Toxic Environment For Discourse

Posted: March 27, 2010 in Politics
Tags: , , , ,

First, it is important to note that news media, particularly television news media, is pretty much in the business of entertainment.  The idealistic purpose for news media would be to provide information.  But really they just want eyeballs on their station or their newspaper or magazine.  So there is a natural tendency for media to focus on the sensational.  So that means that what sometimes may appear to be going on the world through the lens of the media may not be that realistic view of what really is going on in the world.

That said, while it is probably not as bad as it seems, there is not an insignificant amount of bad mojo out there when it comes to discussing today’s issues.  Things are getting too emotional.  Opinions are being shaped by hyperbole.  A lot of people have an us-against-them mentality, and the assumption is that people with differing opinions have ulterior motives, usually involving power grabs if not outright world domination.  It is hard to have a dialogue with someone you believe is truly evil.  I mean, how do you compromise with evil?  So instead of discussions, you have battles and it is winner-take-all.  This is certainly not an environment conducive toward problem solving.

People start to too easily dismiss different ideas, often labeling those that espouse them  as “blind liberals” or “extreme right-wingers” or “too socialist or progressive” or “too pro-rich” or whatever.  At the same time, people get so attached to their own ideologies that they refuse to even consider ideas that even very slightly fall outside of that system.  You have people that rely so heavily on “canned arguments” that they break them out even when it makes no sense to do so in the context of the conversation actually taking place.  You even have another set of people who will just criticize everyone while contributing nothing in the name of being above it all.  Problems can be a lot more easily solved if a group of people with differing ideas can sit down together and just have a discussion (true discussion with both talking and listening) without everyone feeling that the other guy is out to get them, instead of the every-person-for-him/herself approach.

Really, I think the media is not only hyping this environment, they are also contributing to it.  Fox News/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh do not want to see successful resolutions.  Neither do MSNBC/Keith Obermann/Chris Matthews.  They want conflict.  They want controversy.  They want anger.  They create senseless “canned arguments” and repeat them over and over.  This is what sells, this is what makes them all rich.  When they see the tea parties and hear the angry callers and all that, they see fat wallets for themselves.  Worse yet, some politicians are seeing the money being made, and are beginning to see this as a way to raise campaign funds.  It’s not good if the people we send to Washington to solve problems decide that creating problems is better for “business”!

Common sense should dictate that the vast majority of the people really do want what is best for themselves and each other.  Of course they will all have differing opinions, but we have to stop believing that just because someone disagrees with us that they are bad for the country or are seeking to ruin it.  The truth of the matter is that there is validity in reasonable opinions ranging the whole political spectrum, conservative to liberal, libertarian to socialist.  Naturally you have extremists, but that can’t be an excuse to use broad strokes to dismiss entire ideologies or else you must dismiss everything.  I know some people bristle when they hear people talk about being “open-minded”, but you really miss out on some good ideas and thoughts (even if you don’t ultimately agree with them) if you are  not.

Next time you have a political discussion with someone, make it point not to label the person or dismiss an entire ideology.  Try listening to what the other person is saying, and seek to understand their point of view.  I think you will find it interesting, and such discussions could lead to something more productive than attempting to make a discussion a big contest.  Oh, and while it is good to call your representatives to let them know what you think, it is not good to make threats.  If you are really that mad, sit on your thoughts for a few days and settle down.  Only make the call when you can let your viewpoint known in a calm, reasonable way.  It will have more impact that way.  People tend to dismiss the thoughts of those that scare them and think are crazy!


  1. Welcome back…on vacation?
    Regarding post: absolutely agree with you, we are a nation reduced to 140 characters of information, and preferably give us information that entertains and provokes, and keeps those TV ratings up. I hope you are right, I hope what the media is showing is an exaggeration of reality.

  2. gesvol says:

    Nah, no vacation. Just very busy! (I need a vacation! 🙂 )

    It is good to know that someone cares whether I post or not! 😉

  3. Busy keeps one out of trouble, lest you join a tea party movement..*snickers* ..just teasing..there seems like there is just too much to comment on lately…too much to read…too much to digest.

  4. gesvol says:

    Reblogged this on World's (Not So) Funniest Blog and commented:

    Wrote this back in 2010, but I think it is as applicable as ever today. I would add that I think I can add politicians as a group contributing to the toxic environment with their rhetoric. And along with political ideologies, I think I would add religious differences as causing bad friction. Finally, social media is just terrible for political discussion (if you could even call what happens there “discussion”).

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