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Negativism, Skepticism, Cynicism, Dissent ... Despair

By       Message Richmond Shreve       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   3 comments

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It’s ever so easy to make the case against hopefulness. Maybe it’s a sign of the times—writers don’t want to seem foolishly optimistic; readers don’t want to seem gullible; and all of us have been discouraged and disillusioned by too many political leaders. After all, suspending skeptical disbelief is what we do when we read a fairytale, not what we do with the news. Am I right?

So,here we are as a new administration gears up to take office. The conservatives are ranting about “Clinton Retreads.” The Progressives are grumbling that the whole team is too centrist—all political insiders. “So much for change we can believe in,” they sigh. Even those who think the team is mostly well-chosen are lamenting that the problems we face are virtually insoluble.

Confronted with all this negativity, it is hard to see why Obama would get out of bed in the morning. Nobody really thinks he can make a difference, everybody is dissatisfied and cynical, dissent is rampant and he hasn’t even taken office. Who’s sending out vibes of support? Where is the cheering section?  Is it sufficient that we elected the man? Do we now fold our arms, lean back, and glower through our eyebrows waiting to pounce on the first hint of a miscue?

Distrust pervades out appetite for the news and accounts for why talk radio opinion is so consistently on the attack. We actually find cynicism entertaining. When you look at it closely, it’s shameful. We channel-surf to stations that offer tabloid journalism, voting with our remotes against the more reasoned opinion, or the balanced analysis. Consequently the ratings and the bucks go the ones who select news by its entertainment potential.

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All of us should take a long hard look at our attitude as it shows up in our article comments. “Balanced” does not mean no point of view. But it should preclude using dismissive adjectives, sneering characterizations, and artful rendering of facts out of context. Words and clichés like “drink the cool aid” or  “useful idiot” don’t persuade, they insult and they are no substitute for facts and analysis.

Lawyers have an expression: “If you don’t have an argument, pound the table.” It points to the human tendency to substitute emotion for logic and fact. If your viewpoint has merit, it should stand on its merits and not lean on verbal table thumping for support. If you descend into cathartic invectives, trashing the other guy’s viewpoint, who are you writing for? You are probably therapeutically venting you own issues; is that a fair use of the airtime? Are you informing the reader in a meaningful way? As a rule, light trumps heat in arguments—especially when the reader so easily bolts away with a mouse click.

OpEdNews, like many internet news sources, exercises almost no editorial discretion over what appears on its pages. If you submit it, it will probably get posted. Unlike the mainstream media, it is very open and accessible.  That’s its strength and weakness all in one. On the plus side there is a refreshing variety whereas the mainstream gets into group think. On the minus side, there is no fact-checking, no vetting of sources, and no editorial oversight of style. So, one may need to read a lot of poorly thought out, poorly written, overly long ramblings and rants before finding the jewel. Like the boy mucking out the barn, I sometimes find myself wondering if the pony is worth it.

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The editors do exercise discretion in what stories are featured at the top of the category, in the headlines, and in the side-bar. And, God bless them, the editors are volunteers who, unlike me and other readers, don’t read a couple of lines of the stinkers and click to the next article. They dutifully read the whole thing before accepting or rejecting it.

As authors, comment writers, and quick-link posters we should do our best to make reading upbeat and worthwhile for the editors and other readers. Let us write, not rant; let us illuminate, not distort; let us thoughtfully criticize, not carp; let us persuade, not deride.


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Richmond Shreve is a retired business executive whose careers began in electronics (USN) and broadcasting in the 1960s. Over the years he has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio, and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and (more...)

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