A few folks who have known me for quite some time, remember when I was going through my phase of constantly reading the news and commenting on what I read. I spent a lot of time listening to the Talk Radio programs on the AM dial, and would spend a large part of my evenings watching the various news channels. And you know – I am a fairly opinionated guy (who would have ever guessed, right?) and rarely shy about proffering that point of view. The result was that I got extremely agitated over stuff that I had no control over. And that agitation would spill into normal conversation, turning quite a few people off to holding any conversation with me. Over time, I eventually noticed. And being the type of person I am – I sat down and analyzed every aspect of things to try and figure out what was wrong.
My discovery was a simple one – the news. Particularly the news presented by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX NEWS, where presenters offered very biased opinions of events and situations in angered tones and statements. I realized that the reason it was done this way was that it made for better ratings. That’s right, people shouting and turning purple with rage sells a lot better than someone calmly stating the news. Its interesting to watch people have conflict with one another, and let’s face it – its entertainment. And once I realized how I was being manipulated through this manner of Infotainment (my term for it), I turned off the news I was paying attention to. I sought out other ways of getting news – focusing on sources where the bias was not as harsh (all news has some form of bias from the individuals reporting it) nor where the way it was presented meant that I was watching the intellectual equivalent of Saturday Professional Wrestling. It took quite some time, but I eventually found news sources that seemed not be as biased to me – NPR Radio, and the BBC.
But all of that has gotten me into a mode of thinking (a dangerous place to be indeed)…Is our society of today starting to mimic the anger and overly testosterone-laced posturing that we see on the news programs? You don’t have to go very far on the internet to find conversations between folks on a topic of a political nature. And when you read the attached commentary, it does not take long before the insults and accusations start to get hurled. Oddly enough, I see a lot of this same behavior in public places. People talking politics at a table in a loud manner, trying to be heard over the noisy crowd in the rest of the establishment. The eventual pull of others into the conversation, coming from tables other than the one where the conversation originated. After a few moments, veiled insults and threats get traded.
I have had this happen to me as well. With my shoulder-length hair, I am frequently noted as being the “liberal hippy” professor at the college I teach at. I happily embrace the hippy moniker – its not only a lifestyle I admire, but I also understand how much influence it has had in our modern society through inventions and progressive thinking. But I am not a liberal, nor am I a conservative. I do not vote in the primary elections here in Texas, as that affiliates you with a political party. I am an independent, unaffiliated voter and am happy to stay that way. I don’t vote a straight party ticket. I vote for the candidate that makes the most sense, and abstain from the races where a single candidate is running. Political parties do not interest me in the slightest. And yet, I am still labeled a liberal based on my clothing and my hair length.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve become a society of angry people. Ready to shout down anyone that does not figure into our equation of what is “right” and “good” in this world. Somewhere, we lost the manner of respecting people who do not completely agree with us on whatever topic. And I am at a bit of a loss to try and explain where it went, why it disappeared from our society’s landscape, or if it can ever be found and reinstalled. But I can hope…