Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

I haven't posted in a while because I've been battling a rather nasty flu bug. But nothing that good ol' virus could dish out makes me as sick as the type of rubbish I've read the past few days.

The first was in a Tuesday letter to the editor by David Kerst regarding myself and a coworker — reporter John Upton. It wasn't the disagreement with my point of view (or even pot shots at my professionalism) that got my blood boiling. That kind of thing comes with the territory. Rather, it was his wanton use of the words "liberal" and "hippie" regarding a topic that really has nothing to do with politics.

The second came in a Wednesday article (coincidentally by John Upton) in which South San Joaquin Republican organizer Frank Aquila was quoted as saying the Democratic majority in Congress will cause "the economy to go south, illegals to go north, taxes to go up, employment to go down, terrorists to come in, tax breaks to go out, social security to go away and terrorist rights to come to stay."

All rhetoric, all ad hominem, all bluster. No substance. This is what passes for political discourse? It makes me weep silently at my keyboard.

Evidently, name-calling didn't go out of style after fifth grade. In the political arena, I find this type of "argument," if one can call it that, is the refuge of people with weak ideas and weaker communication skills. If one uses blanket concepts that gloss over facts, truth, detail and nuance — things that people tend to consider important in policy debates — it's pretty easy to make a point, compared with laying out a foundation of thought, careful consideration and analysis.

While easier than actually exercising critical thinking, introspection or questioning oneself, calling someone a "hippie" or a "facist" rarely improves any situation. It's polarizing and offers nothing constructive, not to mention being petty and insulting.

Unfortunately, as long as people keep listening to the folks who exchange thoughtfulness for banality, we'll just hear more of the same. Which is why I say, tune them out.


The MacMurchy Fam said...

Wow - what a well-written piece, Jon the Journalist! And right-on in theory, as well. Goodness knows, we'll go toe-to-toe up close and personal when I arrive in March. But 'til then, keep us raising the bar on rational, relational debate - which is to say, winsome debate - all the while, lowering the boom on rhetorical nonsense. Looking forward to meeting you, Jon.

The MacMurchy Fam said...

And I promise not to call you a 'hippie' if you refrain from referring to me as a 'right wing-nut!' Deal...