Monday, January 18, 2010

Fools rush in

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, there was a terrible earthquake in Haiti.

That’s big news.

And then Pat Robertson said something stupid about it.

And for some reason that was big news as well.

The details of what he said are that Haiti is cursed because its founders made a deal with the devil to free themselves from slavery to the French. But the details really aren’t important.

There was a disaster. And Pat Robertson said something stupid about it. Pat Roberson says something stupid after every disaster. How is this news?

The reason that Robertson says something stupid after every disaster is that he, quite frankly, is a fool. He’s got a decades-long record of being wrong about just about everything and routinely sticking his foot in his mouth. He’s a buffoon, a clown, a fool.

And fools say foolish things. But, before the 24-hour-a-day cable news cycle, real journalists didn’t cover the ravings of fools. There was limited airtime so it was important to broadcast the opinions of people who had some idea of what they were talking about.

Unfortunately, we know have all the air time we need to make sure the blathering of every fool, quack, moron, televangelist, birther, deather, fake plumber, gun nut and tax cheat in the country goes out to millions and is recorded for posterity. As a consequence the national IQ is dropping like a rock.

Another case in point: Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh also said something dumb, and semi-racist, about the Haiti situation.

Again, no surprise. Limbaugh is a fool too.

And a proven liar. Al Franken wrote an entire book detailing Limbaugh’s lies, although it wasn’t a comprehensive list. Limbaugh’s never been able to credibly refute on sentence of that book.

Limbaugh’s also an admitted drug addict.

And a serial race baiter. He lost a lucrative gig on ESPN NFL telecasts, for instance, by inventing a racial controversy over Eagles QB Donavan McNabb, 15 years after any controversy over black quarterbacks in the NFL existed.

Rush may not actually be a racist but, if not, he does a convincing job of playing one on radio and TV.

So why would a person with that record be listened to by the media. Why would his political opinions be sought out or heeded by any rational citizen.

Have we become too stupid and lazy to separate the fools from the philosophers? Have we confused the noise with the news?

Lest you think the right has a monopoly on fools, let me hasten to add that they are abundant on the left as well.

Anytime anything touching on race relations makes the news, you can count on the Rev. Al Sharpton to race to a microphone and say something foolish that will acerbate rather than mediate the situation. He’s long since proven himself a fool.

The right does seem to have more of them though. These are people whose past actions and statements should have cost them all credibility, but whose opinions are still somehow taken seriously. People like Ann Coulter, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North and Glenn Beck.

Perhaps it’s because the right has a greater appetite for bombast. And bombast is the particular rhetorical province of fools.

In any event, it’s not the right or the left that’s to blame for the preponderance of fools in the national debate. It’s the media. The media have fallen in love with sensation instead of substance. In terms of real importance, what Pat Robertson or Rush Limbaugh have to say about Haiti is trivial. Neither of them hold, or ever will hold, elective office. Neither is in any position to have any affect on what will happen on the ground in Haiti or for their criticisms of those who are in a position to make a difference to matter. The media focuses on their statements merely for shock value and to drum up controversy.

Call me old fashioned, but I preferred it when we just covered the news.

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