Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


April 13, 2015: We Live in One Big Infomercial

By Rob Tenery, MD on April 13, 2015

What do Keith Olbermann and Mark Levin have in common? It might be open to debate, but I would call both of them smart and well informed. They both, however, take the same facts and spin out almost completely different messages. Not that either is lying, only telling the truth  in their way. But what they share is they both bring down the debate to a lower level with their degrading characterizations of individuals with whom they disagree. Even those who support their particular position on a subject are either turned off, or become as radical as they are. In either case, these commentators and those that support them, are often left out of the debate by those who are willing to look at the differing positions in a more reasoned way.  The two make for ‘good press’ but not necessarily for meaningful dialogue. The good they might accomplish is that they bring attention to subjects that can be debated in a more subdued environment, but usually without them.

Being conservative, I support Mark Levin’s positions, almost down the line, but when he labels our Secretary of State as ‘mashed potato face', it reflects poorly on Levin, even if his negative point about John Kerry was valid. That alone exonerates Kerry to a certain extent. Levin and Olbermann are just trying to entertain their listeners, or viewers, with their added ‘color’, but they, and many other media outlets are instrumental in adding to the unrest in this country. Maybe even more important, they and other commentators are influencing the attitude and methods with whom we dialogue. We have become less understanding because, in most situations, our minds are already made up. Far too many postings on Facebook are nothing more than unsubstantiated babble with an occasional shred of truth dropped in. Like Olbermann and Levin, most of us know who they are and take their comments accordingly.

Reporters in this country don’t just report the news any more. They have become journalists, commentators and editors who analyze the facts and slant their message, before releasing it to the public. Most reflect the bias of their upbringing, their education and their employer. The consumers get the news from these sources, but not all these sources--- usually only the ones that are sympathetic to their points of view. We, the consumers, are basically lazy. Rather than doing the background work to come to the opinions we espouse, we rely on others (our preselected media sources) to shape our opinions for us.

Let's examine how many, if not most of us, come to an opinion on a particular political candidate. First, we take note of the candidate’s political party. Next, we check with the media sources that we rely on, which virtually always lean the same way we do. We may also contact individuals with whom we regularly communicate for their points of view. Finally, we might interact with the candidates by listening to their recorded or printed excerpts, or even attending a rally where they appear. In that order. That’s the exact reverse of the way our positions should be formulated. The truth be told, most of us, who do care about this country, don’t have an open mind.  How many people listen to both CNBC and Fox, on a regular basis? Very few, I would guess. Thus, elections are won or lost by how well those of us who are concerned about the issues that affect this country, get those, that don’t seem to care as much, out to vote.

Another controversial commentator, Rush Limbaugh, once said, “You can never change a liberal’s mind.” I think he was only half-right, because he didn’t include conservatives as well.





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