Knoxville Tragedy Spotlights Hate In Sensationalist Media

Hate is hate. I don’t condone it in any fashion.

The Knoxville man who opened fire on a children’s playing of “Annie” at a Unitarian church was clearly a man looking for someone to blame for his hardships. His conflation of “losing his government subsidies (food stamps)” and “hating liberals” belies his misunderstanding of the political landscape in the US. This man was terribly confused both emotionally and intellectually.

Is it possible that his choice of target was fueled by the growing chorus of sensationalist radio personalities on the right?

The language he used in his open suicide letter points to something that a lot of people are getting wise to: the conservative media’s movement to vilify some categorical political class as “the liberals” is becoming increasingly insular and hateful. One only need to turn on a variety of talk shows to hear the growing chorus of radio and television conservative pundits say things such as, “liberals are the reason why this country is falling apart,” or “the only good liberal is a dead one,” or “San Francisco should get hit by a terrorist attack.”

This rhetoric is the kind of name calling and hatred that should be marginalized to the more radical sectors of our political discourse, not some of the most popular talk radio and television shows in the country.

In an attempt to appropriate the largely successful radicalizing techniques of the Marxists and leftist radicals of the 60’s, the sensationalist right-wing has become increasingly bold with their propaganda. This is not because these folks really believe in that kind of hate: but because it sells.

Name calling is intellectually lazy. It allows dependent thinkers to adopt a set of basic generalized principles such as “Freedom” from a political pundit, and then whenever new information presents itself that cannot be easily synthesized into the existing framework, it is labeled “liberal.”

Instead of synthesizing the many nuances of a socio political situation, all you have to do is hear your favorite talk show host tell you how this new information fits into our overarching theme of “liberal” bashing, and you can walk away and feel like you have your very own political position you can agree with, and don’t even have to understand the details.

On the other hand, you have traditionally exhilarating forums such as crossfire, Meet the Press, Washington week, Talk Of The Nation, etc. These shows at least attempt to bring together diverse viewpoints from individuals who are equipped with good information. These may points of view are free to disagree. You decide.

Unfortunately, these forums pale in comparison to the ratings of Rush. Why? Because multiple competing viewpoints with complex variables require both a high degree of background information, and intellectual rigor to comprehend. It’s much easier to have someone tell you what to believe about a variety of issues and provide only the information you need to argue the status quo the next time you want to talk politics at the water cooler.

It’s a different situation when you have a polite dinner with well-educated guests in a restaurant or at your home. If you dare choose to discuss politics, you realize that name calling, generalizations, and other intellectually lazy positions won’t make much of an impression on your well-informed and discriminating guests.

What does impress is when you present new qualitative facts that alter the logic of a situation or a convincing line of reasoning.

Hate is not proactive political discourse in this country. As we’ve seen, the weak-minded attach to emotions and over-simplify complex subjects. The individuals who are exploiting this for the fame and ratings (profit) should think twice before they get what wish for. Rush, Hannity, and co are very intelligent people capable of making excellent arguments when they want to, but they realize that the majority of their listeners are sycophants. When they tire of hearing themselves talk for 2-3 hours and become intellectually lazy, they can resort to the name calling that the millions of dependent thinkers who listen to their show rely on.

It’s a win-win situation: They more they do it, the better the ratings.

Let’s get back to the task at hand: discussing the facts.

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