Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Politics, The Media, and WWE Wrestling

After 9-11, I started to really pay attention to politics, policy, and news. I even occasionally watch C-SPAN to see for myself what USAmerican politicians are saying and doing. And I find myself disappointed at much of what I see. There is just too much silly banter, untruthful rhetoric, and entertainment-driven fighting.

The best place to see this silliness revealed is the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. The Daily Show deconstructs the news and political scene to show the how puerile and asinine some aspects of politics and the media have become. And the Colbert Report reconstructs the news and political scene in a satirical way that manages to show just how ridiculous things have gotten. The deconstruction and reconstruction that these shows provide, call out every time the Emperor is wearing new clothes. In other words, the Daily Show and Colbert Report help to point out when pretence, vanity, incompetence, etc. are clouding our media's and politicians' ability to serve our nation effectively. Needless to say, this is important work. It helps us see the dark underbelly of the media and Washington. Thankfully the segments on the Daily Show and Colbert Report are bathed in enough dirty jokes to keep us from crying. But the truth still gets out. These jesters reveal the truth through jokes. They keep us laughing as we see how shock jocks like Glenn Beck are destroying our national discourse, how partisan rhetoric is creating dangerous gridlock, how profit-driven reporting is frustrating the media's ability to provide political accountability, etc. And while all of this is going on, people that need real results just have to go on waiting - and assuming that our elected officials are largely incompetent and ineffective.

An example of the problem of incompetent government is the Obama Administration. He was elected because people wanted to have hope that things really could change. And he surged a large part of this nation with that hope. But it only took a few months in office for us to realize that even Obama's post-partisan pragmatism couldn't get results in the current political and media culture. One by one, many of Obama's ideals and policies that inspired us in the election, got ground up into dust once they were exposed to the toxic culture in Washington. The result was that the "system" chewed up our hope and spit back our cynicism toward government and distrust of the media. Politicians still choose rhetoric over depth, partisanship over dialogue, gridlock over results, posturing over openness, dishonesty over truthfulness, etc. The media still chooses money over accountability, glitz over investigation, soundbites over nuance, shouting over conversation, etc.

Politicians and the media just look ridiculous too much of the time. Much of what they do reminds me of the posturing and pageantry of WWE wrestling. And it's just as silly, pointless, and predictable. Seriously, how different is it to hear Hulk Hogan talking about the evils of The Macho Man, than it is to hear two politicians shouting during a senate debate or the campaign season? It sounds like the same thing. Sometimes I swear they even borrow some of the same storylines. But this stuff makes money - and lots of it. Politics, the media, and WWE wrestling bring in tons of money operating the way they do. Why change something that isn't broke? Sure it might be broke for most of the nation, but it's not broken for them. After all, someone needs to pay for their butler, maid, and gardener. Meanwhile the rest of us beg for crumbs from their table.

At some point, every little kid realizes that WWE wrestling isn't real. When that happens, it's a sad day in the life of a child. It's just as traumatic as realizing that Santa isn't real. But it's an important part of growing up and adjusting to reality. Perhaps it's time for all of us to more fully realize that politics and the media aren't real either. They're just as fake and contrived as WWE wrestling. And it's just as painful for us to realize that - and adjust to that reality. But it's an important part of growing up as a nation. As Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways." It's time we put an end to childish ways and demand that politicians and the media treat us like adults. There are many practical ways to do this. Here is a brief list of concrete actions we can take:

1. Be an informed voter, electing people who will treat us like adults.
2. Read important investigative books like Unscientific America and The Family.
3. Watch C-SPAN to see what is being discussed in Washington.
4. Watch smart satirical shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
5. Cut through the lies and spin by reading websites such as Factcheck.

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