Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I was looking for the audio link of the Carter interview which demonstrates clearly that his remarks on W were not misinterpreted, misquoted or taken out of context, but it appears to have disappeared.
However, I did find this interesting blog about religion and journalism, which not only wraps up the entire incident but offers some interesting moderated commentary. Apparently the bloggers are not only willing to delete comments that are irrelevant to the purpose of the blog but weigh in to keep things on-topic. This amazing secret keeps the flamers to a minimum and makes the blog worth a visit regardless of the actual subject matter. I'm bookmarking this one.
The comments on Columbia Journalism Review's blog, by contrast, are useless -- a handful of flamers ranting at each other and none of them making serious points about the various entries. Religion isn't the only thing the media apparently don't get -- Over at the Poynter Institute, there's a discussion of how to keep things civil but allow "The People" to be heard.
IMNSHO, there are a lot of people who don't deserve to be heard. If there is one thing my brief stint in talk radio taught me, it's the difference between who thinks and who dials the phone. The frequent callers are not representative of the average person. However, there is a fascination in extreme behavior that will provide an audience for movies like "Jackass," for radio shock jocks, for exploitive reality shows and for what, in an earlier age, would have been called inappropriate material.
Is this the first time in history we've seen crowds gather to sup the swill? Certainly not. In post-medieval times, the entertainment in the public square was coarse, bawdy and frequently cruel and violent, and people crowded to enjoy it.
But those people were disenfranchised cogs in the machine. They were flesh-robots and cannon-fodder whose views and opinions were not part of what guided the polity. Once we began to count on them to participate in governing, we also started a system of public schools and general attempts at moral uplift.
Today, that's seen as oppressive, and the Voice of the People is revered. Well, that's theoretically a good thing, but, if the media were really interested in hearing what people think, and not just gathering a throng of gape-jawed peasants for their Punch-and-Judy show, they'd invest more money in polling and in competent reporting rather than simply opening the gates to the loudmouths who represent our basest instincts while intimidating and shouting down our better sides.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Edmund Burke:
Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.
And as far as ranking presidents goes, I consider Jimmy Carter a representative of our better sides. But what he said about the Bush administration would have been correct no matter who said it.