Herewith, my own two cents: It reminded me of a televised interview with Norman Mailer. Mailer is ordinarily too obnoxious to take in anything but small doses, but he was spot on here.Let me interrupt here and say I agree with this statement. But on with the email...
The interviewer asked him a question (the forum was a university ampitheatre), and Mailer was interrupted by an audience member after his answer seemed overlong. "You ask me a question that requires anI think DS is definitely on to something here. But I don't think this at all determines whether America is stupid. For one who believes in the market, I have to entertain the argument that it is America who not only tolerates, but demands--in literal economic terms--"the format." Nevertheless, I do think DS has put his finger on a key problem. And I think this point of his really gets to the worst of it:
intelligent answer, and I'm going to take the time to construct one. You've been spoiled into accepting a soundbite, but I refuse to answer that way," paraphrased.
Mailer had hit on the point that I'm taking overlong, myself, to make: that Americans are not so stupid as they are Pavlovian. The media delivers in bite-sized morsels, and demands bite-sized compliance.
No radio talk show call-in guest would be allowed to explain, with any kind of thoroughness, his or her answer to a question. The staccato intimidation characteristic of hosts is to blame, a function of the market imperative. Ppeople must be "hooked" into a radio show or television program, and channel-surfing into the middle of a long screed about Iraq, say, or public education, leaves the surfer unsure of the topic. Alienated, bored, he changes, searching for instant
intellectual gratification. Click goes the tuner, and that show loses audience share. And revenue.
Callers know this, and imitate the format. They're more interested in hearing their voice on the radio for 20 seconds than they are in addressing the issue -- a case of momentary fame trumping intellectual honesty. The host is more interested in plowing through several conditioned callers rather than one or two informative ones, in the interest of "objectivity," and perceived "balance."
In sum, I blame the format. The sheep that participate are silly proles, but they're behaving as taught: they're really reacting to a crappy format that rewards super-simplified thought and confrontation over intellectual substance.
The host is more interested in plowing through several conditioned callers rather than one or two informative ones, in the interest of "objectivity," and perceived "balance."You see, not only has the public debate gone to pot, but people believe that the lack of nuance is a good thing! Take O'Reilly for example. His baloney program, on which people have no opportunity to explain or even begin to articulate their points, is billed as a "spin-free" zone. People love O'Reilly because they think he is keeping his guests from giving their pat, prepared answers by keeping them off guard. He does nothing of the sort. The only thing I get from O'Reilly is that he's afraid of a real debate--a real, thinking debate.