I Reject And Renounce This Ad

Last week, I tried to write a piece about the dangers of careless communication, my point being that the overuse of clichés and code and sound bites was undermining our ability to convey meaning. I re-read that piece last night and thought it was okay. It started strong, had a couple of good bits, but kind of unraveled toward the end. With that in mind, I hereby reject and renounce that last post.

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How’s that for using the mother of all sound bites du jour?

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Here’s what happened.

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Before sitting down at the computer, I usually wander around the house for a couple of days letting my thoughts percolate and this post was not different. However, as I was getting everything fixed in my mind, two things happened that threw me off message. One of them is sort of my fault, the other I lay at the feet of Tim Russert.

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Russert is the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, one of the Sunday morning news programs I watch fairly often. About a year ago, Tim had a number of pastors and ministers discussing faith and…something. As they went around the table, one of them said, ‘…and that’s how they want you to see it. But look, Tim, the reality of the situation is…’. And for some reason, that phrase, ‘But look, Tim’ got stuck in my head.

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At the time, I found it pretty amusing because it was such a clumsy transitional phrase. A spin-comma if you will, and from such an articulate group of speakers. Kind of lazy, I thought, but whatever, they were talking out their asses anyway, so what. But then I heard it again on another program. Then another. Then another. Then another.

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It was annoying.

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Then another. Then another. Then another.

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It was insulting.

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I hit critical mass while watching, coincidentally, Meet the Press, again. Russert was hosting a roundtable with two Democratic pundit/consultants and a pair of their Republican counterparts. For every question Tim asked, there were four ‘But looks’. Over and over again. Question after question. Amazingly, they spun their own spin, which is akin to looking into a mirror with another mirror behind you and getting that reflection of infinity. It blows your mind. For 20 minutes I watched this craziness, and the longer I watched, the more upset I became. But not with the pundits. I was mad at Tim, and by extension, all reporters.

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My anger comes from the belief that the press has a responsibility, no, a duty, to find and report the truth, not act as enablers. Every time they fail to call one of these liars out, the truth takes another punch to the head. I keep waiting for someone to finally say ‘No, you look. The question isn’t what those people were doing, living downstream from your chemical plant. The question is whether your company dumped toxic, mutation inducing chemicals into the river to begin with.’ I won’t hold my breath, these are Slinky people after all.

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But the damage was done. My frustration bubbled over and I failed to edit myself.

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Stupid Tim Russert.

Now the Mike Savage thing, that one was my own damn fault.

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I quit listening to talk radio, liberal and conservative, about a year and a half ago. I couldn’t take it anymore. My issue with talk radio is that most of it consists of preaching to the choir. If a host’s political ideology is anti-puppy, there’s a good chance that most of the audience is anti-puppy, too. To their way of thinking, being pro-puppy is not only out of the question, but stupid, unenlightened and wrong. Woe unto dogs.

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I stopped listening because the host/listener symbiosis began to scare me. Plus, I am decidedly pro-fish. Hosts vilified their detractors and the audience lined up behind them with torches. There was no open-mindedness. Ideas from a contrarian point of view were ridiculed not because they sucked, but because of who espoused them and that’s a fucked up foundation to build a worldview upon. Which brings me to Savage.

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Savage was given a ‘Freedom of Speech’ award, apparently for being a racist homophobe, and invited to speak at the ceremony. He declined, sending a DVD of himself giving a speech instead. C-SPAN did not cover the DVD (Look! It’s shiny!), citing their policy of covering these kinds of events LIVE. Savage and his followers blew a collective gasket. Mike cried censorship and compared C-SPAN to the Nazi, which strikes me as a stretch. I don’t think a good old-fashioned, goosesteppin’ Nazi hate-fest would put me to sleep like C-SPAN does. His listeners, ever the faithful mob, bombarded C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb with e-mails, calling him a ‘coward’, a ‘homosexual’, and a ‘dickhead’. If you can find the video of Lamb reading these e-mails on air, treat yourself, the breadth of ignorance is staggering.

With that event in mind, and dedicated to writing some king of rant on the evils of agenda-driven radio, I tried listening to the knuckleheads again. I made it to the first commercial break, all of about 10 minutes. Everything was either pro- or anti-puppy, you were a heartless moron for holding a dissenting opinion, and the audience went along with whatever the host said, no questions asked. Not an open mind to be heard anywhere on the dial. Pissed me off something fierce.

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So I ranted and my point about becoming better consumers of information slipped away, lost in my own internal noise.

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All because of Mike Savage and Tim Russert.

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Bastards. I hope they both catch distemper.

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