The 99 percent

When I write a “To Your Health” column, I’m trying to be informative and helpful. And when I write these “Viewpoint” columns, I’m expressing mine (Viewpoints) without trying to be anything other than straightforward as I see it. I hear many comments throughout the month and welcome them whether they’re supportive or challenging. Open expressions are essential for good communication. And they require me to keep an open mind to continue learning as I stumble through this short, short life.

Most of you reading this have dealt with many changes. We’ve gone from only landline phones, for instance, to today’s mobile phone computers with all of human knowledge at our fingertips. From basic reporting of news facts, evolving into biased reporting of news, and then to counter balancing of those biases with opposite biases. That clichéd “liberal media” now has just as clichéd voices from a different view.

Finding our way to the facts about the issues that face us, our families and our well-being is difficult with today’s social and news media throwing so much slanted information our way. I’ve mentioned this before: television news is presenting us with predetermined, brief snapshots of complex issues designed to manipulate our viewpoints, not to give us information to consider. Whether from left or right its purpose is to allow (manipulate) its viewers into thinking they, and only they, are privileged to have the real inside info on what’s going on. It’s us vs. them and we are correct. Hey, it sells. So when politicians use that us vs. them strategy, they gain very enthusiastic supporters. 

But polls, studies and clear data (re: More in Common research group) all confirm how much we have in common as people trying to live a decent life. And the same data confirm how poorly we understand the real values of the majority of those who see things differently than we do. They (whoever they actually are) have been so demonized by the media that misunderstanding and prejudice are on full display. 

Think about this: everyday most of us speak comfortably with people of differing religions, or no religion, different races, nationalities, backgrounds, income levels, views and political positions. We’re fine. We get along very well, thank you. Then television news makes it pretty clear we’re in a major political and cultural war. 

While it may sound like it, I’m not blaming the news media for promoting our differences. As I said, it sells. Its primary concern is to compete with and win more viewers from other news media. One obvious way to succeed is to preach to viewers there are forces on the other side who are dangerously misguided. I’m saying the other side doesn’t exist except in extreme cases.

There are a lot of extreme views out there. There are people and governments in this world who are too violent, too angry, too convinced they’re right, too greedy and plenty who are just evil. I’m saying we all want them to be neutralized. We all want to be able to defend ourselves from them. I’m talking about the 99 percent (yes, ninety-nine) who have far more in common than we have differences.

On tough issues, reasonable people will often disagree. So what? We don’t have to agree to find ways to address most of the issues IF we communicate and realize how much we do agree. 

Agree? Disagree? Brian Cole welcomes your viewpoints on his columns. He can be reached at