Monday, April 11, 2005

 

Puttin' the Overheated Politics On Ice...

I’m noticing an odd paradox emerging in our “information age”. As we become increasingly bombarded with information, we are becoming less informed, but more opinionated. In order for news to really stand out in the midst of enormous competition, it must take a stand. Now I have no problem with editorializing, and in fact I often prefer it to “hard news”.

However, as the edges sharpen and the battle lines deepen, the audience becomes more entrenched in their opinions and hostility rises toward the other side. In turn, favorite opinion leaders are expected to follow suit. It’s a self-perpetuating pattern of anger. As the public discourse is infused with more vitriol, it becomes nearly impossible to have a conversation with someone on the other side.

Particularly evident on cable talk shows, there is no discussion anymore. The pattern is as follows:
1) To open segment, host hurls completely loaded soft ball question at guest
2) Guest #1 takes loaded question and runs with it, lobbing unfair characterization toward the other side
3) Guest #2 hurls back completely unsubstantiated insult
4) Guest #1 brings up valid point (I anxiously await response…)
5) Guest #2 ignores intriguing question introduced by guest #1, instead opting for character assassinations
6) More insults, yelling, frustrations ensue…

Everyone has plenty to say, but no one cares to listen. We’re now in a politically hyper-charged atmosphere where the other side is rendered completely unreasonable, hypocritical, dumb, or just plain evil – take your pick. The one thing no one has any need for right now is an actual, informed discussion.

I actually enjoy political dialogue, but instead we're stuck with diatribes. Under the best case scenario, they are disjointed, deaf monologues driven by anger and bias. But it could stem from a problem more sinister than blind, unwavering allegiance toward one’s political party. I fear we are often witnessing the blatant pandering to listeners, viewers, or readers.

I’m not six years old and I, for one, consider it an affront to my (admittedly limited) intelligence to think that I am being patronized. Is anyone else tired of the demeaning, condescending, and completely hypocritical attitudes yet?

Sean Hannity is continuous shocked – shocked – at the heinous rhetoric from Democrats. Do these people ever give Republicans credit? Ummm…pot, kettle, black.

Do you think – for one minute – that Rush Limbaugh would render Abu Graib a meaningless prank or simply the manifestation of a “need to blow off some steam” had it occurred under Clinton’s watch? UPDATE: JB at Balkinization points out how Rush Limbaugh joked about the exoneration of all top officers in the Abu Graib prison scandal. A torture scandal that reinforced the worst notions about the U.S. around the world treated as a source of comedy? Nice. (Hat tip: R. Johnson at De Sententia)

Do you believe that Michael Moore would be blowing off the Oil-for-Food Scandal if it were the U.S. (under President Bush) rather than the U.N. presiding over this enormous disaster? Are you kidding me? This story has the makings of a fantastic geopolitical conspiracy theory, with an indictment of big business to boot. Here’s a recap…

France and Russia illegally profiteer from oil proceeds intended to feed and medicate the Iraqi people, but instead lines the pockets of fat-cat politicians and businessmen. All of this primarily occurred in countries that just happened to spearhead opposition to a war effort intended to remove Saddam Hussein from power (which would of course put an end to the oil money slush funds). Ah… right story, wrong players. It’s a non-starter.

The bottom line is the state of the political "dialogue" in this country is an insult. We don't need to be spoon-fed partisan slant, and no political party should become our religion. We all really need to stop throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Listen and maybe, just maybe, we all would learn something. Because even Ralph Nader gets it right sometimes. A little less arrogance, a little more honesty, and a lot more empathy could go a long way… In a word: Chill.

UPDATE: In a recent post at Parableman, Jeremy Pierce brings up the need for a change in tactics in order to effectively engage in debate. I couldn't agree more with the thrust of his sentiments, particularly statements like these:

We must respect the viewpoints of those who disagree on fundamentals and seek to engage them in reason with the awareness of their differences... The most important task in reasoning with people who disagree with us is to listen to them. If we try to understand what they're saying, and we adjust our argument accordingly to deal with it, then we'll have a stronger argument.

It seems obvious enough, but rarely do we engage in this sort of rational, productive type of dialogue.

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