timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

connect-the-dots democracy

A few nights ago, we saw two co-hosts of CNN’s Crossfire, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, speak at my wife’s college, just a few miles from here. They seemed very well-informed, respectful, and geniunely funny. I was surprised by the two men, whom I’d heard of, but never really paid attention to until the recent Jon Stewart flap. Paula and I watched the video before their talk, and were expecting some well-worn partisan bickering. Instead, the two men were truly thoughtful, delivering analysis and insight rich with surrounding context, something all but lacking on American political shows.

Watching them on our first episode of Crossfire tonight, Paula said, “I see what Jon Stewart means.” On their show, Begala and Carlson hardly resembled the men we listened to at Moravian College. After their talk, I had one burning question for them, and though the line at the mike was small, I choose to sit in my seat rather than make a fuss. My question was: Why can’t you talk like this on your show?

We all know the answer of course. It’s better for ratings to have Jerry Springer style contentious bickering. As Carville said last week on the Tonight Show, shows like Crossfire are more for “support” than “illumination”. He said that the people who watch Crossfire already know where they stand, and are just looking for good material to use in their arguments with friends, family, and co-workers. In other words, shows like Crossfire are merely TALKING POINT DELIVERY MECHANISMS.

I’ve written about the dangers of polarization in American discourse. I’ve also written that I think the semantic web can help provide the much needed surrounding context in our national discussions.

Right now I’m just tired of having democrats think I’m a republican and republicans think I’m a democrat, simply because I say “I’m not so sure” when they accost me with their rap. Merely objecting to the logic of someone’s position is seen as taking the other side, leaving me in the middle, shaking my head at the staggering effectiveness of Big Media’s connect-the-dots democracy.

No one is ever completely right or completely wrong. The answer’s always in the middle. Context is everything.

And saying so these days is a sure-fire way to piss everyone off.

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