Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Israel Crisis and How News Shows Handle Their Choice of Guests

I just listened to a "debate" on the current crisis in Israel and the Gaza Strip, and frankly I could have turned the volume down and "heard" every word. In the effort for balance, news shows like that on CNBC or Fox are prone to select polemics on either extreme of the issue. This might make for good drama and entertainment, but the event sheds no new light on the conflict, offers no true solutions, and reinforces the already horrendous level of extremism in today's political environment.

In the same way that I have tried imploring people to take a fresh look at our pragmatic center and its ability to draw the left and right towards it, we need to do something similar in the political debate being broadcast. My personal desire would be to eliminate speakers from the left and right and instead use a group of pragmatists that would engage in intelligent discourse we could learn from, but absent that these shows should at the very least include one or two voices from the majority center to buttress the goofiness we hear on the extremes.

The "talking heads" on TV today are so predictable that I have to seriously question what values are guiding the current offering of news shows; it certainly gives the impression that news shows are conceived of as a form of entertainment programming, and that is certainly disappointing. It is time that the pragmatic center received the respect it deserves, which includes a seat at the table when debate is on the agenda. At least then I would have reason to turn the volume back on.

The other issue that I want to consider involves the use of a point/counterpoint format, with  of an equal number of people arguing for either side. But what if the debate is over an issue where support is overwhelmingly on one side or the other. Let's take global warming for example. If 90% of all scientists in the field are on one side of the issue, creating a 50/50 ratio on a news show elevates a position that is in the extreme minority to a plateau where it is now perceived as "the equal" of the other side. Should there not be 3 or 4 believers of global warming on the stage against 1 denier? Wouldn't that arrangement be more representative of the state of opinion in the field? Just a thought.

By the way, before I close out this post, I want to point out that the current crisis in Israel and Gaza once again lends credence to my belief that until we throw out this idea of a "Two State Solution" and construct a new paradigm based on a "Three State Solution," we will never make progress towards resolving this conflict. By pressing hard for Israel and the West Bank to settle we can then isolate and pressure Hamas to participate in talks or remain isolated, denying residents any chance of a better life and exposing them as the intransigent, hard line Israel deniers we know them to be.

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