Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 2, 2011

From gridiron to gridlock

With the exception of a year in Connecticut, and some time in Italy, I've spent the last quarter century in Rhode Island. So it's not too surprising that I've become a fan of the New England Patriots, whose stadium is only 45 minutes from where I live. This year they have had a fantastic run, culminating in today's victory over the Miami Dolphins which left them with the best record in the entire NFL. As a way of catching up on their exploits, today I tuned into an A.M. talk-radio station that carried live coverage of the game from Gillette Stadium. I turned on the radio in time to catch part of a pre-game call-in show. What I heard made me reflect on something that has been vaguely troubling me for years.

The hosts and callers on this show were not only well-informed on the various immediate topics of discussion, they were able to put current events into a broad historical perspective. They made sound arguments based on careful examination of the available evidence. When they did engage in speculation, they freely admitted to doing so. When they lacked sufficient knowledge to answer a question. they admitted to that as well. They cheerfully confessed to being partisan, but mostly respected the right of others to hold different allegiances. Most impressively, they were concerned always to compare rhetoric to actual performance. Why did all this cause me unease?

My enjoyment of listening to folks talk about pro football was tarnished. I couldn't help but notice how the level of American public discourse about sports is infinitely superior to our national conversation about politics and economics. There are of course many excellent sources of information, opinion and analysis available to citizens determined to really know what's going on. Unfortunately, what many people actually get from radio and television is a lot of corporate-sponsored crap. This blather is often not even logically consistent, let alone truthful. To give one example: Republicans often go unchallenged when they say, "tax-cuts aren't the problem, expenditures create the deficit." Yet a caller who said, "lost fumbles don't give the ball away, interceptions do," would be laughed off the show. Our corporate media shills don't have the guts to call out politicians on the most glaring lies. A budget is balanced when income matches expenses. A decrease in the former has exactly the same effect as an increase in the latter. Any journalist who allows someone to contradict this elementary truth is either a moron or a tool. Either way, it makes me appreciate why so many Americans are more likely to know a staggering amount about why a wide receiver was traded, than to have any understanding of domestic or foreign policy.

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