Thursday, January 13, 2011

Richard Winters, Huffington Post, and Modern Rhetoric

As I reflect on all the hubbub about what caused the shooter to kill six people and wound 13 others in Tuscon on Saturday, I can't help but feel the problems in our society are deeper than mere 'it's the rhetoric stupid!'  Certainly it's more than just 'it's Right Wing rhetoric stupid!'  Anyone should be able to see that.  Yet they don't.  Last night, I watched Katie Couric on CBS Evening News interview a small round of folks about the shooting and everything that went with it.  Now, I admit I didn't see the whole segment.  There were two individuals there I never heard talk.  But of the ones I did hear, the message was clear:

  1. We need to tone down our rhetoric (even though not only is there no evidence linking the shooter to any modern rhetoric, but the emerging evidence suggests that the shooter had no connection to so much of this strange, ambiguous rhetoric we hear so much about) 
  2. We need to admit that there is no evidence connecting the shooter to any rhetoric...but let's face it, the Right is pretty much to blame for the ill tone of our modern discourse.
  3. We need to make sure Florida doesn't follow Arizona in immigration reform, since the children of elected officials are afraid that could lead to their parents being murdered.

The last was a particularly nauseating interjection of politics, exploiting not only the deaths of innocent victims, but also children and emotional manipulation as well. 

So there you have it  Even though a common sense appraisal of the situation, with a few minutes access to the Internet, shows that both sides are equal in their vitriol and demagoguery and demonizing of opponents, CBS, and pretty darn much every other news outlet save FOX (natch), have continued on with the narrative that it's the [Right Wing] rhetoric, stupid! 

Why?  Are they just lying?  Do they hope that we are so divided that those on their side of the political ideological aisle don't care if they are lying, as long as they can score points against the baddies?  Or are they even aware of their own bias?  For the sake of charity and graciousness, I would like to think the latter.  I would like to believe all of this talk of liberal values, open mindedness, tolerance, and diversity were ever and always bunk, and that people have a innate tendency to imagine their truths are the only acceptable truths, that they are absolutely right about these absolute truths, and that they naturally expect that a society demands conformity to these absolute values and truths. 

And because they can't imagine a world apart from one guided by these truths, they are as stone blind to alternate understandings of the world, alternate value systems, alternate viewpoints, as any Medieval inquisitor. This hit me when, just for a laugh, I went over to see what the Huffington Post had to say about the death of Richard Winters.  I realize he was not necessarily a household name.  But even in the midst of the Arizona Shooting, most Web News pages found some space to have at least a little about the man who was the primary focal point of the hit book and miniseries Band of Brothers.  After all, the Huffpost has room for everything from what sunglasses Lady GaGa is wearing, to what Sting's sex life is like, to what the name is of the latest porn star Charlie Sheen is dating.  Certainly they would be able to include a small obituary. 

Wrong!  Sorry, your answer is incorrect.  Nothing.   The name didn't even come up in the searches.  And that got me to thinking.  There are plenty of folks who know what Band of Brothers was, know who Richard Winters was, and what this was all about.  It was mentioned on some news stations, and again the AP and most online news sources had stories.  How could the Huffpost miss this?  Not even a paragraph?   Because the Huffpost is about a singular world view, that's why.  A dogmatic understanding of morals, values, truths.  It sees the world the way it sees the world.  Those who reject its world view are obviously the bad guys.  Either stupid, or evil, or both.  Typical fundamentalist talk.  Those who aren't about this or that issue, especially in today's religion of choice - politics - simply aren't on the radar screen.  An old WWII hero from a bygone day that represented the better side of America during the pre-sixties era?  Nope.  Not even close. 

Do I think they deliberately censored any stories because they don't want America to look good?  I don't know.  But I'm willing to bet it wasn't that.  I'll bet it was just not part of their world, the way they see reality.  It was off the radar screen plain and simple.  It just didn't compute into the way they saw things.  It was as off the table as dirty language was always seen as being outside the comprehension of old time religious fundamentalists.  Remember how we were always told that folks like that were completely ignorant of the reality of various sex and drug references because such things were just over their heads, due to their tiny little ways of seeing the world?  Well, I give you today's fundamentalists.  Folks likely so immersed in their own dogmatic pronouncements, that things outside of their value systems simply don't register.

Hence, the ongoing drumbeat that despite no evidence, this proves that it the Right Wing rhetoric is the villain, might simply be the result of immersion in a dogmatic, narrow understanding of the world.  An approach of absolute assurance of absolute knowledge of absolute truth that demands absolute conformity.  That a man could simply be insane, or worse - evil - is not part of it.  That the Right, the force that actively opposes these absolute truths, may not be to blame is simply beyond comprehension.  After all, the Right, the traditional Christian Western Tradition, Conservatism, Religious Right Extremists of the Christian variety, are the mischief in everything else in the world.  Certainly it has to be true in this.

Yes, it might be lies and lies to liars that is driving it.  It could be deliberate manipulation.  Huffpost may want to stay hell and away from someone who might tear down their "Non-Liberal America Sucks" mantra, and other news agencies may count on our rank divisions in the hopes that folks don't care if things are lies or truth as long as it advances our personal agendas.  That could be true.  But if it isn't, about the only other solution I can come up with is that those folks are so enamored by their dogmas, so immersed in the Super-Narrative of their choosing, that they've forgotten the world of options that exists outside their own front doors.


  1. Great insights. I think you are onto something. The fact that even today, many in the media are still trying to link this to Right Wing vitriol, suggests it has to be lies or ignorance. You might, however, be a bit too gracious. After all, if the facts are clear, and they persist with promoting a lie, then it's a lie no matter why it's a lie.


  2. I agree with Benheard. Whatever the reason they are blind to things, if they repeat something as true when the evidence shows it isn't true, that's a lie. If the media continue to focus on the role of rhetoric or worse, the role of certain conservative politicians or commentators, in the shooting, then that is flagrant lying and advancing falsehoods. It is propaganda, and it is deplorable that they would use this tragedy to advance their propaganda.

  3. Dave
    You give these idiots too much credit. They may be immersed in thier world, but I believe they are full of lies that continue the lies from one to the next. Remember if you lie to yourself to much you start believing the lie. So in a way you are right, but it is not because of immersion in a way of thinking it is immersion in lies.

  4. I don't know that I will say idiots. Again, that is like saying 'that idiot's mean because he called me stupid.' One of the biggest problems is the lack of self-awareness. Sure, I'm aware of the fact that some have simply tried to exploit this for political gain. That's what happens when politics becomes a religion. But others are just unaware, so lost in their own biases. Of course I believe many of those biases are wrong. And I am aware of the fact that liberalism as it was peddled to me in thee 70s and 80s is a joke, since many of the most intolerant and closed minded people today wear the label of liberal proudly. But still, I can't help but try to give the benefit of the doubt.


Let me know your thoughts