Sunday, September 23, 2007

“Alternative” News Sources

This week’s “Parade” magazine featured a piece on Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” a program that mixes news-of-the-day with satire. I kind of like Colbert, and also John Stewart, whose “The Dailey Show” Colbert first appeared on. However, and at the risk of being labeled a stick-in-the-mud, or some equal-but-hipper criticism, I believe that these programs contribute to the sad political atmosphere we have to deal with.

“Why?” you may ask, would I take such a ridiculous position? Isn’t comedy a staple of our society, and isn’t political humor and lampooning elected officials a tradition as long-standing as the republic itself? Well, the answers are “yes” and “yes.” The problem isn’t with Colbert or Stewart, or Leno or Letterman or O’Brien or any of the other comics who focus their sharp wit on our elected and appointed leaders.

We live in a time of great political divisiveness, greater than at any time in my lifetime, and accompanying that divisiveness is a fairly broad ignorance (or abandonment) of what constitutes acceptable, sensible and productive discourse. Perhaps the best of the current examples of how vile and in-the-gutter political “discussion” has sunk to is the idiotic and insulting ad by attacking General David Petraeus, ably abetted by The New York Times, which now says it “may” have erred in giving MoveOn a sweetheart deal on the price of the ad. Such low-style tactics and language have become commonplace in today’s political debate, which is a shame. It’s a shame because it demonizes those with whom classless (an artless) individuals and organizations like MoveOn disagree instead of trying to persuade people through serious debate that the opponents are wrong.

Combine this devolution from sensible discourse to the playground behavior we have today with a mainstream media that has lost the war to tell us what’s going on in an objective, fair, and balanced way, and the problem becomes seriously magnified. Add into this bewildering mix a large segment of our population that is self-absorbed and lazy, and that—incredibly—thinks shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are reporting the news, and we have recipe for a great lack of knowledge of what’s going on in the world, and a high degree of misunderstanding about world and national events and issues. We can’t blame Colbert, Stewart and the others, of course; these programs are not intended to inform, they are intended to entertain, and if the truth gets skewed or trampled, well, so what? And, if people are too lame to realize that they are watching comedy, not news coverage, no big deal.

Maybe, given that so many don’t take their responsibility to be informed seriously, or who can’t disagree without malice and behaving like children, we ought to marvel that things aren’t worse.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

No comments: