Thursday, May 31, 2007

Giving it a thought

Last night, I turned on the tele during the News Hour with Jim Lehrer and listened to Gwen Ifill talk to Al Gore about his new book, The Assault on Reason.
I'm deeply concerned that the role of reason, and facts, and logic in the way we make our decisions in America has been diminished significantly, to the point where we could make a decision to invade a country that didn't attack us, at a time when 70 percent of the American people genuinely had the impression and belief that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks of 9/11.
Then, this morning, I was reading the new material at Chris Mooney's intersection and he is dealing with the same thing. The fact that the political control of the "message" is so tight that one can never allow facts to get in the way.

Maybe it has to do with media that is more concerned about ratings than about news. All of the local channels did a whale of a job this past several weeks, devoting a significant amount of time and resources to the story of two lost whales. They even named one Delta. But the real story of the Delta is that of a small fish called the delta smelt. Maybe, Delta the whale may weigh more than all of the remaining delta smelt combined and the pumping of water from the Delta toward SoCal and the farms of the Central Valley has pulled this species close to extinction.

In each case cited, the political leadership has started with the answer and selected the observations that would fit those facts. They have made a science of language to frame problems that (in the case of 9/11 and Iraq) never existed or (in the case of global warming) are too scary in their implication of political failure to allow the public to believe that they just might be true.

I don't have solutions. I have developed a fairly well calibrated BS-Meter and use it frequently. Gore says that he has some remedies, but I don't think that politicians can be the source of change. If any one institution can perform that function, it is the media and they have steadfastly refused to do more than allow the talking heads to use both sides of their mouths.

Maybe one reason for the decline in newspaper circulation is that we all know they are part of the problem.

I am increasingly convinced that we need to have a Truth Think Tank (since being from a think tank is the one way to get media attention). Anyone want to sign on?

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