Apparently, there’s only one standard for measuring the credibility of opinion these days â€” volume. Let’s look at that through two exceptionally large megaphones: ESPN and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.
For ESPN, it’s literally the volume with which opinion is pronounced. Says ESPN’s new ombuds(wo)man, Le Anne Schreiber, in her first column after watching an afternoon of ESPN’s programming: “Who are these people and why are they shouting at me?” (Emphasis added.)
Her introduction to ESPN’s afternoon talking-head programming — “Jim Rome Is Burning,” “Around The Horn,” “Pardon The Interruption” and “SportsCenter” — left her with an old saying in mind: Certainty is the place you stop when you are tired of thinking. (She did like PTI’s Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon. They made her laugh.)
Schreiber’s lengthy column analyzed how these talking heads had handled such athletic contretemps as the airport “water bottle” incident of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team doctor’s alleged purchases of testosterone and human growth hormone, and a domestic violence claim against NBA player Ron Artest.
Too much heat, not enough light, according to Schreiber:
I think it is fair to ask a greater degree of humility and suspended judgment than is often heard on air. And I think it is fair to ask producers to encourage less ill-informed vehemence. (Emphasis added.)
Moronic opinion can also be considered as more than mere elevation of decibels; it can be looked at in terms of frequency. Consider Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.
Indiana University media researchers examined the content of the “Talking Points Memo” portion of O’Reilly’s broadcast. From IU’s press release:
The IU researchers found that O’Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night.
“It’s obvious he’s very big into calling people names, and he’s very big into glittering generalities,” said Mike Conway, assistant professor in the IU School of Journalism. “He’s not very subtle. He’s going to call people names, or he’s going to paint something in a positive way, often without any real evidence to support that viewpoint.”
Maria Elizabeth Grabe, associate professor of telecommunications, added, “If one digs further into O’Reilly’s rhetoric, it becomes clear that he sets up a pretty simplistic battle between good and evil. Our analysis points to very specific groups and people presented as good and evil.”
ESPN shouts. Bill O’Reilly calls people names. I’m old enough to remember when such behavior would be noticeable and frowned on. Now it’s the basic fabric of civil discourse. What I was scolded for in kindergarten has allowed morons to become really well paid pundits.
I suppose I should shrug this off. Hell, it’s just the media. But in the absence of meaningful debate, this behavior becomes the governor of the public square. The behavior is modeled by others â€” think negative political campaigns.
And people wonder why I complain about the difficulty in getting my college students to understand the meaning of critical thinking.
They think they already know what it is: They watch ESPN and Bill O’Reilly.
xpost: 5th Estate