Television has conditioned the American Public to be unable to grasp anything that is more complex than what can be represented in a 15-second sound bite. This in and of itself is tragic because simple solutions do not usually work for complex problems and many of the issues we face today are complex.
Global warming for example; is not as simple as “put more CO2 into the air and the Earth gets warmer”. It is far more complex than that. For example, there is an 11-year solar cycle, actually it is a 22-year cycle but peaks twice in that cycle, during which the Suns energy increases and decreases with sunspot activity. When it increases, the Earth gets warmer, when it decreases the Earth gets cooler; and that effect is more rapid and more pronounced than warming due to CO2 and thus over short time periods of a decade or two, masks the effect of CO2. But CO2 does contribute to a gradual warming. There are many other aspects of this that need to be understood in order to see the full picture and come up with viable solutions but that’s not the point of this post, the point many of the issues that affect us can’t fit in a 15 second sound byte.
So called “Peak Oil” is another example, it’s a complex issue; we haven’t come anywhere close to using up half of what is in the Earth. We have used up a large portion of that which is near the surface, on land, which isn’t in politically or geographically difficult areas to extract, which has the quality of having a low viscosity, a high proportion of lighter hydrocarbons, and a low percentage of sulfur. But we’ve got plenty of heavy sour crude that is easy to get at but difficult to refine, and we have plenty of light sweet crude that is deep requiring drilling more than 20,000 feet through bedrock which is difficult and expensive, or off-shore a mile or more underwater, or in politically difficult to work in areas like Africa, Russia, or the Middle East, or in geographically difficult areas, like Anwar. There is more, but point again, it doesn’t fit in a fifteen second sound bite.
The same is true of so many pressing issues and that’s one of the reasons I’ve created these blogs, but unfortunately they’re only read by a small segment of our population, the majority of Americans still get their news in 15 second network television sound bites.
Another disturbing trend in television lately, and particularly I am seeing this on Fox News, is the deliberate taking sound bites out of context. For example, the sound byte of Reverend Wright saying, “Not God Bless America, God Damn America”, and in that speech he is actually quoting someone else and really you have to watch the whole sermon and put it in context to understand the meaning. Reverend Wright was in the marines for eight years, he does not hate this country. But this was repeatedly used out of context by Fox News in association with Obama to try to smear Obama and harm his chances at the presidency.
Another out of context quote that Fox News keeps using as do members of the Bush administration is a speech by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he is purported to say that Israel will be wiped from the map; and therefore Iran having nuclear technology is unacceptable. Again this is a sound bite taken out of context, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually quoting one of his predecessors in a speech in which he is contrasting his policies against those of his predecessors, so in effect what he is saying is completely the opposite of what this sound bite that Fox News and the Bush administration keep using implies when taken out of context which is the only way in which they present it.
The way television is being used to manipulate people is beyond evil. Folks, do a little investigation, you can find the entire speeches on the Internet, Google is your friend, Television is your enemy. Find the whole speeches, learn the context that these sound bites came from, and understand that the people using them out of context are trying to manipulate you in the most horrible of ways, ways that if successful, will result in the needless deaths and suffering of millions of people.
I am hopeful that when this federal mandate of the end of analog television broadcasting happens next year that a lot of people will just say screw it, not buy new televisions and perhaps over time they’ll even learn to think beyond the fifteen second sound bite.