Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Here’s a perfectly good example of why I don’t watch a whole lot of political shows that rely on talking heads. I’m flipping through the channels tonight and I notice on Scarborough Country they’re discussing global warming. Who do they have on to discuss this issue that could potentially alter the fate of the human race? Could it be scientists? Nope. They have on two talking heads. One of who was John Stossel. I find Stossel about as useful as a tit on a boar. He claims to be a skeptic but all he is a polemic. He never fully examines both sides of the issue and always sides with people on the political right. Tonight, and I’ll admit I didn’t see it all, but he claimed that the reason people back global warming is that they have something against capitalism. He could have had other shoddy science like he has in the past when he attacked people that support the idea that our planet is getting warmer and we are at least partly to blame. He usually finds the three or four scientists who have doubts and acts like that proves him right, but enough about John Stossel and his asinine attempts at skepticism. Let me move on to my original point, talking heads are useless.

Usually on these political talk shows they have guests on that are far from experts. If you want to talk military strategy then having someone on who served in the military, preferably a commander of some sort would be a good idea. If you want to discuss the environment might I be so bold as to suggest a climatologist or a meteorologist. If you want to discuss the economy an economist would be a sound decision. See where I‘m going with this? If these shows want to have truly informed debate then they need truly informed people. They need to stop booking people trying to sell their books and get people to attend their lectures.

Is Ann Coulter really any better informed about current events than most of the people on the blogosphere? I doubt it. So why aren’t they one CNN and Fox News? Well some people think Ann’s 5’9” 98 lb frame with her 9 lb Adam’s apple is sexy, but I digress. Then again other than the fact she is an insane pain in the ass, can think of no other reason to allow her such a large public forum. She is in spite of really being of no exceptional value to any discussion on my TV all the time. Isn’t there anyone else with a valid opinion out there? Couldn’t someone else better discuss the current administration’s policies? Yes they could but because Ann is such an insane pain in the ass she draws ratings. So Ann gets to hee-haw like a jackass on TV and real experts are almost never heard.

There is a danger to this, a very real danger. You see because people are chosen because they are entertaining or because their corporate overlords approve of their message people never get to see the whole picture. Real debate is dead presently. Even Presidential debates that ought to be intellectually stimulating exchanges between to people well versed in rhetoric have become little more than simultaneous campaign speeches. The public never sees real scientific debate that never really makes into the newspaper and has to be found in magazines devoted to science. Political debate is a shouting match burdened with hyperbole and platitudes. It’s no wonder why no one cares about politics or science.

People like John Stossel and Ann Coulter and the countless others who are “Talking loud and saying nothing”, to quote James Brown, ought to be largely ignored. These noise machines are in it largely for their own egos and bank accounts. There are many real experts out there who have real information based on tireless work and very tedious research that could make us all smarter and make the world a better place. But they are hard to find because they avoid inflammatory language and don’t look like they want to be on the cover of a magazine. If the talking heads keep being placed out there as if they are real experts on anything other than how to be on talk shows then I fear we may keep sliding in the wrong direction. We may keep sliding away from reason and towards ignorance.

“Reason and Ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. If either of these can be rendered sufficiently extensive in a country, the machinery of government goes easily on. Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”-- Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man: Being An Answer To Mr. Burke's Attack On The French Revolution, Part the First, Conclusion


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