Social media and the Internet make it easier for us to access news, but it also makes it easier for us to be lazy news gatherers. 

As you scroll through your Twitter and Facebook feeds, it’s easy to see a headline, make an opinion and keep on scrolling without reading the full story. 

Even those in the news business are guilty of this falling into this trap. Ian Millhiser, justice editor with the liberal website ThinkProgress, embarrassed himself by becoming its prey this week. 

On Wednesday, Millhiser tweeted a link to a news story about President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as U.S. Ambassador to China. 

“I’m sure the governor of a small, rural, landlocked state full of white people will totally know a whole lot of China, and stuff,” Millhiser tweeted. 

He was soon eating crow.

“I've been told that Branstad has a personal relationship with China's president that justifies this appointment, so I withdraw my objection,” he later tweeted. 


He didn’t need to be told. All he had to do was read the first sentence of the story he tweeted. 

“President-elect Donald Trump offered the post of U.S. ambassador to China to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a longtime friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to three people close to the matter,” the story reported. 

Millhiser certainly made a fool of himself, but most of us are guilty of making the same mistake. 

When we scan a headline and form an opinion without reading further, it’s often because we don’t want the facts or opinions within the story to change our own preconceived notions. We want to be protected from the possibility of being wrong. 

I need to fess up: I’ve recently been scanning certain headlines without reading the stories. 

Here’s a sample of some of the headlines I’ve come across:

•“How to Avoid a Political Showdown at the Thanksgiving Table, with Etiquette Expert Lizzie Post.” — People Magazine 

•“How to Handle Talking About Politics When You’re Home for the Holidays” — Yahoo News 

•“How to Talk Politics Over the Holidays Without Being a D---.” — Esquire 

•“Families dread Thanksgiving after Trump's election win.” — Mercury News

There’s a reason why I’ve been neglecting these articles. I stand firmly against political discussion at holiday and family gatherings. 

And to be honest, I don’t want to be convinced there is a valid reason to broach the topic while seated around the dining room table on Christmas or Thanksgiving. 

I love talking shop about politics, but I believe there are certain times such conversation should be mum. 

This isn’t because I’m worried a cousin, aunt or uncle, brother or sister will disagree with me or that our discussion will turn to turmoil. 

Instead, it’s because I want to cherish the time with my family. I don’t want to waste the precious time were are finally all together by talking about something as trivial and divisive as politics. 

My three siblings and I live in three different states. The last time we were all in the same room was last Christmas. 

Sure, we all share differing political views and could have a fascinating conversation about them. 

However, I imagine we’ll spend our Christmas together instead by laughing a lot, drinking a few alcoholic beverages, recalling stories from our younger days, poking fun at mom and dad, and cherishing the time with our aging grandparents as well as with my brother and sister-in-law’s soon-to-be two-year old daughter. 

When the extended family gets together, we will do much of the same. I also expect conversation will turn to moves the St. Louis Cardinals should make in the free agent market, the playoff hopes of the St. Louis Blues and more. 

We’ll most likely play some sort of game. Sometimes that can get even more heated than any political argument. (We’re all stubborn and competitive.) 

For me, the holiday season is all about sharing laughs, love and cheer. Political talk runs the risk of missing the mark. 

There’s a phrase I use occasionally. It goes like this. 

“Everything can be political, but everything doesn’t have to be political.” 

Time spent with family during Christmas and Thanksgiving doesn’t need to be political. When you gather with your loved ones this holiday season, do me a favor or two. 

Avoid politics. And try to read past the headlines.

I guess I need to work on that second one. 


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