Friday Mailbag: Cable news, 'silence is violence' and the NDGOP's anti-LGBT resolutions

PHOTO: NDGOP Headquarters
The sign for the North Dakota Republican Party headquarters sits along East Boulevard Avenue near the state Capitol in Bismarck. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service file photo

MINOT, N.D. — Welcome to your Friday, and what has regrettably become an occasional mailbag column. I apologize for that, things got hectic for a few weeks, but I'm doing my best to respond to all of you individually, if not in this column.

Before we get to this week's feedback, did you know the guy who discovered the Titanic wasn't looking for it? In 1985, oceanographer Robert Ballard was actually on a secret mission for the U.S. Navy to investigate the wreckage of two sunk nuclear subs. The whole "we're looking for the Titanic" thing was just a cover. But when Ballard finished his Navy mission early, he decided to go looking for what was left of the infamous ocean liner, and he found it . Which didn't please the Navy, given all the hullabaloo the discovery of the Titanic caused around their secret mission.

Anyway, with that fun fact out of the way, to your questions! Remember, if you'd like to submit something, email it to Submissions may be edited for clarity and brevity.

Mike writes: If we should not watch cable news networks that are biased, maybe we should not read news columns that are slanted right or left.

Earlier this week I wrote that cable news is a cancer , and that we ought to stop watching it. That prompted a lot of zingers like Mike's from you readers. Sure, cable news is terrible, but what about opinion columnists?


Maybe I'm guilty of drawing a self-serving distinction, but the problem isn't that Americans, up to and including people like me who work in the news media, express opinions. I'd argue that sort of thing is the lifeblood of our kind of society. Honest debate and disagreement is one thing. What happens on cable news is something far more cynical. It's a business model built around staged rhetorical combat for the titillation of the audience. People like Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow don't illuminate issues for their viewers; they host shouting matches that are intended to entertain.

Again, political debate is a necessity for the sort of society America aspires to be. The cable news business model might as well be professional wrestling, with each network playing host to heroes and heels who are all working not to inform but to incite the audience.

Which might be fun if it didn't have so much influence over who governs us and how.

As for me, I'm proud of the work I do. I also wrote a column that was pretty tough on some local socialists this week . In response, one of the socialists reached out to me, and here's how he started his message: "Even though we often come to different conclusions and have different outlooks on the world, I very much appreciate the work you do in bringing attention to issues and events that often aren't covered in much of our local and national media."

If I can command the respect of people who disagree with me nearly all of the time, then I feel like I'm doing my job the right way.

Speaking of people who disagree with me but like me anyway...

Keith writes: I am what you'd call a 'flaming liberal' (not sure why I'm on fire but, eh). I just wanted to say that while I disagree with your opinions half of the time, I also agree with them half the time. I think you're doing a good job (until you make me mad, then just horribad!). I think you understand the entire idea of 'across the aisle politics' ... nothing is 100% either way. If we can't fix the tribalism involved in our politics, the system will fail. It's all compromise made by adults. Not by 6-year-olds kicking their feet. So, I never thought I'd say this, but good job.

Keith hits on something I've been thinking a lot about over the years. We are so caught up in trying to impose our values and philosophies and policies on one another; I think we'd be better off trying to figure out how tho leave one another alone.


That's not exactly possible. In a perfect world, we could all do whatever we want, and we wouldn't have to worry about crime or safety or nuisance. If you want your lawn to look like a jungle and blast Aerosmith at 4 o'clock in the morning while you run around your backyard in the buff, have at it. Only, here in the real world, you have neighbors, and they would prefer you didn't.

It is an unavoidable truth that our lives intersect one another, and at those intersections, we need public policy to settle disputes and keep friction at a minimum.

I'm for that. Let's use politics to find some consensus we can live with at those intersections, and then spend the rest of our time leaving one another alone.

I'm not for this new " silence is violence" attitude, which tells us we must either concede to certain political orthodoxies or be canceled.

I was watching " The Last Dance" on Netflix (it's excellent, and I'm not a basketball fan). In one of the episodes, the filmmakers covered the controversy over Michael Jordan's refusal to campaign for Harvey Gantt, a Democratic Senate candidate in 1990. He was challenging Republican incumbent Jesse Helms in Jordan's home state of North Carolina. At the time, Jordan justified his decision by saying, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."

To me, this is an entirely defensible statement. In our society, if an individual doesn't want to take an overt political position, they shouldn't have to. Yet in the documentary, Jordan was chastised by no less a figure than former President Barack Obama, among others.

Because, you know, "silence is violence." Not even Michael Jordan is beyond that sort of coercion.

I agree with you, Rob, about NDGOP's resolutions. How do you not know the wording would be offensive? Unfortunately, this person and others who drafted these resolutions just showed us their bigotry, straight out of the '50s. Sad that these people will continue to run for office and maybe win. What does that say about N.D.? I would like to see a huge change in those thoughts and ideas to move N.D. into the 21 st century.


I have been sharply critical of the NDGOP and their handling of those resolutions . As someone who spends a lot of time talking to and interacting with Republicans in North Dakota, I believe that language does not represent how most in the party view the LGBT community. Unfortunately, it's hard to make that argument when the resolutions put in the party's official platform by a majority vote of NDGOP delegates.

The language was awful, but it slipped through because, frankly, most in the NDGOP don't care much about the party's resolutions. Rightly or wrongly, they see it is a venue for the party's cranks and ideologues, so many Republicans don't bother to engage. They let the gadflies have their way with the platform every two years, and spend the rest of their time not thinking about it at all.

That disengagement bit them on their collective rear-ends. Going forward, Republicans need to either treat the resolutions like they matter, or stop doing them.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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