The Death of Critical Pause
How much longer can we deny it; our nation is in a state of mass hysteria. This week has shown the worst of American society; a cooked up scheme to stoke racial tension; the utter failure of news journalists to check a single fact; an innocent victim no one seemed to care about, including those whose job it was to protect her- culminating in an outrageous interpretation of wag the dog that left millions of Americans incensed.
The forced resignation of USDA senior official Shirley Sherrod over a doctored video of comments she made to the Georgia NAACP in March was the final nail in the coffin for the one thing that could have saved- indeed should have saved Sherrod- critical pause; the moment we take information- no matter how it is presented, or by whom- and deliberately give an objective once-over, asking critical, balanced questions.
It came through a toure de trifecta of a perfect storm; racial tension and fear in this country is stronger than it was at the height of the historic civil rights movement. Nothing challenges the identity of a nation more than that of its leader. Emotions have been steadily rising around the issue of Obama as president (and any of its consequences) since well before the election. Ill-equipped to address the issue at the national level in a way that leads to collective progress, instead a viscous cycle of race-rhetoric permeates the air.
Concurrent to the rising tide of racial drama came the fall of traditional journalism. Newspapers across the country have been wiped out. 24 hour cable news and news websites have become the preferred method for gaining information at an insatiable rate. Gone are established journalists with perspective or integrity and the profession has done little to make room for new talent, instead obsessed with winning the race for mouse-click dominance. The quality of content diminished for some, plummeted for others. News turned into information. Information turned into reality tv. Reality tv turned into news.
And the hysteria took hold.
The final ingredient; the talking heads. The politicians –current and former- the pundits, the cable news show hosts and guests, each with large audiences and constituents, all twisting facts and omitting details. Rarely do any of them tell the truth for the sake of truth.
Locally and nationally journalists are rushing past the truth in a story in order to be the first to post a link on twitter or facebook.
The results? Countless.
- Young Black men on their way home from the neighborhood movie theater find their picture in the paper the next day with the caption: gang members.
- A former school board member, himself a minority; branded a racist by news media for an email he wrote addressing intelligence and race.
- A woman humiliated, forced out of her job for a lie that could have easily been proven as such.
All casualties of a society where critical thinking has been snuffed out in favor of hype and controversy.
When does the madness stop? Or will it?