Sadly, the news media only dwells on the sensational
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The Internet is a marvelous communications system for the interchange of information, knowledge and ideas. But it is also a superhighway of dissemination of extremist misinformation, lies, conspiracy theories, bigotry, fear and hatred.
Unlike newspapers, radio and television news reporting, there is no oversight over the Internet demanding truth and responsible commentary. Anything goes, and the more extreme it is in distortion and sensationalism, the better. And sadly the news media, especially, TV, have sunk to the level of dwelling on the sensational (aiding and abetting extremist messages) instead of presenting factual information on important news items, which should be their mission. The NewsHour with Jim Leher on PBS, at 6 p.m. weekdays, seems to be the lone exception.
My concern about the abusive use of the Internet is its potential for adverse impact on our democratic system. Presentation of unbiased information on important issues leads to a well-informed public, which is essential to a functional democracy. Inflammatory rantings which preclude any semblance of thoughtful and intelligent discourse on issues are a threat to the success of a democratic form of government.
The furor which has engulfed the Healthcare Reform “debate” over the past two months is a perfect example of rhetoric gone amok. Distortions, spurious inventions, and repeated lies circulated with the intent of creating fear and distrust have turned town meetings on healthcare reform into shout-fests, making any intelligent discussion of the issues involved nearly impossible. Lies, when repeated often enough, take on a life of their own, and never seem to go away. Witness the large number of Americans who still believe the false claims made by Vice President Dick Cheney that Saddam Hussein was in league with Osama bin Laden in the 1991 attack on the World Trade Center, and that our existence was threatened by his massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that all of the evidence which has been obtained confirms that there was no truth in those claims.
Another even sadder example is the ridiculous conspiracy theory that was circulated claiming that President Obama’s Sept. 8 message urging school children to stay in school and work to get a good education was a cover for an indoctrination in the Communist Manifesto. The result was a totally irrational outburst from parents demanding that schools not show the President’s speech, and keeping their children from seeing it by keeping them out of school. Whether due to bigotry or paranoia or anti-intellectualism, it is a terrible thing to impose a closed mind on the children just because that is what their parents have. Chances are that many of the children who are denied the opportunity of having the President inspire them to improve their futures by staying in school and working for an education, were those most in need of that kind of encouragement.
I am thoroughly ashamed that the Roaring Form School District Re-1, serving Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, whose mission should be to provide the best educational experience for children of these communities, chose not to show the President’s message promoting education for the benefit of both the student’s and our country, just because it received a handful of uniformed protest calls. Doesn’t this send a message that any parent who disagrees with anything being taught in our schools can have that item stricken from the curriculum? Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, this was not coming “down the middle of the road,” it was caving in to a minuscule vocal minority to the detriment of all of the District’s students.
It is the incidents like these that make our country the laughing stock of the people in the rest of the world’s democracies.
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent
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