Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Age of Unreason

Is reason dead? Has critical thinking lost credence in the world today? I fear it may have. It seems that “the public,” that amorphous mass of unwashed, uneducated peons, has lost interest in facts, considering them less important than what sounds good.

I suppose that’s a natural result of depending on television for our news. A successful network can devote only a limited time to news, and that limited time has to include ALL of the current events that the producers deem to be “newsworthy.” Those constraints place fairly harsh limits on the amount of time a news anchor can devote to any one story. That has conditioned us to accept a 10-second “sound bite” as a legitimate and complete statement of position on an issue. Yes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but in TV news, a video of someone’s face adds little to the message. The message itself is usually short enough that it would be considered a summary paragraph in a newspaper article or formal essay.

In such a limited format, there’s no time to present details and supporting facts. In addition, the journalists love to report controversy, which means that instead of reporting facts on which to base our decisions, they report the sound bites and bullet statements from “both” sides – even if there are more than two points of view to be found. And to increase the friction, they often show the most extreme supporters on each side, guaranteeing maximum vitriol and malice in their claims of the evils of their opponents.

And THAT’S where the problems get even worse. The issue and the proponents become completely polarized. The spokespeople, trying to sway the maximum number of people in their limited time in the spotlight, turn their sound bites away from statements of fact toward emotional pleas, misleading claims, and personal attacks on the opposition.

Over the next several days, I’m going to take a look at one such issue – illegal immigration. I had originally intended to cover several of the more obvious simplified arguments within this single entry…but I discovered I had too much to say on them. Rather than simplify and shorten my own arguments, I’m asking you, my loyal readers (both of you) to follow with me over the next week or so.

Edit, 28JUN2007 - I lost interest in the examples. Sorry. If you really want them, let me know. Moving on now.

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