Three Cheers for Doug —

Reading these replies to such a straightforward piece confirms what everybody should already know — Americans don’t know how to think anymore.

For every one reply that agrees with Doug’s basic premise — that slanted news coverage is bad — there are nine more that say, “Yeah, but THE OTHER GUY DOES IT WORSE.”

This is such pathetic grade-school thinking. You’d have thought an elementary principle would have sorted it out for them: e.g. two wrongs don’t make a right, etc. Not a chance.

Here’s a basic sociological premise for you, Doug, if you’re reading this — and the three or four other people who make it down this far: the so-called “culture wars” and the separation of the country into red states and blue states, if you measured it against the corporate consolidation of the news media, would coincide with that same corporate consolidation, especially the emergence of the cable news networks.

Why? Because all corporations are bogeymen? That’s not the point. The point here is political identification. Identification is a psychological phenomenon, one that is natural enough. People identify with an image, an attitude, a brand. They identify, for example, with a favorite baseball team, not because that team is better for any particular reason — though there are “reasons” enough given when pressed for one. But they identify with that team for a variety of unthinking, stubborn psychological reasons that are hard to tease out.

When newspapers and radio and television news stopped being a more or less free and ad hoc jumble of opinions (compared with today) and became under the profit-obsessed corporate mode of control heavily streamlined, heavily targeted, and heavily reified, the political identifications of the day did also. This is not rocket science. Those identifications were given a purer nourishment, like purer gas for a car. And as those identifications crystallized, the groups around them did also, and thus were more easily targeted by corporate media interest, and so the cycle continues.

Some people think that once on this journey — of reducing all news and information to “point of view” pieces driven by political identification — the only answer is more “choices”. One of the posters above — an idiot — thinks that turning MSNBC into a left-wing answer to right-wing propagandist FOX would be a good balancing move. Well, this is another example of people reacting from their place in political identifications, and not *thinking*, which involves identifying with abstract principles and not filled-out images. “As long as my point of view is represented out there,” the thinking goes, “well, it doesn’t matter the total harm to the system as a whole.”

Thinking, real thinking, unlike the above, involves a kind of identification — but one very different than the Pavlov world of inhabited images. Take the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Well, if you can identify with the principle, and principled thinking in general, then you obtain the flexibility of thought natural to a thinking person. It will keep you afloat no matter the particulars of a certain situation, no matter how unlike yourself those “others” are. If you stay mired in the world of images and of gut, visceral identification, well, then “others” are only people like you — and there is a whole *other* group out there to whom the principle does not apply (blacks, Indians, etc.)

Basic civics education has totally broken down in the U.S. in its mad, frantic grab for material comfort. People don’t, for example, walk on one side of the sidewalk just out of principle. They don’t obey Golden Rule-type thinking when behind the wheel of an automobile. They don’t challenge themselves to be more learned about their history for fear that, if they don’t, perhaps no one will and that would be an unthinkable situation. Rather, they simply pick out a kind of marketed socio-economic image and let themselves fill it. All their attitudes and opinions and behavior then follow freely.

Well, for what it’s worth, the above formula will predict smoothly all the replies to the article, as well as most internet “forum” behavior, and most political behavior on television, in the newspapers, on the radio, and so on.