Saturday, July 28, 2007


I'm not a critic. I took a course in graduate school (Illinois State University, 1976) in communication criticism. I enjoyed the class as much as I feared the professor. He sought to give us the tools with which to think about communication and the media. It was a memorable class.

I learned an important principle in that course. Opinion is more than just, "because I think so." Professor Cragan sought to tease out our opinions, and to help us understand what they were and why we held them. In short, we're all critics; we just don't know it.

I don't like today's media circus. I can hardly stand to watch a talk show, or Bill O'Reilly, or any "news" show on Sunday. Talking heads have become shouting heads, and no one offers evidence anymore. Opinion has been reduced to the quick quip, the ad hominem attack, and the guilt by association stain. Reasoned analysis is pretty much gone from the news.

I'm frustrated by this trend. America faces important challenges in Iraq, the Middle East, and in its relationship with the European Union and Russia. We have a health delivery crisis at home with 43 million people with no medical insurance. Hunger and poverty are at home in our cities and in many rural areas. There is a wide gulf between our political institutions and the people they were meant to serve.

These problems are poisoned with a political rhetoric that separates people by religious belief and personal values. Such a belief-based rhetoric makes it impossible to find common ground on very pressing social issues because the necessary compromises that must take place can't. Coalition partners, experts, and politicians are all subject to religious and political litmus tests that prevent elected leaders from effectively working together.

I blame it on a biased media. I blame it on a populace that can't think critically about issues. I blame it on politicians who base their positions on poll results rather than coherent political and moral principles. I'm ready for some fundamental change, because the current direction is a dead end.