Political pornography

One of the definitions of pornography from Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com) is: “The depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” This same definition can be applied to most political talk-shows.

The likes of Limbaugh, Air America, Hannity, Beck, etc., like pornography, create in the minds of their listeners a false environment. They build a fake world of bifurcation between “us” and a fictitious “them.” They exploit the human need to orient ourselves by a devil and they make that devil our neighbors of a different opinion, just like pornographers convince you that the girl in the picture 1) really looks like that, and 2) is really interested in you. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the professional political polarizers manage to convince an astounding number of Americans that everyone who doesn’t think like the host is an idiot.

Political pornographers try to convince us that “Islamofascist” terrorists are hiding in the bushes outside our houses (when in reality it’s seven times more likely that a terrorist attack will be done by a domestic actor than an international one; www.aaas.org). They try to convince us that we need to spend more on defense than the whole rest of the world COMBINED, even when the ostensibly largest threat to our security is terrorism, which will only be prevented by law enforcement (FBI, CIA, police), not by the military. They try to convince us that putting up a gigantic fence on the border (except across golf courses and through the back yards of particularly wealthy Bush cronies who have contributed $35 million to building his presidential library (http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2688)) will stop the infiltration of terrorism when there is not one known case of a terrorist crossing the border with Mexico illegally. They try to convince us that we can spend our way out of financial problems. They try to convince us that they are the standard-bearers of political Christianity while saying things like “We need to put the stigma back into accepting public assistance!”

And all this is specifically targeted “to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction” devoid of reason. And why? Let’s look at another dictionary definition—demagogue: “A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power,” or “one who tries to stir up people’s emotions so as to further his own interests.” There’s a lot of money to be made and a lot of power to be gained by playing on “quick intense emotional reaction[s].” These political pornographers are not trying to educate or inform—their goal is to increase ratings, thereby attracting more advertising, thereby increasing their salaries, bonuses, fame, book deals, speaking engagements, etc. They are certainly NOT trying to help the political discourse of the nation. They are demagogues, period.

The last thing they (like the pornographers) want you to do is use reason. A rational person does not enter the world of pornography, knowing it is ink on paper or dots on a screen that can never fulfill the promise it proffers. Likewise, a rational person knows that the screed-layers on the airwaves can’t possibly be as right about everything as they pretend. There is a very intelligent centrist majority in the nation that doesn’t buy it.

But we get sucked in by our “quick intense emotional reaction[s]” and find it hard to back out. Just like pornography gratifies certain receptors in the brain, so does a sense of superiority. And soon we can’t get enough and end up enslaved to the ego-stroking of self-righteousness, not daring to brave the real world with its gauntlet of compromise, reason and the general goodness of humanity, all of which make us feel so un-special. It’s just like a realization that real-life women don’t really look like that, wear those things, say those things, or think you’re hot.

Real relationships, whether romantic or political, require understanding, compromise, acceptance, compassion, gentle persuasion, a willingness to overlook faults, and a real desire for the best possible outcome.

2 Comments

Reluctant says:

Let’s look at another dictionary definition—demagogue: “A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power,” or “one who tries to stir up people’s emotions so as to further his own interests.”

That’s more than just describing the political talk show hosts. That describes almost every politician as well.

Traveler says:

I think the term of the day is now Islamic-fascist-extremism. I’m not quite sure what that means, but nearly every sound-bite of Senator McCain contains this phrase. Maybe someone will hit him up for a definition. Personally, I think the general categorization of any group (religious, ethnic, or otherwise) is unfair and, frankly, prejudiced. I happen to know several Muslims who are decent people from whom the Washington fear- and warmongers could learn greatly.

Back on topic…though the likes of Ann Coulter and Michael Moore continue in the tradition of Howard Stern and Imus, I would hope that the general populous has enough sense to view these programs for what they are intended. Entertainment, period. Ratings = revenue and the shock factor gets people from both sides listening. As long as they get people to listen, they stay on the air (sounds a lot like politics, doesn’t it?).

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