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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly - incompetent critics

Criticism is a vital part of the polity. The fact that a position or a decision is evaluated by people not predisposed to it, or "yes men", is what corrects our course. Diversity in the POV (Points of View) is what makes for wisdom, in Crowds and in Kitchen Cabinets.

However, our polity is crippled by the commercial success of idiots who are given voice and attention by mass media which they dominate. How did this happen?

It is a simple process:

(1) NEGATIVE INFORMATION. "Bad news" sells well. Negative information has pretty legs. Elections actually require ventilation of choices and investigations into the lives of the candidates. Hence, even "Swift-boating" -- a campaign of distorting the facts on the eve of an election with a Big Lie -- has almost First Amendment protection, although legal counterattacks for slander may remain viable, and there is a scientific question about whether attack ads "work" or not. Credit Reports pay for derogatory information, and provide almost no positive reportage. The fact is negative information has serious commercial value.

(2) ATTRACTS IDIOTS. Of course, what kind of person is most attracted to the purveying of this commercially valuable negative information? Greedy idiots who are indifferent to truth. And the examples abound in Talk Radio. Nasty little people with shameless motives are instinctively attracted to the money and the content of negative media events.

(3) SUCCESS TURNED ON ITS HEAD. Once the negative purveyors become commercially successful, then their ends continue to justify their destructive means. People who become rich by attacking others with lies, simply take their place in the halls of notorious figures, and begin to blend in with other public figures. For example, there is a qualitative difference between the content of the New York Times and the content of the periodicals known for "yellow journalism". And yet, many of the "yellow" journalists and editors actually make more money than the actual reporters of true news events. Negative and mendacious voices naturally sell more, and ride to success over the heads of the true or positive.

(4) COMPETENCE. The problem for the Polity is that we really NEED criticism; we need to hear the people who disagree with the choices, who see dangers perhaps not clearly recognized by our leaders. And we have to listen to criticism. However, criticism which is dishonest and outright misleading is not helpful. When the criticism is motivated by hatred or greed, it is not even "criticism" -- it moves into pure fabrication and malicious fiction. For example, Talk Radio provides an abundance of criticism, but much of it is simply incompetent noise or hate-mongering -- not helpful.

We need Critics, but we only need "competent" critics. People who tell us the truth, even if it is not what we want to hear. Three leading radio hosts in particular are Great Disappointments in terms of guiding a mature polity:

RUSH LIMBAUGH. This self-serving drug addict claims to have the largest number of listeners at 25 million. In fact, the actual number is closer to 2 million depending on what a "listener" is, and this exaggerated distortion, is just the beginning of his lies, which only get bigger and bigger. Limbaugh's hypocrisy was highlighted without refutation in a book by the notorious Al Franken.

Recently, and I mean three months before Obama had ever set foot in the Oval Office, Limbaugh announced that "the Obama recession is in full swing". Apparently the fraudulent packaging of subprime loans as high-grade securities by investment bankers, the collapse of the automobile industry, and the tripling of oil prices have less impact on economics than the arrival of a campaigner who could motivate millions of people to join an effort to bring hope back to America. We all know how the stock market reacts to Hope...wait, doesn't optimism tend to increase participation? The eagerness to assign blame to people who are not responsible, and the inability to research the objective facts of causation, is the watermark of a Nazi.

SEAN HANNITY. This Fox News anchor is angry and eager to assign blame to "liberals", using that word in a manner he would like everyone to misunderstand. Hannity describes Obama as "an extreme liberal", and excoriated Obama for choosing "one of the hardest left-wing radicals on the left", Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff.

Somehow Hannity overlooked the fact that Emanuel's record and history reveals a Clintonesque Centrist, described by McCain's ally, the South Carolina Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, as "a wise choice". Graham spent years working with Emanuel and described him as "honest, direct and candid...willing to work to find common ground".

The use of an inflammatory label as a conclusion, "hardest left-wing radical", without bothering to substantiate a basis for the conclusion, is the watermark of an idiologue.

BILL O'REILLY. The creator of "the No-spin Zone" in the highest rated news network, this former attorney and creator of news, a "news entrepreneur", is as intensely ideological as any: He constantly spins. He is unique from other media personalities in his claim that he is NOT ideological. His hypocrisy is highlighted in painful detail on the website, www.oreilly-sucks.com. O'Reilly is perhaps the most wealthy of the bullies in the sandbox, and he apologized for failing to give close oversight over the Bush Administration and its defalcations with respect to the "massive corruption" forces which have destroyed America. He apologized! During the campaigns, in an interview with Guiliani, O'Reilly recommended that McCain appoint Guiliani as Attorney General and Romney as Secretary of Treasury -- with both of them empowered to interrogate "and punish every banker" involved in the financial collapse. This is an example of a "solution" that is barely more than self-promotion, and makes no practical sense. To his further credit, O'Reilly did acknowledge that Wall Street was taken over by "gangsters". But appointing one of them, Romney, as a "go to guy" to PUNISH investment bankers, would solve nothing.

The Polity really needs commentary, recommendations, and hearings. We need the jury poll, the forum, the marketplace of ideas. We just do NOT need hate-mongerers appealing to our fears. We do not need people who got rich by spouting ignorance all over our public airwaves. We need people who will address the urgencies and gravities of our days and our nights, as we fall deeper into this impoverishment of opportunities. We need critics of policy who are competent to investigate facts.