The Bigger Issue of Chris Hayes’ Comments

An extremely well argued and thoughtful defense of the Chris Hayes’ controversy was given in The Atlantic today and was done by someone whose “politics are different enough from his (Hayes) that we’re often at odds.”  Well worth the read to put the situation into a reasoned context but there is a bit of a bigger picture looking at this incident.  A few lines at the end of the article sum this up:

Their (Hayes’ critics) larger transgression is contributing to a political culture where most participants shy away from certain subjects because they cannot be forthrightly addressed without ginned up bursts of pointless outrage, much of it feigned. You can have a political culture where controversial subjects are discussed with maturity, or you can have one where nothing arguably offensive is ever said without paroxysms of upset. But you can’t have both.

This is an exceptional point about political debate and the depth in which it usually delves into issues.  Let’s face it.  If American political discourse was a pool, the depth we get out of most debates is typically not safe enough for an ant to dive into without breaking its neck.

The reason for this varies from person to person and is in the eye of the beholder.  It is part lack of interest in politics, part laziness, part overconfidence of knowledge, and many other parts I’m sure others could add.  But the fact is sound bytes have their effect and usually go with little challenge for one reason or another without thorough debate of what is said.  This is what should really worry people in the interest of democracy.

Let’s take the reality that Hayes’ comments during just a few seconds of his show honoring the Memorial Weekend overshadowed everything else that was said.  People focused on just a tiny part and ignored the rest without reason despite a lot more information and depth being included.  Is this right?  Judge for yourself but I would say no.  And there is an important reason.

Now let’s apply this logic elsewhere.  From the Hayes’ incident we see the effectiveness of ignoring so much information in the rest of the show and the shock waves created by a few words.  What if we apply this to, say, the financial sector and the men who run that area of the economy?  What if they don’t say something controversial and instead say something soothing and appeasing, like “everything is fine and we are not going to make bad decisions”?  If we assume the same reaction from Hayes’ comments that many people will just take that short statement and decide the rest of the info is the same and fine without investigating further, what happens?  Unfortunately, we already know this answer.

Sound bytes are effective usually in a horrible way regardless of where they come from and are difficult to combat for the people who have genuine interest in the depths of debate.  But the first step to try to combat this is the simple acceptance there is depth to every debate no matter how easily it can be turned into a slogan or a thirty second commercial.  It is from that initial step reasoned answers can follow.

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