Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Discourse Off Course

When someone has to write a blog post clarifying who a campaign rally participant was yelling "Kill Him" about, something has gone seriously askew.

The media seems more interested in covering the morons doing this kind of nonsense that are supporting McCain, but it's going on on both sides (I present exhibit A for instance). I raise this point not to try to get into a shouting match about which side may or may not be worse, but because it's awful on both sides - and that's a problem.

And, yes, Rachel Maddow, when you invite David Frum on your show so you can use him as a tool to beat on the McCain campaign and instead he decides to show you are part of the discourse problem, he's hitting the nail on the head.

Is it any wonder we have people who want to vote for Obama "because of his policies" but obviously have no idea what his policies are?

Or, from the latest CBS poll, that 1 in 25 Americans are bothered that "Obama is a Muslim"? (Apparently, about 4 times that - about 13% - still think Obama is a Muslim. How nice of that ignorant 9% to not hold their ignorant perceptions against him.) And more than half of voters think McCain is more likely than Obama to raise taxes!? (McCain doesn't want to raise taxes on anyone, Obama's at least admitting that he wants to dramatically raise taxes on the top 1 in 20 Americans.)

Of course, CBS (like all major outlets) is part of the problem too. Without even touching the topic of media bias, I present this graphic that I ripped off their website while reading their poll:

CBS Horserace logo

Politics should be about ideas, not a "horse race". Media outlets cover the "horse race" because it's easy. You run some polls, you bring on some pundits to guess at why things changed. Actually taking time to look into issues might require some work, so they shy away. Night after night: new poll, same punditry, same ignorant public. If you're lucky, you get a new soundbite with the poll (and clearly, sound bites are sufficient to understand proposals for 700 billion dollar government actions).

One of the most frustrating things I've heard in this entire campaign season is friends of mine telling me how Tina Fey has "nailed" her impression of Sarah Palin. Yeah, Tina Fey looks similar, and her impressive talents at vocal impersonation do a great job, but the Palin she "plays" is a moron. Sarah Palin is no moron, but my friends are taking their cues about Palin from a late night comedy show. Of course this says nothing about the greater concern that a great swath of "young people" are choosing the Daily Show and Colbert Report as their primary news sources. Splendid.

Now I don't want to pretend like lack of civil discourse is anything new. We can trace the tradition back to at least 1800 and James Callender. But, this is America - shouldn't we be making progress?

Can we all come together and denounce:

Attack ads that are deliberately misleading, believing moronic spam e-mails about a candidate's religion (or, really, anything in a moronic spam e-mail?!), listening to "the haters" - like Coulter and Olbermann, voting for someone because of stupid "soft issues" like they're my same race/gender/whatever, they'd be fun to have a drink with, etc., and reading blogs that start rumors like this one.


Update: Foolishly I headed over to Eric Massa's "diary" (blog) which is hosted at the Daily Kos. Here is an ad from their side bar:

Hate-based ad for the W. movie

If you think that's funny, I'm going to say that you're what's wrong with today's politics.

And a challenge to the Daily Kos and Eric Massa: Do you think that ad is appropriate to be shown on your blog? Do you think that helps promote civility?

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