January 04, 2006


C-Span for Dummies

...Whether you like or dislike either of them, political pundit Bill O’Reilly and pop-culture icon David Letterman squared-off on the January 3 episode of Letterman’s Late Show on CBS. While the exchange, which grew a bit heated at times, covered some of the usual current popular topics (e.g., replacing the word “Christmas” with “holidays,” Cindy Sheehan, and the Iraqi War), an incident occurred which helped to show the perpetuation of ignorance.
...When I use the term “ignorance,” I really mean it in the terms as it’s defined: without knowledge, or uninformed. It shouldn’t be assumed that I’m throwing such a strong word around as liberally as many people throw around other popular terms (e.g., “commie,” “fascist,” etc.).
...At one point in the talk between the two talk-show hosts, Letterman informed O’Reilly that he believed that 60% of what O’Reilly says is “crap.” Letterman admitted that the figure of 60% was a rough estimate, but what he said next was more disturbing than the opinions that either man held on the particular issues. O’Reilly wanted Letterman to discuss the things with which he disagreed, but Letterman explained that he didn’t watch O’Reilly’s show—he just reads what other people have to say about him.
...Here is where we see the rearing of the ugly head that is ignorance—actually, make that trendy ignorance.
...It has become popular to ignore something which bores you, but simultaneously criticize it because you hear and see others criticizing it, too. Pretending to be informed has taken the place of actually being informed. Following like sheep is now more popular than questioning where the shepherd is leading the flock.
...Such trendy ignorance can come from people with differing beliefs and ideologies. Conservatives who may have never listened to Randi Rhodes will lambaste her and call her a communist; liberals who have never listened to Rush Limbaugh will be quick to refer to him as a racist or fascist. Either way, such opinions will be welcomed with open arms by peers—most of whom are lacking exposure to those with whom they disagree themselves.
...It’s more than likely that many viewers of such variety shows like the Late Show are viewing the programs for their entertainment value. Unfortunately, when issues of public policy or politics are discussed, the audience in question—who likely know more about professional wrestling or American Idol as opposed to who their House representative is or why the Electoral College is in the Constitution—feel informed on the important issues simply because the host is offering witty one-liners on them. They might know everything about Lindsay Lohan, but won’t have a clue as to who Brian Lamb is. It’s no matter to them; they’ll still feel like a current events insider.
...Sadly, there is one thing that is worse in such a situation: Those who are fans of the variety/entertainment show hosts will quickly say that their host was the winner of the given debate. Such is the case with the Letterman-O’Reilly sparring session; bloggers who are fans of Letterman declared him the winner of the quarrel, saying that it’s a weak argument to suggest that a person should actually know what his/her rival says to realistically disagree with it.
...I suppose that this is going to be the case when pop-culture and public policy mix. Those who watch Stacked or Nanny 911 will consider themselves as knowledgeable as those who listen to NPR or watch C-Span; those who watch David Letterman, Jay Leno, or Conan O’Brien will view themselves as informed as those whose political information comes from Rush Limbaugh or Randi Rhodes; those who never miss Elimidate will consider themselves as well-versed in current events as those who never miss Washington Journal.
...They’ll always feel that way because their friends agree with them.


Post a Comment

<< Home