David Carr, the media critic for the New York Times, makes a really good point about the Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend:
Distrust of the media was laid down throughout the rally by video montages of ranting broadcast bobble heads. Even with the vast gulf between their faux respective beliefs, Mr. Stewart and his co-host, Stephen Colbert, found common ground in the failings of the press. Mr. Colbert awarded some media outlets a medal for helping keep fear alive; Mr. Stewart gave out his awards to average Americans who go about their business every day in lives built on compromise and comity. …
But here’s the problem: Most Americans don’t watch or pay attention to cable television. In even a good news night, about five million people take a seat on the cable wars, which is less than 2 percent of all Americans. People are scared of what they see in their pay envelopes and neighborhoods, not because of what Keith Olbermann said last night or how Bill O’Reilly came back at him.
“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” Mr. Stewart said, and then went on to say, “not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate,” he said.
All due respect to Mr. Williams and Mr. Sanchez, not many people know or care who they are.
Or Jon Stewart for that matter. (Though he certainly did a lot to make more Americans aware of him this weekend.) I would further add that while cable news is a more recent phenomenon, the idea that partisan bickering dominating the debate is a new and threatening phenomenon is laughable. ReasonTV pretty effectively skewered all the pompous pontificating about negativity in our politics with this video:
Politics inflame and arouse our emotions, especially when the elections are critical. The fact that hyperbole gets used may be unfortunate at times, but it doesn’t mean the fall of the Republic is upon us. It just means we care about what is going on.