For the past few weeks, the newswires were alive with the saga of Shirley Shirrod, the Department of Agriculture employee forced to resign due to a malicious blogger taking some of her comments out of context.
Criticisms are flying in all directions. The Obama administration should have vetted the information they received. The right wing media fanned the flames. Yet at the foundation of the current hot news story is a malevolent blogger, who deliberately and willfully manipulated the truth. We aren’t hearing much about him.
While Shirley Shirrod has become a household name, Andrew Breitbart remains relatively cloaked in anonymity. When Mr. Breitbart deliberately edited video tape in order to misrepresent Shirley Shirrod for his own aims, he committed a crime called “libel.” As a nation, we have become so accustomed to this crime through the work of Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and their compatriots, that Breitbart’s actions barely raise an eyebrow.
Instead of a much-needed, in depth discussion delving into the disintegration of our public media and the complicity of said media on the disappearance of intelligent political discourse, two sides select their talking points, and the discussion is narrowed to meaningless rhetoric. The public sits and stares at the illuminated screen and numbly sucks up the slanted rhetoric like deer in headlights. The whine of the television seems to act as a hypnotic devise that instantly freezes neural pathways in the prefrontal lobe. Rational thought all but evaporates and is replaced by visceral sensations and feelings of righteousness.
David Gregory addresses his panel of well-known journalists and politicians and they all give the patent responses dictated by their respective right or left orientations. The idiot box, as my grandfather Darrel Abel used to refer to the television, drones out the same messages over and over. To Mr. Gregory’s credit, he attempts to get his panelists to clarify the apparent incongruities in their statements. How do Republican conservatives reconcile the apparent hypocrisy between offering tax cuts for the wealthy, when such actions will increase the federal deficit? But such questioning is outside the talking points, so the respondent parrots the same messages over and over again until Mr. Gregory is forced to abandon his quest in futility.
The television used to be a three-dimensional object. Computers once filled entire buildings with their volume. Now our televisions, computers and phones are flattening out. Electronics in two dimensions are more and more becoming the required accessories in any well-apportioned room. The computer binary language has entered the contemporary world in rapid force and has become the international language.
As our information delivery systems flatten, so does the information they project. Our world is reduced to ones and zeros, left or right, secular or religious, right or wrong. Flat. It is what we are becoming as sentient beings. Our perceptions and analyses of our very complex world are shedding information by an order of magnitude. How can we hope to solve multidimensional problems with two dimensional solutions?