A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On Insulation and Confirmation in Politics

It is not a surprise that most political conservatives prefer to watch FOX News; neither is it difficult to believe that most political liberals rate MSNBC as their favorite cable news outlet. Both networks like to present themselves as unbiased. FOX News says that it is fair and balanced, but only political conservatives seem to think so. MSNBC states that it is the place for politics, when in reality it is the place only for liberal politics, which many honest liberals will admit. The fact that conservatives prefer one network while liberals like another sufficiently demonstrates that neither network should be seriously considered as a news outlet. Yes, there are serious journalists that work for both networks, but the evening lineup of each station does not represent the best in journalism, nor should it be considered as serious journalism.

I have no objection to political punditry. If Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann want to wax political, they are free to do so; but O'Reilly needs to stop saying he is in the no spin zone when he is spinning all the time, and Keith Olbermann should refrain from putting on his Edgar R. Murrow voice and acting like a serious and fair journalist after he just had an emotional meltdown levelling an irrational piece of political demogoguery at his enemies in the previous segment. And it is not sufficiently convincing for FOX to badger its few token liberals and MSNBC to hound its very few token conservatives as a way of trying to be "unbiased."

But the fact that segments of the national media have become a disgrace is not the biggest problem we face in the political discourse of our country. Journalists have always lived in the illusion that they are fair, existing in a so-called no spin zone even while they feel a shiver running up and down their leg at the speech of a politician they adore. The most disconcerting issue is the lack of political discourse between common citizens who disagree with one another. Too many prefer insulating themselves from opposing views because they only want to be confirmed in what they already believe. So conservatives watch FOX and liberals watch MSNBC and they go to bed each night secure in the belief that they are right and the other side is wrong. Of course, if one actually wanted to get an honest and fair viewpoint from the other side, the evening lineup of both networks would not be the ones to watch anyway. What Republican wants to watch MSNBC make conservatives out to be stupid; and what Democrat desires to see the FOX evening lineup bash liberals?

The other night I happened upon a round table discussion on health care. I do not remember the network, but it was not one of the two in question here. A dozen or so people were seated around the table, some conservative, others liberal, some supporting President Obama's health care plan and others opposing it. What struck me about the conversation was that, unlike Bill O. and Keith O. the discourse generated much more light than heat. It was a thought-provoking discussion and everyone was positively contributing to the debate. There was no name calling-- no one was labeled a "pinhead" or "the worst person in the world." It was the kind of discussion that Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, and President Obama should be engaged in instead of labeling only one player or another in the complex health care situation as "villains."

When we insulate ourselves from other serious points of view only for the purpose of being confirmed in what we already believe, we cannot say that we have seriously considered the issues before us. It is only in exposing ourselves to other points of view with a willingness to have our perspectives challenged, that we can be serious intellectual players in the important matters before us. Those who only watch the FOX evening lineup of shows and those who only watch the prime time cast on MSNBC are not serious thinkers.

For those who want substantive dialogue, discussion, and debate from both sides, O'Reilly and Olbermann, Hannity and Maddow are not serious options.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


doodlebugmom said...

I like to get my news from Jon Stewart! hahaha!

Allan R. Bevere said...

I prefer Stephen Colbert myself.

Country Parson said...

Well, a conservative I am not, at least in the way the word is used these days. You probably guessed that already. I enjoy Keith for his humorous pomposity that also includes some news on the side, but his snide side gets tiresome. I take Rachel more seriously because she is more honest about her editorializing and generally backs it up with good research. However, for legitimate broadcast news I turn to NPR and Jim Leherer on PBS. CNN provides a decent overview on some of their programming. Fox? Nah, wouldn't touch it.

PS Now and then I tune in on the CBC to find out what the world looks like from up north.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good post, Allan, and though I don't have cable or any tv at the moment, I would concur.

Yes. And it's a shame that so many are attuned to the idea that this kind of "news" is normal and alright, or at least justified.

Unfortunately politicians play to the audience they're given. That seems to give them the political push often needed, but it's too high a price to pay. We need serious, civil dialogue on every side. Policiticans who won't do anything less.

I'm thankful for our Congressman for Grand Rapids (MI), Vern Ehlers, who I believe exemplifies good politics well.


Clay Knick said...

Excellent post! I think much of my frustration with politics has to do with how debates are framed in the various media we have today. I've pretty much stopped watching a lot of TV news except for "Morning Joe."
Even then I don't watch for two hours.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I like to watch "Morning Joe" when I can precisely because they have a group of regulars with differing points of view and they make it a point to have a wide variety of guests. We need more of that and much less of O'Reilly and Olbermann.