The Contest of Ideas

The Contest of Ideas is a beautiful and powerful thing. If you have read my 100 Things list you are aware of the fact that I value dissenting opinions. (You would also know that I think we are much too quick to move ideas into the beliefs “column.”) I think that the conflict of ideas helps us acquire deeper levels of understanding, a broader knowledge base, and nurtures wisdom. One would think then that I really like election time, when competing ideas play out in the public forums of media and day to day conversation.
However, increasingly I am concerned that, rather than convince our citizens of the power and validity of ideas, politicians at the highest levels have stooped to trying to obscure competing ideas or discredit their opponent personally. It’s the oldest trick in the book. I see children do it routinely: make themselves look better than they are by tearing others down.
Carefully crafted machinery keeps political leaders from appearing to be involved in the unseemly deeds of the party. Soft money abounds to mold and shape public opinion and discourse with misinformation and a false sense of importance: constantly repeating lesser important ideas until they assume gargantuan proportions. Journalism stoops to gossip and panders to advertising interests $$$. Newscasters do less reporting and more interpreting and telling the American people what they should think and who they should trust and believe. Fewer and fewer people own the news mechanisms. Ethical behavior is decreasing in both media and business.
I could go into a great deal of detail as to why I believe all of this. But I will spare you. My guess is that, in your gut, you share at least some of the same concerns. Bottom line: I believe it’s wrong and harmful to democracy.
What of the fullness of integrity?!
But I also believe that we, the American people, have in part brought this mess on ourselves. We are too busy to think for ourselves. We don’t want detailed facts. Give us headlines. Better yet, just tell us, what should we think? After all, we trust the media. How many times do you hear the media tell you to trust it? “The most trusted…” Trusted? I think not. Who is paying for me to hear what they are saying? …saying it over and over, making it bigger and bigger, more and more important just through the constant repetition.
If a party or candidate can not win on the merit of a platform of ideas, a set of policies believed to be in the best interest of the majority, then the party should lose the contest, not stoop to a carefully crafted systematic campaign of mis-information, doublespeak, and deliberate deception!
Give me integrity, please!