Every night the eternal political soap opera machine whirs into action. Millions of Americans , filled with human hopes, and fears, and too often an acute disdain for rationality sit neutrally before their telescreens, waiting to be programmed. Enter Glenn Beck, enter Keith Olbermann, enter the era of postmodern journalism.
In a country farmhouse in rural Iowa, a man fearful of the sexualization of everyday life tunes into Bill O’Reily of Fox news, because his appeal to the moral climate of small town christian culture is in keeping with his own. Satisfied and vindicated at hearing the “Hollywood left” chastised and villanized, he says a prayer for his family and his crops and his country at war and falls peacefully asleep.
In a Lower East Side flat, 20 minutes from the center of the media universe, a hysterical laughter echoes through the cramped living room of a young NYU graduate student offended and demoralized by what he sees as an attack on rationality, freedom of expression, and truth. Keith Olbermann’s witty characterizations of Bill O’Reilly are to him a humorous transfusion of rational blood into the toxic, hostile, irrational climate of American politics.
Somewhere in Georgia, an unemployed former machinist-turned militia member polishes his prized possession—a scoped M14 assault rifle passed to him through the generations. But this instrument of violence is not the only thing passed down to him from his predecessors. On a small, color television in the corner of his garage, the Aryan features of Glenn Beck maniacally oscillate from unmitigated rage to tears of defeat as the drama of American racism marches on.
A young man sits in Jamaica Queens, writing a blog for his college’s Democratic organization wondering how it is that his nation’s major source of information became an incessant middle school shouting match complete with name-calling, gossip, and intense clannishness.
It is clear that modern media had always been distorted, manipulated and influenced by economic and political elites for the purposes of social control, value impregnation, and economic gain. But the postmodern media is something even more sinister than the belated objectives of social engineering.
The main function of modern US political media is to serve as a distraction from the realities of the political questions of our times. By turning the objective into the interpretive, fact into opinion, and distortions into topics for serious consideration we get a country where millions of citizens seriously debate whether public health care could lead to death panels, or health insurance for illegal immigrants, or socialized everything. This “debate” over misinformation distracts people from serious critical questions about American democracy and balancing the need for free-enterprise with answering the moral call to ease human suffering.
Our irrational media has allowed irrationality into the mainstream, if only because irrational, faith-driven people are easier to herd than a questioning, skeptical populace. Why is it that in a country where 40% of the population identifies as Athiest or Agnostic that presidential candidates, if not all candidates are terrified to admit they do not “believe in God,” which is a striking difference to most industrialized democracies with the exception of Ireland and Italy. So who is speaking for us, the real outcasts of the American political mainstream? Who will speak for us?