Listen to any political debate, not only on television and forums but also between our elected representatives and leaders and you quickly realize we have become a society where hyperbole replaces fact and derision supplants discussion.

It’s no longer enough to simply disagree. We must attack the other side with misinformation, distorted facts and outright lies.

President Barack Obama hypes health care horror stories with half-truths. Republicans attack Obama with lies about “death panels.” Words like “Nazi” and “Hitler” and “Socialist” and “traitor” become part of everyday discussion.

We are a nation driven by distrust, distortion and disinformation. Hate, fear and anger replace reason. We cannot debate without losing our tempers and calling people names.

The feds say hate groups, militias and white supremacist groups are on the rise. Racial epithets now dominate discussion forums. Web sites host polls on how long it will take before someone takes Obama out. Growing numbers now talk openly about revolution.

On a recent motorcycle tour through the back roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I saw far too many signs with racial slurs but that racism is not only directed towards this nation’s first African-American President. It’s aimed at Mexicans, Arabs and anyone whose skin is less than white.

Over breakfast at my favorite local eatery, I hear too much talk about “driving the wetbacks out of this country” and “returning America to a nation where English is spoken.”

You can’t buy .380 ammo in my part of Virginia. Too many people are hoarding because, they say, Obama “is going take away our guns.” The behavior of too many disruptors at the town meetings during the August recess is a barometer of how unruly and disagreeable our society is today.

Much of the anger is driven by fear and ignorance. My email in-box fills up daily with dire warnings about plans to tax the guns we already own and require registration of weapons so the government can confiscate them.

Our elected officials can’t deal with issues with facts and honesty so they turn to sensationalism and propaganda. A compliant media goes along with the farce, giving air time and space to fringe politicians like Sarah Palin. Jim Trafficant, an Ohio Congressman sent to prison for fraud and corruption, is released and immediately lands gigs on various talk shows. Tom DeLay, who resigned from Congress while under investigation for corruption, becomes a celebrated guest on Dancing With the Stars and is covered by the various programs dedicated to political news.

Michael Moore produces another flawed documentary driven by his myopic view of the world and some in the press treat it like he’s Edward R. Murrow.

Watch the cable news shows and you see guests like Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown treated like real journalists while the Huffington Post presents each TV appearance by its publisher as home page news.

Consider these blaring headlines from today’s Huffington Post home page and gives more space to fluff than actual hard news:

  • WATCH: Arianna Takes On Conservative Blogger Over Halliburton On “Morning Meeting”
  • LISTEN: Arianna Discusses How She Would Advise Obama If He Called
  • LISTEN: Britney’s New Song About Threesomes
  • WATCH: Dustin Diamond Spills Secrets From “Saved By The Bell”

And this, one journalism professor told me recently, is the future of Internet-based news.

It’s little wonder we can’t have a rational discussion about issues. Issues aren’t entertainment.

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