I have been told that younger Americans get their information mainly online or on TV and not through books. What a pity! To me, books are beautiful to hold and to read. The solitude that reading a book requires, ideally, without interruption, allows for reflection and is better suited to human capacities. Quick reads of brief "breaking news" snippets, which are frequently interrupted, mid-sentence, by other presumed "breaking news" snippets, is an exercise better suited to a machine, and not to a human being. I fear that this cognitive style teaches us to behave as if we all have attention deficit disorders.
Also, a steady diet of presenting mere entertainment as "hard breaking news" has diminished our national capacity to reason. Becoming accustomed to trashing a public figure over minor, often personal matters, confusing rude gossip with policy or substance, has harmed us morally.
How , then, can we find out "what's happening?"
Only a handful of us read or sample 20-50 different media outlets daily (I do, that's part of my job). I try to read newspapers and journals with radically different points of view. But, even if I am careful to read both The Weekly Standard and The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, The National Review, Frontpage, City Journal, Commentary, and, of course, my own blogsite, Pajamas Media--and Salon, Ha'aretz, The Huffington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, and the New York Observer; even if I methodically, glumly, switch back and forth from CNN to MSNBC, from FOX to the BBC, and then on to channels 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9; even if I listen to both conservative and liberal commentators--even then, I do not always feel well informed.
I fear that I am only hearing biased positions, even propaganda, from partisan non-expert Talking Heads. One cannot simply draw an invisible line somewhere in the "middle" of the sandbox and proclaim that the essential truth lies, roughly, in the middle, right between Big Lie #1 and Big Lie #2.
Many people do not know what is going on. And I'm talking about the educated folk, the media Talking Heads!
Thus, I am not surprised by the results of Howard Stern's recent radio foray into Harlem. He had someone question passersby about whether they are voting for Obama or McCain. The interviewer attributed McCain's positions to Obama. No one noticed or protested. If Obama was against stem cell research and for remaining in Iraq and, if by electing him, they would also be electing Sarah Palin as Vice-President, well, that was just fine with the interviewees.Obama was their guy, his position on the issues mattered not.
Okay, on the street, people are rushing somewhere; perhaps they are also intimidated by the interviewer's microphone. Thus, a few days ago I polled a number of pro-Obama feminist leaders. I asked them whether they could tell me what Obama's voting (not rhetorical) record has been on issues pertaining to women's rights. Some of these feminists had previously been Hillary supporters, others had claimed Obama as their choice from the start. All are now voting for Obama.
Guess what? The first eight responders could not tell me anything about Obama's voting record. Nada, zilch. This did not seem to bother them. Indeed, some were annoyed that I was bothering to ask. (One woman told me that she had "no time to do the research but why didn't I do it since I was so eager to have it."--well, she's right). Others tried to lobby me to vote for Obama or accused me outright of working for McPalin and Bush.
When I said that I was planning to write in Hillary's name as the only way I had of protesting the sexist shennanigans of the DNC, I was told to "get over it," "that I would be voting for McPalin if I did so," "that one cannot vote for a perfect candidate," (granted, all too true), "that I'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face." One woman asked: "Do you want to destroy the Supreme Court?" Another concluded: "There is only one pro-choice and pro-equal pay candidate and that's Obama. " "The alternative is more than scary."
A few of the feminists tried to shame and bully me into voting for Obama. None took kindly, or even respectfully, to the idea that I might write in Hillary's name. Only one of the eight feminists paused. Yes, she is also voting for Obama but she wrote that she could not "defend him. Many see him as the next King others as the lesser of two evils. I fall somewhere in between that."
This same feminist continued. "I am so angry at the DNC. The reason they are so dangerous is because of their total ignorance about how misogynist they are. They haven't a clue. And that makes them more dangerous than people who know their own hatreds. I agree with you. I'm frightened of Obama because all we have are promises with no background to show for them. The current feminist leadership has become the right arm of the democratic party, something I always feared would happen, and now it has happened. "
So: The people interviewed on the streets of Harlem and the feminist leaders whom I contacted have all been swept up into the Celebrity Cult of Obama Our Leader. The fact that they don't know his record on the issues that matter to them does not seem to bother anyone. The group, Feminists for Obama, is sending around a list of women's issues that are at stake in the next election. They are right, these issues are important--but none of us have more than a rhetorical clue about what Obama will do. Some feminists believe that they or their friends will be working in the Obama White House and for them, that is sufficient.
Tempers are running way too high. Those who support Obama fear that McCain's supporters are right-wing "fascists." Those who support McCain fear that Obama's supporters are left-wing "fascists." Both groups have accused each other of exciting rage and racism. To be honest, I have observed more anger in living rooms, classrooms, and on the street from Obama supporters than from McCain supporters--many of whom, nevertheless, are quick to remind me that, in the event of trouble, they have weapons and know how to use them.
The last Presidential Debates tonight are not a boxing match, nor are they a final episode of American Idol. We will soon be voting for the survival of Western civilization as we understand it.
May God bless America.