Sunday, September 30, 2012

Crazy, Radical People Sell

                Why Do Crazy, Radical People Sell?

  A change in political media and representation since the 1960's.

      Over the course of the last few decades, there has obviously been a shift in public attention from the written word of a daily newspaper to news broadcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, and late night satire. While the evolution of these information communication methods in itself is not where polarization comes into play, it does in the content they air.

This depictions of Joe Biden shows that the skewed political rhetoric
of today wants people to think of politicians as
crazier than average individuals. 
      The main factor is that rhetoric that is polarized to one direction is what catches public attention. People want something to identify with; even if it means they're not associated with the opposing group. Therefore, media plays on this desire and skews productions to make them two things: entertaining to watch and blatantly one-sided. The most recent Saturday Night Live video of a mock Obama speech is a mild example of the way media points to one direction through broadcasts that wouldn't have been present in the 1960's. 


     Along with the idea of media changing to what people want to see, people's ideas of entertainment have also changed. Being constantly bombarded by ads, movies, articles, etc. has made Americans somewhat resilient to hearing more moderate viewpoints. What people want to see on T.V. are crazy politicians screaming at each other because that's what it takes to entertain people. That is not necessarily saying that is who people want to run the country, but Americans don't mind satire comedies that make fun of the very people that do.  


     The study that Andrew A. King and Floyd Douglas Anderson did titled 'Nixon, Agnew, and the "Silent Majority": A Case Study in the Rhetoric of Polarization' highlight the fact that Nixon used the "Silent Majority" to get elected. However, times have changed since 1968 and now there doesn't seem to be so much of a silent majority. Silence is ignored because there is always some who wants change. Campaigns now attack the ethos of the opponent in a race and stimulate violent attacks from the other side as well. It has gotten to a point where the "Silent Majority" in America that does not speak up or have an opinion simply does not vote because the candidates are both far to either side. The upcoming T.V. spot 'War of the Words' featuring the battle of Glenn Beck vs. Eliot Spitzer on October 2nd, 2012 will be a prime example of two complete opposites attacking each other and getting prime-time coverage for it. 


     With both of the previous points made, the main question still arises: Why do the ridiculous people sell? Why do the overenthusiastic groups get the prime-time spots? And why do Americans love them? 

A main reason for this is so the other side can point to what they are not. Watching someone with an opposing viewpoint make a fool of himself (like the SNL Obama video) gives proof of why public should not agree with them. While this doesn't do anything to strengthen their own argument, it does everything to weaken the opponents'. The video above asks people who voted for President Obama questions about the presidential candidates in the 2008 election in order to weaken the legitimacy of how the President got elected. These "idiot opponent montages" are extremely common in making the other side seem brainless and uneducated compared to people who would have voted for another candidate. 


     Overall, our informational world has changed so much that people have started to block out information altogether. This leads to uneducated voters, political satire being used as news shows, and all candidates being polarized instead of moderate. The quote by Abraham Lincoln, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt," is a prime example of the slippery slope media has produced. Fighting for a viewpoint or candidate can seem like a wise thing to do, until it is used against the cause to make it look ridiculous. The attention given to loudmouths and exaggerated facts changes the way people look at politics, eliminates moderation, and accentuates polarization. 

     James F Klumpp wrote in his article "Challenge of Radical Rhetoric: Radicalization at Columbia" that victory came from achieving identification without compromise. This is the ability to broaden a movement without changing the ideology of it. America needs to find this is media to change the way voters and politicians, alike, view American politics. Ceasing to give the limelight to radicals that are highly skewed in one direction and finding more moderate candidates and speakers to represent civilians but keep central party ideals is the way to have loudmouths lose the spotlight and give it back to moderate viewpoints. 

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