I know I tell you nothing new when I say we live in an age of information overload. We have 24 hour news channels, news websites, social networks, and the ability to receive, sometimes whether we want it or not, an endless stream of e-mails from news organizations, political organizations and our elected officials. We are bombarded with current events and with everyone’s opinions on them.
As is to be expected, some of this information is good, some of it is bad, and some of it is outright nonsensical. There is an increasing tendency to treat matters of fact as matters of opinion (what Michael Kinsley referred to as “The Intellectual Free Lunch”) and vice versa. What’s worse we see in our public discourse a disturbing trend to ignore those easily available facts that counter our favored narrative.
This is nothing new really. The concept of confirmation bias is well documented at this point. Everyone, regardless of their political stripe, is at least occasionally guilty of it. With that said, and please keep in mind perhaps my bias is at play here, I notice it more in our society among the ranks of the so-called political right.
Case in point: this latest ad by the NRA. I find it difficult to believe that the makers of this ad missed the obvious fact that as the daughters of the Chief Executive of the most powerful country in the world, Sasha and Malia Obama are targets for kidnapping or worse. Only a fool would think that they did not require the presence of armed guards. It is a “privilege” the last President’s family enjoyed and rightfully so. The NRA is well aware of this, they are just hoping their supporters will forget it.
I will not take the attitude that this is treason as I have seen on some discussion threads. Nor will I take it as sedition, a word I have learned in my life to despise. There are no actual threats being made in this video and its makers are free to speak their mind. What I do take issue with is the intellectual dishonesty, of which this is only the most recent, and most egregious example.
We have seen it in our justifications for war, invading a country that had nothing to do with attacks on our soil, yet to this day the Iraq war supporters will make that claim, knowing full well it is not true. We have seen it in our discussions on health care reform as opponents of single payer cry about non-existent death panels while ignoring the de facto ones in the health insurance industry. We have seen it the cheer leading among the Democratic faithful as they ignore war crimes committed by their President that they would scream about if they were committed by his Republican predecessor.
We are so lacking in any appreciation of, or desire for, truly deep and reasonable debate that I fear the challenges we face are insurmountable. We are mired in the shallows of our desired world perspectives, unable to make any headway and watching our ship of state rot on jagged rocks. If we do not learn to navigate out of this situation, and soon, we may be looking at the end of our society as we know it.