Why does the mainstream media make such a show of being fair, of giving a voice to even the nuttiest proponents of the nuttiest policy proposals?
The first amendment right to free speech shouldn’t be an invitation for every loud, irrational speaker to find expression in the public forum. Last summer at Tea Party rallies and political meet-ups the voices of unreason shouted down and interrupted more sensible discourse. Master interrupter, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews often argues with guests with whom he obviously disagrees only to thank them profusely at the end of a segment and call them good guys. It’s as if he feels he must be super-careful not to pierce the superficial veil of bi-partisanship that exists primarily in the minds of TV anchors, possibly to preserve their entrée into the halls of power in the future.
The blurring of lines between rational debate and unsubstantiated opinion is a disturbing trend in today’s political world. Apparently any fool can be heard on any subject regardless of how poorly informed he may be, and in front of television sets and computers across the nation, equally uninformed observers nod their approval. And it isn’t just society’s untutored elements who muddy the waters with chaotic reasoning and irrelevancies.
There is an assemblage of silky-voiced pundits who appear with great regularity on established news sites to air views that leave a rancid aftertaste. People like Peggy Noonan and George Will would have us believe they have examined the issues and discovered the meaning of life. But when all is thrashed out little has been accomplished to help ordinary folk understand the meaning of their lives in the context of the political struggles they face.
Why would George Will for example, align himself with Tea Partiers and attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and other notables on the extreme right? He is generally regarded with a modicum of respect, but it is hard to justify his appearance with such rabid partisans
As the call for smaller government and lower taxes grows more shrill we are told that “painful choices” must be made and that they include cutbacks in social programs, public-sector retirement funds and spending projects, all attacks on the more defenseless segments of society with no plans to increase taxes on the rich or pay for the wars we are fighting. And at a time when education is one of our most compelling obligations local governments show no signs of funding educational programs to the extent required to make them effective. In California voters have been so successful over time in blocking property-tax increases that the state’s education system has suffered as a result.
And the new majority in Congress considers repeal of the health-care reform bill a priority, calling the individual insurance mandate unconstitutional. One wonders why payroll deductions for Social Security aren’t being targeted in the same way, or perhaps there are movements afoot to do just that. Most of the time there is no clear definition by conservatives of how to proceed or what programs to pursue - - generalizations that aren’t rooted in concrete solutions.
If we are to improve educational standards we’ll have to spend time and money on innovative procedures. The system will have to become bigger not smaller. If we are to develop a stronger economy we’ll have to invest in new industry and training programs not constrict those areas by embracing what some politicians like to call the entrepreneurial spirit, something that doesn’t exist in a vacuum but needs the careful combined nurturing of both the private and public sectors.
It is important that we grasp the significance of what our society offers as a backdrop for our development as economic organisms. Bill Gates Senior -- in support of the estate tax -- points out that neither he nor others of great wealth achieved their fortunes without the enormous benefits available because we are the kind of country we are. To his mind it is only appropriate that he and the fiscal elite are generous with their accumulated wealth and give back to the country that has served to enable their success. Gates, the senior, is a refreshing reminder that there are still some reasonable voices in our midst.