Posted by: Tony Carson | 21 October, 2009

Our Pathetic Op-Ed culture. It’s time to call on the Scholars.

In the polarity of modern political culture every yin has its yang; each is as black as the other is white; each is as insistent as the other is resistant. And both polarities knee-jerk on op-ed pages or polarize on cable net-works.

So we pick our poison, back our winner and in so doing we ignore the other guy, if we aren’t flat-out vilifying him.

But we’re all just splitting hairs. We’re arguing over a variation of the same themes. We are using, after all, mere opinion, their’s and ours, little else. On Cable news and op-ed pages facts never get in the way of a good argument. But, then, we can’t have the facts, can we? They’re all classified.

The Bubble Boy story defines our time: hot air, empty of content.

And this at a time when the best among us are smarter, more well-read, have access to more information and more ways to analyze it than ever before.

Yet we get Barry McCaffrey analyzing wars; Roland Martin explaining society; Sean Hannity interpreting government and Bill O’Reilley clarifying it all.

What all the talking heads have in common is not study, not intelligence, not insight, not access to information — it’s their mania to opine. Yes, some have an area of expertise but it’s an expertise slathered in opinion.

Surely, we’ve had enough. Here’s a suggestion.

Let’s start hearing from the academics. Surely, the Ivory Towerians can learn to string a sentence together and focus on a cogent message. Surely they can comb their hair and straighten their tie and learn to smile when they deliver their verdict.

Let’s challenge the media to start delivering some star sociologists and philosophers and historians and psychologists, even medievalists and futurists. People who have studied what has gone before, what can exist, what has the probability of occurring and what are its implications — all backed up by hard-earned reputations of study and smarts.

In fact, our age has context. As Bismarck said, “The further back you look the further forward you can see.”

Isn’t it about time we stopped shooting blanks in the dark? Roland Martin may be a nice guy but we need more than his opinion to guide us forward.

Take the wars, for instance, Iraq and Afghanistan. Had we heard from historians would the outcomes of these wars been predictable? Would insightful philosophers put the wars into a moral context that might have helped us to understand … ourselves, our society and the thinking of the adversary? Would a sociologist have been able to forewarn us of what the killing and dying may mean to the country? And would the psychologists have told us what all the dying would mean to us?

We fought our way through the superstition of religion to arrive in the Age of Enlightenment. And we enjoyed it for awhile until someone invented telegenics. Then we started listening and stopped thinking.

We have become a captured audience of the talking heads, whether onscreen or in print. Ours has become the Op-Ed culture: our choices are yin or yang and we closed our minds, not only to dissenting thought, but to the range of possibilities locked in the minds of the brains who actually study the stuff. As Milton said about his blindness: these are talents lodged useless.

Surely we can pry open our mind and free it from this childish, useless duality of pro and con, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat and allow the educated among us to educate us to start making intelligent decisions.

Surely it’s time to call on the academics.

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