Inspection- Dishonest Brokers of Discussion and Debate

Orwell and Bradbury have supplied an endless list of authors, pundits and pols with handy schmandy talking points: some accurate, some not, some far less than serious… and more unintended comedy than anything else. Now, as a society, we’re not quite at the stage of plunging everything inconvenient down the memory hole. But we’re getting there.

Witness the sometimes worse than witless Birther debates. Recently, over at Huffington, I was busy posting my own conclusions… while observing trolls attempting to discuss and debate topics with regular readers, and regular readers attempting to fend off trolls. It reminds me of multiple-sided partisan debate over at sometimes: like alien species from opposite ends of the galaxy attempting to communicate. And, like almost all contentious discussions these days, I noticed Birthers use their own fact check sources and cynics of the Birthers use theirs.

I know: obvious. But maybe not, if you look at this collectively and in a less than partisan fashion.

I read a while back about those on the Left who were concerned with Right Wing-trolls deleting inconvenient facts from Wiki. Though I have seen no evidence of Lefties involved in the same act of vandalism, let’s assume at least some of it has happened. Then last week I was working on a possible future column regarding terrorism and needed a source. I’m not a giant Wiki fan, but it’s still better than no source, so I went to a abortion-related violence page I had visited several times before. Every incident on that page that occurred during the previous administration had disappeared. Every single damn… one wiped clean. I’ve seen similar acts of vandalism on various source-able sites: like deleting possible acts of terrorism under that administration to prevent anyone claiming something similar to the underwear bomber happened under Bush: like the shoe bomber and anthrax attacks.

This kind of selective editing is vandalism, in my opinion, with the the distinct partisan purpose of providing invalid talking points like this…

Being countered by…

One can’t help but compare this tactic with the health care debate where opponents were willing to claim all kinds of gates to Hell would open, consider using any form of slander, even weld the weapons of racism, during the last week. Yet I pick out these examples; not to bash the Right, but to make a point.

Assuming for a moment that those who might claim this has become a matter of common public behavior on all sides; one would also assume, if one were stupid, that the “fact” we have multiple flavors of partisanship balances it all out. No, it really doesn’t. Even if both sides are equally guilty; something I personally don’t believe, such “balance” is no balance at all. It becomes a free for all pile on where we never see what’s underneath, and only see who gets to pile on last.

No matter if it’s mostly one side of the political equation, or more than one, we need desperately need leaders and members of the general public interested in doing whatever is best… even if it doesn’t serve their cause or their absolutist take on anything. We need this to function as a society. Every act of representative government is compromise: even if it’s just those opposed willing not to storm the castle because they lost. You cannot have a free society without compromise. Otherwise you simply have rule of the most abusive; those most willing to do, say, anything… commit any crime to gain power. Then, no matter how vile their actions, their words; they are certain to make any criminal act or behavior legal… legal for them, and only them.

The bad rap compromise gets doesn’t serve us well at all. battling without compromise is like being at an old Howard Johnsons restaurant and all those flavors of ice cream being used in some weird war. Instead of “balance” we get some weird football-like pile on where vanilla ice cream buries chocolate so no one can taste it, then vanilla tries to compromise and gets buried again, or retaliates to the point no one gets to taste the finer points of chocolate. And all the other flavors don’t have a damn chance in hell of being tasted at all.

Who is to blame for this food fight?

More than anyone: media. News isn’t entertainment, but they have been intermixed because profit has become so much more important than serving the public; being real journalists. The profits of huge corporations are better served by food fights than Firing Line like programs: more gentle: respectful, fair, discussions.

And until we tire of “pro-” wrestling like tactics this is all we will get. Until we grow up enough to realize that skipping over inconvenient facts, and understand that “claims” are not “facts,” we will continue to live in this hellish Groundhog Day. So, yes, the public is to blame too… except there’s no way to present the truth of what’s really happening to them without the presence of leaders and powerful pundits willing to go beyond their personal skew. Those willing to consider that Nixon might need to be impeached and, as much as it pains me to type, those willing to consider the same for Bill Clinton. Those with fewer ulterior motives.

Please remember: I typed “willing to consider,” not necessarily “do,” in that last paragraph. We certainly need those who will buck a trend, especially when that trend is so obviously a need to railroad, to destroy, for personal and political gain. And if you are really are fair, if you really are honest, you will understand that applies whether someone thinks what happened to Richard Nixon went overboard, or if someone thinks what happened to Bill Clinton did.

It’s a matter of being able to step back and look at something outside the framework of your personal, political or religious skew. These days we seem to revel, as a society, in not being able to do that: in refusing to do that. For example. if you have a talking point, before spewing it, investigate and honestly deal with obvious counterpoints that I suspect you yourself can come up with. If we can’t step back: if we refuse… just expect this perpetual tug of war between factions to always be basically dishonest, shallow and self destructive.

One way we could improve this is by challenging the bumper sticker mentality that seems to have gripped the nation. No matter what the opinion if it can be placed on a bumper sticker it’s probably a vast over generalization and so, generally, wrong. One way we could do that is start responding to pat, short, phrases with, “That’s bumper sticker thinking…” Just like in 1984…

“War is peace.”
“Freedom is slavery.”

Or Fahrenheit…

“Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ’em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That’s our official slogan.”

And to those who simply wish to be left alone to believe whatever bumper sticker slogan they wish, I respond with another quote from 451…

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

After all, statements like, “Liberals always respond with insults,” and “Conservatives always change the topic,” are such vast over generalizations. Pretty much any statement that assumes “all” is a vast over generalization… at best. There are almost always exceptions to everything: anything.

If you are intentionally involved in deleting and avoiding inconvenient facts one can only hope that there there is almost always another Winston Smith or Guy Montag out there willing to save, unwilling to burn. Yes, one must hope. Because, to rephrase those quotes from 1984

If you win by denying what’s inconvenient, you lose: we all lose.

A bad bumper sticker, but as close to the truth as such phrases will ever get, I suspect.


Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

©Copyright 2010
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved