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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sick of partisans

I'm not sure why the political talk shows are set up so that everybody on them is either hard left or hard right. (Maybe because Screenwriting 101 tells us that tension makes for good drama.) There are no independents, which means, basically, there is no one capable of thinking independently.

I've never listened to either Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage, but I have listened to Sean Hannity, and his viewpoint is always predictable. I occasionally watch O'Reilly, who doesn't lean quite as predictably to the right as he is often accused (on the other hand he's definitely got a little of the bullying Morton Downey Jr. to him).

I listened to Air America twice when it was first launched. The one lasting impression I was left with there was the frequency of the advertisements for products curing impotence, which I found, well, quite telling. I've also watched Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Matthews gives an impression of being somewhat open; the other two are nothing but bundles of hatred for Republicans.

Fox News and MSNBC are, very conveniently, located right next to each other in the channel lineup, so if you appreciate rigidity in thinking, you can flip back and forth very easily. But to be realistic, there won't be much flipping going on. Most people do turn on the TV to see their own beliefs confirmed, not challenged. (How many Democrats do you know who watch Fox News, or Republicans who watch MSNBC?)

But wouldn't a truly open-minded, nonpartisan commentator would be more interesting to listen to? And perhaps a little more credible? If you already know what someone is going to say, why bother listening? It's a little like watching a second rate movie you've already seen. You can almost say the lines along with the actors. (The only lines moviegoers tend to recite are the good ones, however, so there wouldn't be much reciting going on during a political talk show.)

I would love to be able to put my trust in a truly independent, open-minded commentator with an IQ of 180, who took positions from both sides of the fence. I can think of no such person on television. A lot of people think of themselves as open-minded, but in fact their definition of "open-minded" is the opposite: people whose minds are open only to their viewpoint.

There are too many people whose stance on an issue is all too predictably based on their political affiliation. (My party, right or wrong.)

Why does being against amnesty for illegal immigrants means you have to be pro-life on abortion, or be against gun control? Why does being pro-choice on abortion means you have to be against the death penalty, or for affirmative action?

The worst thing about all those spin artists on TV is that none will ever admit that their side has screwed up. You probably know someone like that from your personal life, someone who will never admit he's made a mistake. You doubtless find him infuriating. And if you've been around him long enough, you've learned to avoid him as much as possible. That's probably the best attitude to take towards the political shows.

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