The late comedian Bill Hicks, whose stand-up routines offered fairly profane observations on life in the 1980s and early 1990s, was annoyed by the constant drumming of apocalyptic headlines by CNN.
“War, famine, death, aids, homeless, recession, depression,” Hicks chanted. “War, famine, death, aids, homeless, recession, depression. Then, you look out the window, and *crickets*.
“I want a (happy) Ted Turner newscast,” he continued. “‘Hey, everything’s great, here’s sports.”
Hick’s annoyance today could very likely expand to the Democratic Party, which has promised death and destruction with every piece of legislation, or executive action accomplished in 2017. Some of the farcical claims include:
-If the ACA is repealed, people will die in the streets.
-If net neutrality is repealed, people will die in the streets.
-If the individual mandate is repealed (the tax penalty levied on those who cannot afford insurance), people will die in the streets.
-The tax plan is the apocalypse.
-These tax cuts will have people dying in the streets.
Granted, these are hyperbole, but you get the idea. Still, I drive the streets in my neighborhood, and I haven’t seen one dead body yet. When is this mass extinction supposed to begin?
Now, I don’t mean to be partisan on this blog. In fact, I try to go out of my way to avoid beating the same political drums that form the cadence that is Talk radio and CNN.
Still, I am bothered by the fact that so much anger and fear can be galvanized so quickly by political operatives who have no real connection to the facts. Political action committees put out talking points, as do the leadership of both political parties, as do the political pundits, without really examining the details of the proposal.
The politicians need only give an 8-second soundbite to the news, and the political firestorms follows, all over issues that will have minimal impact on the daily lives of most Americans. Yet, to hear it said on TV, radio, in print, and on the street, “the end is near.”
Those at the top have no real incentive to change this dynamic. The votes of Congress are bought and sold by lobbying firms, regardless of which party is in power. As long as those lobbying firms continue to buy the elections of Congress, those elected have little reason to change, and the firms have no reason to change.
These same firms that buy the Congressional elections also invest in swaying public opinion, and they do so with much style and little substance, providing talking points to the media and members of Congress. So long as this model works, we will continue to see vitriolic political discourse and social volatility.
Therefore, it is our responsibility as individual citizens to break this cycle. It is up to us to demand more, and better information. It is up to us to demand accountability. It is up to us to research the candidates, and vote for the best candidate, not the best publicized candidate. If we continue our failure in this responsibility, then things will continue to get worse, because the current system is a multi-billion dollar industry making thousands of people rich.
Former FCC Commissioner Newton N. Minow once described television as “a vast wasteland,” saying that if you watched TV from sign-on to sign-off, a vast wasteland of sub-par programming is what you would observe. He said it was up to the public to demand better programming, adding that if the public continued to support bad programming, the vast wasteland would remain.
He said that no other bureau or agency could rectify the problem, that it was the duty of the American public to demand better. If they didn’t, then the vast wasteland would be their own fault.
The same holds true for our political system. As long as cable news ratings maintain, and lobbying firms continue to successfully purchase elections and votes, our political discourse will remain volatile, and the mass panic among the rank and file will continue. And we’ll only have ourselves to blame.
Primary election season starts now. Research the candidates, go to their public appearances, ask questions, then vote accordingly. Break the cycle, demand better.