Kos – never long on wit – unconsciously does his best to prove O’Reilly right by responding:
“As for my part, I’m cancelling [sic] my JetBlue American Express card and will be looking at alternative options for my future travel. Too bad. Unfortunately, JetBlue just told me (and the rest of us) that they accept O’Reilly’s bullshit smears.”
What interests me in this brouhaha is not the substance, but the amount of heat generated by both sides over a relatively small matter. We live in a society where large sections of the media – on and off line – are incapable of viewing the world outside their ideological blinders. For them, politics is blood sport. They are essentially like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, endlessly headed off in fits of rage against their enemies. (Glenn Reynolds theorizes O’Reilly’s attack was “payback for the Netroots’ efforts to keep Democratic debates off of Fox.” Possibly. But even if not, it is simply more of that flying monkey behavior coming from both sides.)
Of course the unspoken motivation for this behavior – the elephant in this room of monkeys – is money. I don’t know if Markos Zuniga is capable of being a reasonable adult, but if he were, he would probably lose lots of readers and cash. The same is true of Bill O’Reilly. If he stopped shouting people down and got into a dialog with them, I suspect, sadly, fewer viewers would watch.
This economic motive is augmented by ideological loathing of the type practiced broadly by the likes of Kos and O’Reilly and more subtly – but perhaps more lethally – by pseudo-objective outlets like The New York Times. Everyone is playing to his or her audience. But the loser is that audience. It is we the citizens.
With this polarized media atmosphere, it is small wonder that the President and the Congress have the pathetic poll numbers they do. Our leaders present themselves to us through that media and, in a very real sense, are part of it. They are one and the same. The Congress is a media personality. Much of what they do is media defined. It is one big show, much like sports. And we citizens have been reduced to fans, chanting “Our team is red hot, your team’s worth diddley-squat,” just as we did in junior high. But the games and the issues are real.
Meanwhile, we are left with a polity that is virtually dysfunctional, lost in their own electoral ambitions and outmoded ideological preachments and not talking to each other. We have a Left with no response to a misogynistic/homophobic religious fascist enemy that abhors separation of church and state and a Right willing to use their religious values to shut down the US Congress over the fate of one woman when they could not possibly have any true medical knowledge of her situation.
Talk about irony. And we’re supposed to be the modern society? Bring back Ancient Greece. Or at least Chairman Deng, who famously said when throwing off the yoke of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung thought, “I don’t care whether a cat is black or white. I only care if it catches mice.”
Our own ideological yokes are nowhere near as rigid as China’s, but we could still use a little of Chairman Deng’s advice. In fact, we don’t have to look very deep in our own history to find our own version of it. It’s called pragmatism.
Roger L. Simon is a novelist and a screenwriter and CEO of Pajamas Media.