While it might be that I’m picking on Representative Keith Ellison, it would be easy for me to find examples of little civility, disrespect, and lack of critical thinking on both sides of the political divide. However, this video clip from Politico was the latest example that set me off. Here’s the background. Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity invites the Democratic Minnesota Congressmen Ellison to discuss the sequester. Since I rarely listen to the Sean Hannity TV show, it appears that he just ran a segment mocking President Obama’s fear-mongering of the sequester.
We can infer that Ellison was offended by Hannity’s parody of Obama and lost his temper at the miscategorization of our president. He goes on an extended rant about how Hannity practices yellow journalism and how he is misleading the public on Obama’s view.
Even though I agree that Hannity does engage in yellow journalism, and we can say the same for Rachel Maddow, that’s not what was upsetting to me. Yellow journalism, which is slanting facts and figures to arouse public opinion toward your biased viewpoint, is a disturbing trend that is part of the new journalistic culture today. Hannity and Maddow do this at a high level and is why they enjoy a loyal base of supporters.
However, Hannity gave Ellison ample time to express his point of view, which was repetitious and meandering. Then when Hannity asked a question about the $16 trillion debt, Ellison was rude and evasive where he simply regurgitated his previous comments about how Hannity was lying on the president. My inference was that he was ill-prepared to comment beyond his talking points.
I thought Hannity gave him more than enough opportunity to express himself, but there was no interest in any two-way dialogue from Ellison. That is emblematic of the society that we live in where seeking confrontation; holding on to our own beliefs; and not considering other points of view are the prevailing instincts of today.
Here is an example of critical thinking that I wished could have occurred during that exchange.
When Hannity asked him about the trillions of dollars that have been added to the debt under the Obama administration, Ellison could have countered that we had a massive financial collapse that was brought about by a deregulated environment that was encouraged by the Bush administration. Without the stimulus package, many economists believe that we would have faced a depression and much higher unemployment rates.
Hannity could have countered that by saying that it was Democratic leadership that forced banks to make irresponsible loans that led to the collapse of the financial markets. The combination of Congress pressuring banks to make loans to less than creditworthy borrowers and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac irresponsibly driving down interest rates was the true culprit behind rising foreclosures and the recession.
That’s just a start, but people should be able to consider both points of view and then decide which side has more merit.
Given the time constraints on TV, it is hard to understand the context and complexities that shape both liberal and conservative philosophies. However to be a more educated voter, it is important to compare and contrast their ideas at a higher level.
Here’s a suggestion, stop listening to Fox News and MSNBC and check out these media sources. Most of the sources below have enhanced their websites to appeal to a broader audience through smart use of multimedia.
A thriving democracy is dependent on a general public being strong critical thinkers.