed existential threat” of Jews living in Hebron?
There is a logic to a liberal paper supporting a liberal president. One can agree to disagree. But how does one react to someone who distorts reality as if the world was a hall of mirrors perched atop a black hole? On Earth, we know opinions can diverge. In the ethereal world of “pluralism”, it would appear that accepting information from everywhere can lead to a singularity of stupidity.