Where have people gotten the notion that all opinions deserve equal time and consideration? Yes, it’s true that everyone is entitled to have an opinion and to state it. But, it’s also important to remember that forming one and restating someone else’s are not the same things.
And, furthermore, while all of us are entitled to “share” our opinions with others, it’s equally critical to understand that others are just as entitled not to listen.
Moreover, there are two essential components of opinion exchange. First, the pontificators MUST know what they are talking about. Facts, not storybook factoids or the sound bite du jour must be in the preponderance.
Second, the listeners MUST possess enough practical understanding to know when something is, as stand-up comedian Lewis Black notably rants, “Eschew.”
They needn’t be topical experts, mind you. But, at a minimum, they need to be on speaking terms with common sense.
The second component is far more important than the first one. And, herein dwells the crux of our problems in the United States of America. Routine estrangements from common sense always reduce opinions to sheer verbal twaddle.
A growing tolerance for ambiguity in matters political, legal, social, science, and economic scares the dickens out of people with 3-digit IQs. Yet, it seems NOT to faze the U. S. Congress in the least, thereby affirming our nagging suspicion that the aggregate congressional IQ is only 2-digits.
Meaningful deliberations in Congress have all but disappeared over the past 25-years. I hate risking some readers labeling me as crude, but whenever I must choose between crystal clarity and potential ambiguity, I always go with the former.
And, the clearest description for that once august body is a term used by Clint Eastwood in the movie Heartbreak Ridge: “Cluster-fuck.” The endless healthcare reform debate is only ONE of many recent examples.
A few decades ago, the national information media consisted of a smattering of syndicated radio broadcasters (a few talkies), mainstream TV (ABC, CBS, and NBC), and a sprinkling of major newspapers: the New York Times was at the apex.
Today, we have all of these and MORE. Now there’s the “New Media,” a popular term used to describe everything else: Internet, BLOGS, 24-hour cable news outlets (Fox, MSNBC, and CNN to name a few), and a virtually unlimited array of talk radio programming that runs the gambit from extreme Left to extreme Right.
And, not only do we have these venues of information; we don’t need TVs or radios to access the stuff. A desktop or laptop computer, or a smart phone (iPhone is the most popular) is all we need to listen or view it all via various webcasts, web streams, and podcasts.
Access to timely and important information is NOT the problem; we’re all virtually awash with the stuff. But, with all this access comes a huge noise to signal ratio.
So, on the negative side is the unfortunate fact that for every legitimate source of information (despite the venue), there are about a hundred bullshit propagandists.
And, of critical note, the clueless population’s decibel level—folks that can’t tell the difference—grows louder by the hour. And, there is a good reason for concern about this.
AARP’s (American Association of Retired People) 2009-estimated number of wage earners is 156-MILLION people. I’m going to add another 50-million to include the obligatory “other” category: people in various other dilemmas but old enough to vote.
About 10% of these folks (21-million or so) are abjectly clueless relative to the real problems we face as a country. But, as always, the clueless don’t even know they’re clueless, and they’re certainly not going to let facts confuse them.
These people confuse nationalism with patriotism; they’re “blood-n-gut” glory types (their guts but other people’s blood). They comprise the “what’s-in-it-for-me” crowd, the same ones who constantly scream; “Don’t raise my taxes!”
And, they constantly equate intellectual curiosity, composed comfort levels with complexity, and the expression of coherent thoughts using complete sentences to elitism.
But mostly, they’re braying idiots that spend inordinate amounts of time calling talk radio shows: Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, and the Liberal hosts on Air America.
They respond to practically every issue they encounter with their favorite acronyms: POS and WTF—look them up; I’ve already depleted my ration of crudeness for this week!
Fox News or MSNBC, depending on their respective political skews, are their ONLY information sources. They’d rather chug a glass of fresh paint than miss any of the talking head broadcasts.
They’ve anointed such intrepid windbags as Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Al Franken (now Senator Franken), Chris Matthews, and other pontificating blowhards as intellectual guiding lights.
They also spend significant time-blocks calling various nationally syndicated talk radio shows: Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, and myriad Liberal hosts on Air America.
And, while a mere 26 to 35-percent of eligible voters do so for presidential elections—it’s far worse in off-year elections—almost ALL of the 21-million loudmouths turn out for both national and local political contests.
And they’re big on gut-feel analysis. It’s based on some imaginary ability they claim to have which allows them to acquire knowledge without the slightest bit of experience or need to use logically reasoned thought.
The late former President, Richard Nixon, popularized the phrase, “Silent Majority.” According to him, it comprised—I’m convinced—a mythical group of issue-astute voters that, while remaining silent in the midst of perpetual political, economic, and social chaos, would suddenly rise up and do the “right” thing when the time came.
The country’s currently broke and in hock to it aggregate eyeballs. Our unemployment rate teeters on 11%; partisan bickering has driven civil discourse to the pits of vulgarity; and we’ve chosen to reward ignorance instead of intelligence.
We’re nearing the decade mark in fighting two wars for which no end is in sight. In fact, our leaders have yet to define “victory” for either of them in clear terms.
Adding insult to injury, our educational system is in the crapper; we have the worst healthcare delivery system of the five major industrialized countries; and illicit drugs are everywhere with absolutely no inkling as to how to address the matter using our brains instead of our emotions.
All the while, we account for 25% of the world’s prison population, even though we account for only 5% of its general population.
We’ve been in the midst of a hyperbole pandemic for the past 20-years or so and the 24-hour TV cable news cycle’s talking heads and various talk radio hosts have been the major carriers.
We’ve allowed a minority of people to redefine the facts as whatever most people believe. Convenience has become an imperative as we’ve let major league jackasses reduce truth to the subservient status of an option.
We’ve permitted self-anointed “experts” of every persuasion to use the syntax of science in conjunction with the language of sales and marketing to hijack legitimate scientific theories and reduce them to mere opinions, equal in stature to those of mindless morons.
None of the talk radio hosts… not Limbaugh, Franken, Imus, Ingraham, Savage, nor several others not worth mentioning, know much (if anything of significance) of the science behind climate change (or that weather and climate are different things), or stem-cell research.
And neither do the TV cable talking heads: Hannity, Olbermann, Mathews, King, O’Reilly, Blitzer, and others.
They just know how to talk on TV and/or radio. They know what to say. The problem is that knowing HOW to talk and knowing WHAT you’re talking about are different matters altogether.
They know how to stir the pot. Their expertise stems mainly from the fact that they know how effective ignorance is as a vaccine for the clueless against the ravages of reality. And they apply it liberally!
As for many mainstream investigative news reporters, they seem more interested in creating insignificant “gotchas” than accomplishing anything as meaningful as educating the American public about the REAL issues.
Meanwhile, the “silent majority” stands around just keeping silent. Maybe they’re looking for directions to their respective polling places. Yeah, that’s it!
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.