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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Assault on Reason

Saying former VP Al Gore and I see eye to eye on everything would be quite an overstatement, but there are a few things... probably more than few. Actually, one issue which he has written about I am in full support of. In his book “The Assault on Reason” he describes, among other things, how “television’s quasi-hypnotic effect is one reason that the political economy supported by the television industry” has (among other things) polarized us and changed political discussion from its more intelligent past.

Unfortunately, I find this to be true in my own interaction with the TV. It’s really uncomfortably refreshing to turn on one of the cable news stations and hear them talking about something I agree with – and the complete opposite when I don’t. When considered, it seems obvious that these cable news stations, while providing “news,” mostly are businesses attempting to sell their product just as much as McDonalds wants you to buy a hamburger. It seems the result of watching these programs consistently is not original ideas and thoughtful discussion, but virtually regurgitated opinions of charismatic talking heads, and this (like Mr. Gore describes) is assaulting our ability to reason.

Perhaps the following quote from the book can help sum it up:

- “Our systematic exposure to fear and other arousal stimuli on television can be exploited by the clever public relations specialist, advertiser, or politician…”

This fear can be attached to you name it: taxes, gays, religion, war, etc… It is easy to see ourselves or people we know respond with deeply emotive responses to such topics.

I am not trying to state that visual media is all bad. Indeed I agree again with how Mr. Gore states it:

- “visual images—pictures, graphs, cartoons, and computer models— communicate information about the climate crisis at a level deeper than words alone could convey. Similarly, the horrifying pictures that came back to us from both Vietnam and the Iraq war helped facilitate shifts in public sentiment against failing wars that needed to end.”

These are important things to be disseminated, without a doubt, but when they are repeatedly driven at emotive responses, and we let ourselves be taken by them - it crosses the line.

Of course, Gore goes on to bash President Bush and the GOP which I felt was a bit unnessecary, but when using it as an example, it helps to drive home his major point.

I find the best way to discover my own thoughts on an issue is to read; read an article or a book. Reading does still enable the "trapping" into regurgitated opinions, but it sure does a better job of encouraging thought.

In the same vein, I encourage everyone to read this article written by Ted Koppel called Olbermann, O'Reilly and the death of real news. It really does a great job of describing his first hand perspective on how modern news has been denuded.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/12/AR2010111202857.html

As always, thanks for reading J. AMDG