Words matter, part the eleventyteenth

From Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish today:

Quote For The Day

24 Apr 2010 05:21 pm

“Trust is the prime constituent of the social atmosphere. It is as urgent not to damage that atmosphere by contributing to the erosion of trust as it is to prevent and attempt to reverse damage to our natural atmosphere. Both forms of damage are cumulative; both are hard to reverse.

To be sure, a measure of distrust is indispensable in most human interaction. Pure trust is no more conducive to survival in the social environment than is pure oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

But too high a level of distrust stifles cooperation as much as the lack of oxygen threatens life,”Sissela Bok, Common Values, 1995.

This brings up a serious question for me re talk radio. Their stock in trade is not advocacy but scorn and they use very destructive language when targeting  a  person, a political party, a cultural institution or a government. All about naming people in particular as the enemy of the talker’s audience.

The talk radio world is conservative, but much more significant is their anti-Democrat, anti-liberal narrative, and because it is so focused, it’s bearing negative fruit. To pretend they don’t play an enormous role in the current state of political dialogue is nonsense.

(I wonder if Sissela Bok knew about American talk-radio?)

2 responses to “Words matter, part the eleventyteenth

  1. Moe —

    The issue of trust as a binding agent for the social fabric is an important and timely one. But I think that to treat its erosion as some sort of unintended consequence of the right-wing talk-monsters is to misunderstand their core mission; it’s been clear to me for a long time that such undermining is their central goal. These people say that they’re “pro-freedom” and “anti-government”, but what they really are is supremely selfish and narcissistic. Like so many of their baby-boomer cohort, they’re stuck in a perpetual adolescence – a whining, solipsistic reality warp in which the validity of other perspectives (or sometimes even their very existence!) is intolerable. Like a spoiled, angry 15 year-old kid they lash out at all authority, seeking ways to undermine and invalidate it, all in the service of their own desperately threatened entitlement.

    I like Sullivan – he’s one of “the good ones.” But I still think he tends a little towards being an apologist for the klan of his political origin. There’s nothing “negative fruit” about what the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Bachmans and O’Reillys of the are wreaking on our society. To them, it’s entirely positive fruit. That’s what makes them so dangerous, and why rather than dignifying their petulance as valid political discourse, we must treat them as the cancer that they are.


    • You’re right – I was too kind.

      I’m always stunned by the supreme irony of a Limbaugh who broadcasts almost 1000 original hours of programming a year (heard in diff timeslots and as weekend or late night reruns three times as often) and has about 100 wannabes on the air as frequently, eternally complaining of his ‘outsider’ status, and the power of mainstream media. You have to be pretty marginalized to earn $25million a year.

      Another lost aspect that held us together as a society was the shared experience. The WWII generation served in a classless army, where ivy league grads huddled in fox holes with Indiana farmers.

      The draft – and thus the war – was a shared and common experience. No more.


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