Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Some People Say We Have To Leave It There

Upton Sinclair
I was pleased to see this quote on Chris Hayes's show a few weeks back.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
It's from Upton Sinclair in 1935, about his failed run for the California governorship, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked. I believe Greg Mitchell has written some on it.

And Hayes was looking at this in regards to climate change, were it is apt. But it clearly goes beyond that. The media and conservative politics have a vested interest in not paying serious attention to many serious issues.

Elections, infrastructure, voting access, any scientific consensus, etc.

For the GOP it's more important to redefine a situation to fit and agree with their decades old ideological stances. No matter the state of the economy, the answer to improve things will be a series of tax cuts. No matter how much need there is in the country for aid, the answer will be to cut the social safety net. No matter the national security standing of the nation, increased expenditures are needed. And actual understanding is irrelevant to these politicians jobs.

And even when their once was agreement about the facts and the problem, new pressure from the old guard means that it's better to no longer agree with yourself. The future of environment will no longer be a problem. Access to birth control becomes controversial. They may have had some common sense, but that common sense isn't worth losing their jobs, or paychecks over.

It's all sports, particularly for the media. Who sounds better? Who's more convincing? Who's more popular? Who had the biggest blooper this week?

For the media, if it wants to talk about some blatantly ridiculous fact free position of a political party, it will only get them "labelled". And that seems to scare the media. They won't get invited to all the parties. Press flacks won't rush to them with the latest spin. So it's better to not rock the boat, unless everyone already agrees on the topic. Then it's a lot easier.

They learn to not be controversial to the wrong people.

So media becomes ridiculous, often playing it safe. Often not digging beneath the surface. Often just repeating what others say, without questioning the validity. It's not worth risking that salary to look closer.

Former Secretary of State (and future presidential candidate) Hilary Clinton had this thought on the state of media:
"A lot of serious news reporting has become more entertainment driven and more opinion-driven as opposed to factual," she said. "People book onto the shows, political figures, commentators who will be controversial who will be provocative because it’s a good show. You might not learn anything but you might be entertained and I think that’s just become an unfortunate pattern that I wish could be broken."
And I can't disagree. There are some good venues still out there. Some that are interested in a real discussion or real analysis, but it's mostly fluff you could fast forward through and miss nothing.

Honestly, how many shows bring on a round table that spout off the obvious? So little new information comes out. So it's come to the point that news channels need to have constant ALERTS and BREAKING NEWS.

They may be stating the obvious. They may be repeating information you already heard earlier in the day. But you get a flashing words at the bottom of the screen.

We need people who understand what they are doing, and care about what they are doing. And it wouldn't hurt if they cared about serious discussions and debates.

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