The Triviality of Public Opinion

The Triviality of Public Opinion

First, let me say that I like this cartoon because it’s funny and to the point. Bloggers do exaggerate their own importance, blogs are infested with pointless arguments, twitter is ridiculous, and lolcats … well, actually I really like lolcats.

Referring to this cartoon by stalwart progressive Tom Tomorrow, an even more radical reader complains that sometimes the corporate news media promote a political agenda, and therefore his implicit defense of it is inexcusable. Tom Tomorrow, being an editorial cartoonist, knows that all news media promote a political agenda, and so he responds like this:

… criticizing someone for doing an important job badly does not mean you wish that no one was doing the job at all.

We criticize journalists because we want them to do a better job, not because we want to see their profession eliminated entirely.

That’s what right-wingers want. That’s how right-wingers want to live, in an information-free zone in which facts are supplanted entirely by opinion, in which there’s no need to hear from a reporter on the ground in Fallujah as long as Rush Limbaugh has an opinion on the topic. But it’s not how I want to live.

That’s what those nasty right-wingers want:  a cocoon of self-affirming political coziness in which they never have to deal with facts that contradict their personal opinions. But not the “reality-based” progressives like Tom Tomorrow! No, they want facts. They want to live in the here and now, the world of real people who have real problems.

Well, except for Bible-believing Christians. Who cares about their problems? They’re all idiots, right? And homeschoolers:  just a bunch of child abusers who hate education. If they really loved their children, they would not want to be with them all day; they would want their children to be in a $6000-a-year daycare center, pumped up on Ritalin, learning about how stupid their parents are and how important it is to get drunk every weekend.

And maybe they don’t want the “here and now” when it comes to science. I mean, evolutionary biology is so important to medical science that we have to ignore the fact that medical school professors don’t feel the need to teach it. And even if evolutionary psychology has no experimental evidence at all, it is so important that if everyone doesn’t immediately accept it, all our technology will disintegrate before our eyes. Even though molecular genetics has no use for evolutionary theory in its empirical studies, it is so important for everyone to believe it unconditionally, because if they have any doubts about it, the human race will surely become extinct soon.

Now, seriously:  Tom Tomorrow is funny, but like most of his fellow pundits on the right, he wishes he could live in a world where everyone who disagrees with him would just shut up. Why? Because his self-image is formed by the opinions reflected back to him. Any contrary opinions are evidence that someone, somewhere, thinks that he might be wrong, and that is intolerable.

A warm, cozy, institutionalized, late-twentieth-century news cocoon reassures progressives that hierarchical political systems always fail, that religious people can be immoral, and that there is suffering in the world; all of which supposedly proves that God does not exist. What a relief! It lets them get on with their lives with no moral qualms, no self-reproach, and perfect self-righteousness.

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