I’ve been feeling a sort of general apathy rising within myself towards the political realm, and it’s taken me some time to discern its’ origin. I’ve come to think that this apathy and overall repulsion towards so much of the political media is that power and strength seems to have more value than intelligence, rationality, and openness. I’m not saying I expect politics to be an open sort of affair, clearly it’s not and never will be. What I’m saying is that it’s the Glenn Becks and Keith Olbermanns of the world that are getting most of the say, and it isn’t because what they’re saying is original, intelligent, or redeeming, it’s because they have the megaphone.
I think Stephen Randall said it best in his opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times:
You think too much. And you’re not alone. Everybody’s thinking too much. We live in an era in which it is important to have opinions. Not necessarily smart or original ones; almost any opinion will do as long as it’s forcefully expressed. When it comes to opinions, we’re all living in an intellectual Costco, where it’s volume, volume, volume.
It wasn’t that long ago that opinions were something carefully considered and weighed, so that they’d stand the test of time and reflect well on the author. Thinkers were like gourmet chefs laboring over an elaborate meal they wanted to be perfect. But today, opinions are Big Macs — thrown together hastily, served by the billions and not very good for you.
I love the food analogy. It’s such an apt comparison. Where an opinion was something you usually developed naturally, through circumstance or proximity to a subject, it has now become something you must have if you’re going to be taken seriously. People don’t ask you, “Are you interested in politics?” they instead ask, “Are you a Democrat or Republican?”
It is assumed that you adhere strictly to the doctrine of one of the two major parties. Even while “thinking for yourself” is a prideful phrase tossed around pretty casually, it is still commonly expected that one will find themselves on one side of the Democrat/Republican divide. This is ridiculous. How can you “think for yourself” and possibly align yourself so vehemently with one of these parties. While if I were forced to choose one of the parties I would most likely fall in with the Democrats, there are still so many things about the whole system that are totally counterproductive. So many aspects of both parties are the result of poor thinking.
While these negative aspects are and have always been natural parts of the democratic system, there has been an increasing trend which seems to be the result of combining paid television talking heads with political discourse. The result is anger. Anger is the key. No one wants to have a debate. They want to have an angry debate. You’re not going to read the blog where everyone is polite to one another and the posts are written giving due credit to both opposing sides. You’re going to search out the media outlet that sides with what you think and argues angrily for the correctness of this view you’ve aligned yourself with. People are not turning on Fox News to see “Fair and Balanced” news reporting. People are turning on Fox News to see liberals made to look stupid. People are turning on MSNBC to see conservatives made to look unintelligent.
It is this focus on attacking the opposition rather than searching for solutions for our problems that is hurting the country. It will be interesting to see if things change or continue to go down this path.