Health Care, hostility and the state of the fourth estate

Reps get spit on, windows broken, mysterious powder–and Palin blames the “lame-stream media”.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) excoriated DNC Chair Tim Kaine and DCCC Chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen, for “dangerously fanning the flames” in using recent acts of violence and intimidation by anti-health-care reform opponents, “as a political weapon.”

Was there spittle? Or, was there not?

There is so much spin going on all over the place it’s a wonder the number of car-wrecks don’t go up due to a permanent condition of dizziness afflicting the populace.

A friend of mine I play B-ball with said, “Don ‘t complain about Glenn Beck, the left’s got Keith Olbermann–the Republicans, Bill O’Reilly–and Democrats, Chris Matthews.”

It’s clear television news today is not your father’s nor mother’s fav journalist broadcaster. The days of Howard K. Smith or Walter Cronkite are gone.

So we have these ratings machines — FOX News, CNN, MSNBC — stoking reactionary stimulus throughout the neural networks of many a head, whipping folks up in their respective corners only to meet in the real world with shouting, disconnects, and yes, even acts of violence.

What are the solutions? I mean, quite possibly, there’s as much wrong with American media appetites as there is with our real eating habits of sugar, salt, carbs.

Maybe we’re just in the dark ages of the information revolution. Does that make sense?

I just finished a mentorship program with sixth grade students in Wellston, Missouri. We were helping students with projects for a Science Fair, and teaching them what the scientific method is. You come up with an idea–you test it–and appreciate knowing if you were right or wrong.

Teaching the method in simple terms gave me a clue as to what might be going on as the nation further fractures, polarizes and chasms, politically.

Scientific evidence shows that people like to be “right” and actually get a chemical lift from the experience, kinda like what a Ding-Dong and Coke’ll do to ya.

In fact, people like to be right so bad, that they will actually rearrange and distort facts to reach emotionally satisfying conclusions, as opposed to accurate ones. This is the filter of an addiction to the false sense of security in knowing you’ve got it all figured out; a comfortable and safe place, to be sure. Media venues pump a light-and-sound show that tweak this addiction to be “right”, and profit off of being pushers of self-reinforcing arrogance.

What I shared with my students was the fact that, as scientists, we have to lean against this propensity to always want to be right, and to embrace revealing facts and statistics that might–god forbid–actually disprove our theories, ideas or concepts. After all, as the story goes, Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb as much as found thousands of light bulbs that didn’t last until they discovered a carbonized bamboo filament that lasted lit-up for over a thousand hours. The point is, objective evidence may not feel good all the time, but an individual or community or nation that celebrates it, will be less prone to ego-satisfying folly or self-destructive cultural battles.

The problem with our political system resembling more of a sporting contest than a thoughtful democracy is that a sort of “March-Madness” begins to creep in (nothing against the beautiful B-ball we’ve been witness to recently). A large portion of folks are just hell-bent upon winning–delivering “Waterloos” to the other side at any cost–including damaging the better interests of the American people.

To think that not a single Republican voted for health-care reform is emblematic of the Napoleon-like mentality that has polluted our political universe.

Our nation is 233 years old, a youngster as compared to other cultures; adolescence can be difficult. As America grows up, let’s make sure her citizens have access to the liberating mindset of the scientist seeking solutions, and move past the “I’m right, you’re wrong” political theatre that plays out more like a Greek tragedy, than a modern, mature and manifest leader in the world.

This is why education is the investment in our future like no other. And making sure the education for future generations is the best we can deliver.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. And I refuse to watch TV. We don’t pay for cable or satellite, and we don’t get broadcast channels where we live. Not only do I avoid mind-polluting “dramatic” conflict, but I also get more done.

    I oppose intolerance wherever I see it– Left and Right. That earns me my fair share of intolerant response. Recently a conservative called me an Obama-loving liberal, and several liberals called me a Fox-watching conservative. (One used the term “cookie cutter conservative.” Yeah, right.)

    A wise man once asked me, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy.” That’s a tough one, let me think about it…

  2. In fact, people like to be right so bad, that they will actually rearrange and distort facts to reach emotionally satisfying conclusions, as opposed to accurate ones.

    Hit the nail on the head with that one. Get that man a Ding Dong!

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