American Politics: Check Your Knife At The Door

Here’s the shadow side of cable TV news:

“Where was Obama tonight? He should watch — well, not just ‘Hardball,’ Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, he should watch the Reverend Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence [O’Donnell], he would learn something about this debate. There’s a hot debate going on in this country. Do you know where it’s being held? Here on this network is where we’re having the debate. We have our knives out. We go after the people and the facts. What was he doing tonight? He went in there disarmed.”

That was Chris Matthews on the MSNBC post-game party after the Obama-Romney debate Wednesday night.   

Chris Matthews during an edition of Hardball i...

Chris Matthews during an edition of Hardball in Manchester, NH (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brother Matthews was a couple of sentences too honest. He should have stopped at “There’s a hot debate going on in this country.” True enough. We’ve got plenty to talk about. But does the inflamed invective on MSNBC and FOX and talk radio advance the cause of democracy?

Cut to the chase:

“We have  our knives out.”

Thank you for your brutal honesty, Mr. Matthews. Now would you please step through the metal detector? We may have to take you away in handcuffs.

Americans don’t want presidential politics to be a knife fight. 

Which came first: Did vicious talk radio and TV rise up out of consumer demand? Or did vicious radio and TV create an American audience divided into angry, polar extremes?

We’re dealing with serious problems, Mr. Matthews. We live in a perilous world. We resort too quickly to metaphors of violence, and then to real violence.

Hot debate, recognizing the rules of civility, helps clarify the issues. The challenge of democracy is to have principles and stand by them, but leave room in the middle for  compromise.

— John Hayden

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5 thoughts on “American Politics: Check Your Knife At The Door

  1. In my opinion “vicious radio and TV” are indeed responsible for much of the rancor in today’s politics. Conservative talk show hosts and callers show very little civility toward anyone – interrupting, shouting overtop the person speaking, name calling, making up derogatory names for people or issues that they don’t like. People are acting like uneducated, unmannered, intolerant boors; as if they alone are the center of the universe.

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  2. “Entertainment News” is the thing I choke on. CNN may make the effort, but just one look at its online presence and you’re choking on trivia and boorish personality stories. Generally I have to look to the BBC or CBC to get even a slightly balanced US news. Maybe catering to the lowest common denominator is where the money is made. The art of rhetoric is dead and has been replaced with sound bites and irrational blathering by some of the most unpleasant people on earth.

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  3. THANK YOU. Wonderfully written, with concise and valid arguments. Personally, I happen to think Chris Matthews is somewhat of a angry old man with an inferiority complex, but he certainly is not alone. MSNBC is certainly a left-leaning (so far that it’s bordering horizontal) network. Which in and of itself is fine — if people are AWARE of it before hand. Most of the commentators are spinning the story with their audiences in mind. And, it’s not just the liberal stations! Fox News is the same way, albeit they lean to the right — to the delight of their target audiences. Liberal and conservative media is fine for commentary, however it is beginning to be difficult to find “hard news.”

    The Freedom of the Press was designed as the Fourth Estate — giving the press the responsibility to be a watchdog on government and officials, thus enabling us to be informed citizens and voters. However, now it seems that the media has gotten into the race itself, with networks vying for specific candidates to win. It’s turning into a nationally televised ego contest. Which, is why I stay up late enough to get the BBC morning news.

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