Sunday, September 12, 2010

Central Standards

I posted a comment on the PBS Facebook page a day or two ago, responding to a comment critical of David Brooks (New York Times) and Mark Shields (syndicated columnist), two regular political analysts who appear on the PBS NewsHour. The comment to which I responded suggested that the two men are not sufficiently "left" or "right" to be worth listening to; rather, it suggested that both are centrists. My comment was this: "I appreciate Shields and Brooks precisely because they are not the strident, shrill, argumentative political shills that seem so popular today. While they both speak from a relatively centrist viewpoint, they have different perspectives that are thought-provoking."

One of the responses to my comment follows: "Jose's point about the pro-establishment bias and lack of diverse opinions in terms of race, class, political opinion and economic perspective is a good one. They speak in the calming, measured tones of authority that needn't raise its voice, but that doesn't erase the troubles or the suffering that does cause people to raise their voices in "shrill" or "argumentative" protest, most of which will never be aired on PBS, just as it will never be broadcast on Fox News."

When I read that comment, and others like it, I realized that what I consider civil, reasoned debated and arguments by political analysts (both of whom have admittedly biased perspectives but who can understand their opposition's viewpoint) are viewed by others as worthless because of their visible lack of outrage. And then, in thinking back just a couple of years, I realized I have felt the same from time to time.

Occasionally, I make it a point to watch far-right commentators--who I do consider shrill, argumentative nutjobs--just so I know what they are saying. But I used to watch their counterparts farther to the left much more frequently because I agreed with their positions and, I suppose, I wanted my ego stroked by hearing my opinions echoed by the likes of Keith Obermann. I still appreciate Keith Obermann's positions far more than I do Glenn Beck's (who I consider a dangerous psychopath), but I don't expect either of them to give me anything but their narrow perspective on the world. For the most part, they do not deliver news or analysis; they deliver feel-good-juice for those who share their perspectives (or, blood-pressure-enhancement to those who don't).

Perhaps it's simply because I'm getting older that I find the shrill, argumentative, high-pitched outrage I so often hear from apologists for extreme points of view very, very annoying. I can't help but think that the people who drink it up like koolaid, whichever flavor, are missing the opportunity to achieve any level of true understanding. When one's perspective is so completely controlled by one's own opinions that any differing opinions are merely dismissed, understanding is not possible.

You might think I'm becoming a centrist myself to read what I've just written. Possibly, but I think not. I still have strong opinions, most of them constructed from a very liberal perspective, but I choose to listen more to those who do not share them. I tend not to listen, though, to people who screech about their political positions but, instead, I listen to reasoned 'calming, measured tones" that tell me the speakers are telling me what they think, not simply what they feel.

1 comment:

Me, You, or Ellie said...

"Reasoned calming, measured tones"? C'mon buddy. This is America. Be shrill!

;) Ellie