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Top 3 News of the Week – January 31st

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Important Dates This Week

Tuesday, Feb. 1st: First day of Lunar New Year; First day of Black History Month

Wednesday, Feb. 2nd: Groundhog Day

Friday, Feb. 4th: Rosa Parks Day; First day of the Winter Olympics in Beijing

Major Stories This Week

Black History Month

Black History Month Fact: Madam C.J. Walker created a line of hair care products for African-American women in 1910, leading her to later become the first female African American self-made millionaire. There is now a Netflix series based upon her journey titled Self Made, with Walker played by Academy and Golden Globes Award winner Octavia Spencer. If you don’t know her, she’s also played main roles in The Help and Hidden Figures!

Engagement Questions

  • What can we do to commemorate this month?
  • Is it important to learn and share our histories with one another? Should things in the past stay in the past? Or are there specific things we should remember and commemorate? What differentiates what should be remembered and what should be forgotten – if anything at all?
  • What role should past grievances play in the reconstruction of our present? In terms of policies? Events? Observances? How does recounting history give power to the present? 

Supreme Court Nominations

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, setting up another major challenge for President Biden, as now a new Supreme Court Justice must be confirmed to replace Breyer. Stephen Breyer has served in the Supreme Court since 1994 and is one of three current liberal justices appointed by a Democratic president. As of now, the Supreme Court holds a conservative majority, with six out of nine justices appointed by Republican presidents and three appointed by Democrats.

President Biden has promised to nominate the Court’s first black woman to be the next Supreme Court Justice. Who will he choose? It seems likely that he will choose someone young and liberal to serve as a strong liberal voice on the court for decades to come, and that he intends to do so quickly to make for a swift confirmation. There is much speculation of who might be nominated and how long the confirmation process will be. 

Engagement Questions

  • What part do political parties play in the determination of justice?
  • Are politics and justice interconnected? If yes, why, and how so? 
  • How do your political views impact your definition of justice?
  • How might it differ for someone with a different political view? 
  • What might representation mean to different communities? What might it look like? How is representation important to our Braver Angels mission?
  • What is the role of diversity and inclusion in political discussions and conversations? How might efforts towards diversity and inclusion be misused or raise concerns? Could these efforts be harmful? Could these efforts be beneficial? What impact can a minority voice at the table have, or not have? 
  • What does this mean for the future of Supreme Court appointments? In case you didn’t know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also called to retire near the end of Obama’s second term. Upon her refusal then and her death in 2020, President Trump has appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a strong conservative female voice, into the Court. There has also been some speculation of the timing of Bryer’s retirement and of some pressure for him to do so with Biden as president. How might this stir up dissent on either side? 

Spotify and Joe Rogan

Recently, there’s been some controversy over “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast on Spotify. Joe Rogan was accused of spreading misleading and inaccurate information on the COVID-19 virus and vaccines on his podcast, leading prominent artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to protest. The artists said they would leave Spotify if it continues to host Rogan; and Prince Harry and Megan Markle, both having signed deals to support podcasts under Spotify, have also urged for action against the misinformation. On Sunday, Spotify responded to criticism by posting their Platform Rules, and adding COVID-19 content advisory notices on COVID-19 content to include links to trusted sources. 

Engagement Questions

  • How do we balance free speech vs. health & security; how do we think about social media censorship?
  • What might you have posted online that you regret posting?
  • How should private companies assess the balance between free speech and health and security? How do we, as an organization promoting equal voices for all Americans while being cognizant of the hazards of misinformation, assess that balance?
  • Should prominent figures play a part in this? What impact do celebrities have on political topics? How do celebrities and their political dispositions influence the political opinions of others? Is the act of celebrities stepping in to give their political opinions a necessarily beneficial or harmful act? Could they play a role in America’s polarization? If so, what kind of role? 

Editor’s Note: Every week, BA Media intern Janus Kwong compiles a briefing document for our national media staff’s reference, a guide for thinking through the major news items we and our fellow Americans might have at top of mind. These documents don’t assert a party-line or standard; they lay out some themes and guide us through key questions, and like the best of our work, they bring us a little closer to understanding things with a spirit of goodwill, through a commitment to process. They shouldn’t be seen as fact-sheets or strategic assessments, but as reflective little guides to help us cultivate the Braver Angels Way as we approach any issue at all. We in the media team are reflecting on these questions ourselves, and we invite interested BA members to do so too, and share your thoughts with us at media@braverangels.org or in the comments. -LNP

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1 thought on “Top 3 News of the Week – January 31st”

  1. Who determines “misinformation”? Rogan interviewed two well-known doctors. Is it “misinformation” simply because it does not align with the majority of outspoken doctors? If majority is the measure by which approved science is determined, where will that lead? Think of the minority voices in science whom we now herald as visionary: Galileo Galilei, Ignaz Semmelweis, William Harvey and Barry Marshall. Will labeling those with alternative medical viewpoints as “misinforming” lead to better science or cutting-edge discoveries?

    To be balanced shouldn’t the sentence “…urged for action against the misinformation” be rewritten to say “…urged for action against what was, in their opinion, misinformation.”?

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