Thursday, February 10, 2011
...social scientists at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences have found that outrage talk is endemic among commentators of all political stripes, but measurably worse on the political right.
Hands up, the first person who's surprised. But wait a minute.
Granted that these folks are scientists and I'm not, the example they give of "outrage talk" from both the left seems to me to be at least flawed, and maybe even totally incompatible with the example from the right
Those examples are
"Whether it’s MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann spitting out his coffee because of some conservative transgression or radio host Michael Savage venomously impugning the character of immigrants, cable television, talk radio and blogs overflow with outrage rhetoric, and even mainstream newspaper columns are not above the fray," they said.
Well, as I say...wait a minute. Keith Olbermann spitting out his coffee (it's called a Spit Take, o bright sparks of Tufts Uni) is by definition an attempt at a comedic reaction. We can discuss whether or not it succeeds as comedy in any given case, but a person who uses the spit take is at least trying to be funny. I would argue they're not even being satirical, but (more importantly) they're certainly not spewing venom. Just coffee, I guess.
But Savage, on the other hand...well, take a look at the most recent handful of quotes as tracked by Media Matters, just as some examples. Forget whether or not you agree with what he's saying, that's not my point (and if you're reading my blog, there's like a one percent chance that you do, anyway). Look at how he's trying to say what he's saying. Is he even trying to make a joke? Forget failing/succeeding, is he even trying?
My point is not that Keith Olbermann has never said anything that went over the top, rhetoric-wise. He has and he's been quick to admit it. My point is, rather than spotlighting the finding that the right is considerably meaner than anything on the left, these scientists appear to have thought they had to tie their own hands by assuring us of their finding, "Oh, but the left is mean too!"
Well, no wonder that's their finding...if they're counting a spit take in the same category as Michael Savage saying that immigrants expect free education, that they are to blame for the bedbug epidemic (and that leprosy, tuberculosis & cholera will follow in their wake). And yes, both of those are real.
It's that old demon bugaboo false equivalence, and unfortunately, it is very, very...President Obama. I do not think we will ever rise above this tragically dark cloud until we accept the truth that when we are talking about vitriol, we are talking, overwhelmingly, about the right.
This is not to say that no one on the left ever has their little slips of frustration, either (including me). But with the right, I think, it isn't little slips. It's their everyday mode of discourse, 24/7.
But of course, I'm not a scientist.
"The boomers have overstayed their welcome," declares the man credited by many with creating the phrase "viral video," Douglas Rushkoff, the author most recently of Program or Be Programmed, a book about digital media. "Generation X is finally at the stage where they can have the jobs the boomers had, and the economy crashes. There's nothing left for them...
O'Brien sits back in his office, guitar in hand, trying to make sense of his personal and digital evolution. First he thinks it through as a performer: "The Beatles were trying to be the Everly Brothers, and they couldn't quite pull it off. Elvis really wanted to sound like Dean Martin. But, you know, by failing …" He stops and starts again. "You have an image in your head of this iconic person. For me, it might have been Johnny Carson, where you grow up with him, and you think, 'Well, that's who I need to be' -- to realize that feeling I had when I was 8, sitting in my parents' house and watching him. And then things happen, and you think, 'Oh, my God, I didn't -- that fell apart.' But it's the failure to be that person or to completely follow through on what he did that leads you to something that's much better."