Opinion: Journalism student shares thoughts on recent UM political panel featuring Tom Brokaw

Skyler Crane
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal


The experience arrived via proposal. The Meek School of Journalism and New Media wanted volunteers from the school of journalism to attend and assist in a Sept. 30 “Election Countdown” panel co-sponsored by Mississippi Today in which Tom Brokaw would participate.

Out of all the students in the Meek School, only three agreed to volunteer. I was one.

As I stood by the doorway ushering people into Nutt Auditorium, I was mistaken for an attendee, and a nameless friend – who was trying to get brownie points from her professor for attending the event and myself – were swept into the VIP section of the auditorium mid-conversation.

I decided to go with it because making a fuss over such a minor error would have been socially awkward, so I silently sat down next to my friend and listened with her as panelists Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC; former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour; Harold Ford Jr., a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee; and Tom Brokaw, former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News discussed various issues about the current presidential election, social media usage, and general issues concerning Mississippi.

I was surprised by the event’s civility. I consider politics to be harsher and horrendously over-complicated to the point of insanity, especially when dealing with some of the issues brought up during the panel. It is, of course, but the panelists presented the preferable illusion of political courtesy.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was especially interesting and my personal favorite panelist in the event. He handled the situation with humor and personality, while I personally thought Harold Ford Jr. possessed a less personable expression. He looked angry during the entire panel, but I could have misinterpreted his facial expressions.

Tom Brokaw was a very interesting person, and though I do not agree with everything he said, I can respect the man and his beliefs.

I felt Andrew Lack was quieter than he should have been. I do not know if that relates to him trying to maintain his public image or if he legitimately did not have anything to add to the discussion.

I agreed with the panelists in regards to the state of the election. It is a complete joke. I seriously cannot believe that my vote in my first election is going to be between these two inept children parading as actual adults.

I am more prepared to believe that Hillary Clinton is actually a lizard person rather than proper presidential candidacy material. I do not even know how to start describing Donald Trump. To do so would be a waste of my time, so I will not.

I can sum up both individuals’ personalities with a single idea tossed around during the panel. It is more telling than any words I could possibly string together: This is an uncertain and terrifying time in our country, and people have the right to be scared.

I did learn from the panel that social media is more powerful than I initially thought. I personally dislike the metaphysical social construct, but I can understand how it is useful. I just did not imagine how useful it could be.

I did not know that Trump relied on social media to such a large extent. Witnessing his success and correlating it with his social media implementation is a very interesting concept that I would not mind exploring in the future – not specifically Trump’s usage of social media, rather social media’s actual and potential influence in general.

I did not believe that Tom Brokaw’s opinion on the Ole Miss political environment was correct. He said, “What I like about coming to Ole Miss is that you’re on the cutting edge of a lot of big issues today, and you’re talking about them.”

I disagree. The political attitude here is very restrictive. One cannot say certain things, or imply certain concepts, or possess certain ideals because they go against the progressive standard.

I understand it is because the University of Mississippi’s administration is trying so hard to appear as an open and inclusive environment because they do not want to be judged by the university’s past, and I completely agree with complete equality and inclusion.

But that same philosophy must be extended in both directions, including in directions that suggest ideals that most people do not agree with.

In a phrase, I suppose I can sum up my views as too egalitarian. I do not believe anyone should receive any special treatment. I do not care who one is. I do not care what one’s background is. I do not care if one is gay, straight, transgendered, black, white, Asian, or what socioeconomic background one carries.

In my mind, one does not get special privileges because of one’s orientations or preferences of any type. I do not care what actions anyone’s ancestors have conducted. I do not care what anyone in the past has experienced. That is all in the past, and if everyone continues to obsess over past transgressions and use them to fuel their present social warfare, then there is no way that we as individuals can ever hope to reach true equality in the future.

As such, I cannot agree with Tom Brokaw. If I were to consider the actions occurring on campus a conversation, then it would certainly be a pretty one-sided exchange.

In many ways, I thought the panel was an interesting experience. It definitely reinforced my disinterest in modern politics. My experience undoubtedly developed my interpretation of modern events and strengthened my belief that my political views are isolated and undesired.Save


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