Sling First, Ask Later, Part 1

When Sarah Palin asserts that she’s got nothing to lose by attacking Obama, that may be true but the rest of us certainly are suffering.  And that is a moral problem.  A values problem. If one loves the country, as is her oft-repeated refrain, then she ought to consider the impact of her actions. That’s what morality is – value + action. The Palins, McCains, Bushes, Roves, O’Reilly’s, Coulters, (Bill) Clinton’s, Limbaughs, Ingrahams, Gingriches, Reagans, Atwaters, Nixons – all of these folks have not only cheered on the deregulation of Wall Street but the unraveling of our ability to exchange ideas in a civil manner.  They each have two things that must maintain: copious amounts of money in politics and a lack of faith in government.  In a dog-chasing-its-tale manner, money and faith have a reciprocal and proportional relationship – especially in Washington, D.C.

Public discourse in the States has really gotten into my craw.  The exchange of ideas is almost non-existent.  In fact, as much as I think the criticism poorly targeted at Rachel Maddow, conservative intelligentsia David Frum has it right as he pines for the civilized exchange of ideas.  But, while I have serious misgivings as to whether Democracy is possible at all, the shape, duration and tenor of the discourse we do have depends on the somewhat healthy exchange of ideas.  The bridge beneath us, however, is fraying.

Since the Clintons came to office in 1993, the hysterical voices have gotten a firm toehold in radio, TV and think tanks.  The latter, of course, provides content for the former.  As our faith and trust in government has decreased, vitriolic propaganda has increased.  I’m sure that its citizens faith and trust in the US government has been sorely tested on numerous occasions (e.g. the reasoning behind more than several wars, Reconstruction, the Tea Pot Dome Scandal, etc., etc., etc.).

As vitriol increases fueled by the need to earn advertising dollars which flock to drama rather than dry debate, the ability to dissent, to question and to assert a position outside of haranguing party lines evaporates.  All public debate asks for is to define yourself as Right or Left, Conservative or Liberal. It’s sling first, ask later.  Rarely is the punditocracy considering the long-term consequences of what is politely termed faux objectivity.  No journalist actually believes that what passes for objectivity (two conservatives for every liberal) is substantively that but if you want access to sources and leaks you better play the game.  Editors know that there are ten replacements lined up behind you if your honor or consideration of consequences get in the way.  Accusations slung at the wall don’t have to be true, they just have to stick – check out Media Matters for a light, stomach-wrenching taste of what’s sliding down the wall.  We even have a verb for it now, swift-boating.  There are two factors at work here: money in politics and a lack of trust in government.  Stay tuned…

~ by Thom on October 15, 2008.

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