Sunday, March 06, 2005

Gannon/Guckert: Why is the public so silent?

I think there’s a simple explanation as to why Gannon/Guckert-gate has not gotten more media play: sheer overload. There are so many, many, many things to be outraged about, but one’s well of outrage is not limitless, and if I spend all my time being outraged I will turn into a raving lunatic. In addition, who among us can claim surprise at this latest in a series of revelations showing that our government has so little respect for their own policies that they are compelled to hire propagandists to get their message out? Clearly this is an admission that their message cannot stand on its own merits.

We the public are presently being assaulted on so many sides that it’s really hard to focus on any one thing like this Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert fellow. How can I pile that on top of being heartsick about what’s going on in Iraq, Guantánamo, Afghanistan; the essentially undefended ports in CA with Oakland in particular being susceptible to “dirty bomb” attack; a President (and Governor) trying to make certain that I will be going hungry in my elder years; watching as my country turns into a theocratic morass; seeing the devaluation of intellect and reason and discourse and ethics; and on and on...

We all have a limited amount of energy, after devoting the requisite amounts to our work and self-maintenance, and if I focus all of that remaining energy on things such as I’ve enumerated above, what’s left of a life for me? I guess this defines me as not-a-martyr.

It may be that I am writing this as much in response to an email from a friend who wants me to become politically active, and sees this as a moral responsibility in spite of my protestations that I am not cut out for that face-to-face sort of thing. Meanwhile, today I threw out the pleading missives from many wanting financial support for their very worthy causes. It is simple: I am feeling stretched thin, stretched to the limit, about to be torn apart.

I think there is another reason that not much attention has been paid to the Gannon-Guckert incident, and that is that there are now so many competing foci for our attention -- 500-channel cable TV, limitless DVDs, video games, along with all the music and theater shows that have always been around. During the Vietnam war two things were different: (1) Everyone in a large age cohort of males was at risk of going to war, so vastly more attention was paid to that war, and (2) nearly all of the news we got come from just a few sources, so we all had somewhat of a common base upon which to communicate.

Nowadays, with everyone doing their own thing, and no one trusting the veracity of anything except what fits with their own preconceived notions, there really is no meaningful communication. Is some of it because of the internet, with its ADHD-encouraging structure and complete lack of any fact-checkers? Our students really cannot critically evaluate what they see on the internet, and give credence to amazingly cockamamie tales that never would have seen the light of day when printed matter had to pass through editors.

I don’t even know how current events can be fruitfully discussed anymore, when people can’t seem to tell truth from fiction. How can discourse proceed without a shared reality?

Or, maybe people merely expect to be lied to, all the time, so they’re simply not surprised. Maybe they consider the rest of us to be naïve bumpkins for our being appalled at such a state of affairs. Maybe they’re correct?

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