An article about an Ohio man who has avoided political news since the election of Donald Trump caused a stir among readers, who expressed mixed opinions over the story’s subject, Erik Hagerman. Some criticized what they considered a sense of privilege while others lauded him as a modern day Henry David Thoreau.
The story also hit a chord with journalists. Tyler Buchanan, the editor of The Athens Messenger, Mr. Hagerman’s local newspaper, said he was rattled by Mr. Hagerman’s decision to remain uninformed.
Another journalist called Mr. Hagerman “the most selfish man in America” while another criticized his “willful ignorance.”
Mr. Hagerman may never how people reacted to his experiment because he does not read The New York Times or use social media. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and best-selling author, tweeted that Mr. Hagerman, whom he called one of his “best friends from back home,” received a copy of the article to read, with current events redacted. Below is a selection of the comments from the article.
‘Only a man of privilege — and a white man — can remove himself in this way.’
I am an African-American openly gay man. Such a sealed off life is not even an option for me or those like me. I suppose on some level I may harbor some deep-seated envy of this choice to retreat. Only a man of privilege — and a white man — can remove himself in this way.
Those of us for whom existence means fending off onslaughts to our fundamental humanity can afford to not know and prepare for the latest threats. Our lives — almost always under siege in some way — also move us to protect and bond with those similarly situated, and we are obligated to protect them as they in turn inform themselves and take action to protect us. It would also be an abdication of responsibility to be a good citizen — to be informed and to work to make life better for others.
— Riley Temple, Washington, D.C.
‘I appreciate his approach.’
Whatever judgment I would pass on Mr. Hagerman is the same judgment I would pass on people who retreat from the world into their own political bubbles. That goes for those on the left and the right. I appreciate his approach more than any of them.
— Jeff Perkins, Iowa
‘It doesn’t absolve him of responsibility in democracy.’
Mr. Hagerman can hide from Trumpism only because he is wealthy and white. Lack of engagement might make him feel healthier, but it doesn’t absolve him of responsibility in democracy. I can’t think of one historical example that ended well when citizens of privilege chose to ignore politics.
— Tess, San Jose, Calif.
‘This man is totally unique and an inspiration to many.’
Not many people can disconnect from their phones for even just ten minutes. We have become sheep, being led around by marketers and pundits. This man is totally unique and an inspiration to many who would like to be able to do what he is doing: being his own person.
— Dee, Los Angeles
‘There are times that I wish I could do the same.’
Honestly, there are times that I wish I could do the same. But I can’t. Being a grandfather, I am sick worried that my children and my grandson will be badly hurt from the decisions that are made in the White House. I am old enough and realistic enough to know that my views, expressed here and elsewhere, most probably won’t change anyone’s mind about anything. But, I see that as a way to feel that I am not alone, but connected to the rest of humanity.
— Eddie B., Toronto
‘Good for him.’
If this guy is successful with his plan and ultimately donates the restored land to his local community as his own “Walden Pond” project, I daresay his contribution will be much more meaningful and long-lasting than if he spent his days stressed out and yelling at a TV screen. Good for him.
That said, if we all did that, this country would be in more serious trouble than it already is. But it’s nice to know that there are people out there doing other things besides being held hostage by the current horrors of the daily news cycle. A reminder that life goes on, I guess, sometimes in spite of us.
— WesternMass, The Berkshires
‘In the same situation, I don’t think his neighbors would do the same.’
I’m a native of Athens County, where Mr. Hagerman resides. On Nov. 8, 2016, I knocked on doors in the Glouster area. I might’ve even knocked on his, who knows. Many of his neighbors voted for Donald Trump, while others didn’t bother voting at all. Some of them didn’t have rides to the church that served as their polling location (though we did offer to drive them).
I don’t fault them for not participating in a system that did not appear to acknowledge their existence. But I think about Mr. Hagerman, and the resources available to him. And how he chooses to squander them on personal comfort. In the same situation, I don’t think his neighbors would do the same.
— Emily, Columbus, Ohio
‘Mr. Hagerman is not alone.’
Mr. Hagerman is not alone. My wife has blockaded all political news since Election Day as well. However, she does have a vague sense of nonpolitical news.
She does follow Facebook but has several kinds of blocks on her computer to keep the content politics free. It isn’t that hard to do. She just changes the subject t if politics come up.
Part of her reasoning is that as a senior she may not live long enough to see things turn around. She can’t fix anything so there seems to be no point in being stressed all the time.
— Franklin Khedouri, Scottsdale, Ariz.