The Public Discourse… A case against censorship, and a call for integrity.

It is human nature to gravitate towards venues which advocate our predispositions.

As Americans cultivate their views about morality, religion, politics and the social sciences, it becomes incumbent on the intellectually ill-equipped to seek out media that will support their uninformed suppositions. All but few Americans have relegated themselves to reciting inane platitudes, and regurgitating other people’s insipid blather so as to affirm an intellect they do not possess. As the sensibly susceptible align themselves with one political party or the other — not to mention the accompanying cable news networks — they’ll eventually learn “a few things about a few things”. And in their severely limited scopes they’ll feel as if they now have the solutions to the Nation’s problems locked away in their tragically under-developed frontal lobes. The payoff for this, is a simple rationalization that their collective bias’ is actually socially discerning politics, and feigned relevancy.

So we Americans venture forth into the intellectual abyss, clinging to misrepresentations which comfort us. We’ll adhere to the social dogma that our political affiliations mandate, while disregarding other — sometimes valid — interpretations which might refute their affirmations. We’ll wrap ourselves in the security blanket of denial… insulating ourselves from the cold, hard truth that most of us are simply too emotionally immature to be candidly introspective, let alone honest with ourselves. All too often, we’ll pick and choose our “truths” based –not on facts — but on what we *want* to be true.

The real truth is that we believe the lies we want to hear.

However, selective fact gathering can neither provide truth, nor wisdom. As John Adams so astutely affirmed, “Facts are stubborn things”… When seeking truth one cannot begin with a conclusion, and gather facts to support it. That is not how valid resolutions are made. We must go where facts lead us, and make our determinations thusly. Even if they are uncomfortable, or contradictory to what we’ve always been led to believe. We simply cannot choose what is true, and what is not. The only thing we can choose, is which side of the political aisle we want to affiliate ourselves with based on whether the Left, or the Right’s version of the truth best suits our own astigmatic — if not bigoted– presumptions.

Which brings us to the recent shootings in Tucson, and how they have sparked passionate dialogue, and finger pointing around the country. It seems that anyone with a platform, and an opinion about any socio/political issues peripheral to these shootings has taken this opportunity to prattle on about “who” they believe is responsible for “what”. The vitriol between the Liberal Left, and the Conservative Right has been brought into the spotlight and portrayed as particularly villainous, even if not specifically about this particular set of circumstances. Still, the brainwashed constituents of both parties continue to laughably place blame on one another as being the source of this toxicity, and the reason that the political landscape now resembles “reality” television rather than the beacon of democracy that we’ve always been able to boast… The practice of the irresponsible, self serving leveling of accusations has become an American political institution, as has an utter lack of accountability… or tether to reason.

Similar to how America handles every other crisis, where is concerns the Tucson shootings, we are reactionary. As we did with the “underwear bomber”, we wait for something to happen, and then respond irrationally. In this instance, rather than fondling citizen’s genitals to ensure their safety, there are those both in politics and in the media who have capitalized on the National heartbreak over these senseless shootings… and who are actually suggesting that we legislate censoring symbols, metaphors, and the way we talk about one another.

They are responding to the problem of acerbic rhetoric, with politically correct rhetoric. While it might seem admirable to ask those in the national spotlight to choose their words more carefully, “dial back” the acrimony, or to avoid needlessly antagonistic contention, that is something that must occur organically if it ever hopes to last into the next news cycle. Even if they were to ban certain words from the National dialogue, that won’t change anyone’s true feelings, or the intent behind the words they *are* permitted to use. If history teaches us anything, it’s that it is impossible –not to mention prolifically stupid– to even try to legislate how people feel.

It would be like putting a coat of paint on a rusty car.

When we seek politically correct solutions — especially when it comes to language — it inherently motivated by political grandstanding, and it always comes at the expense of the truth. If there is legitimate animus between political rivals it needs to be expressed, and in their own chosen verbiage. If an emotional response is honest, and one feels it, they should be able to say it. That is how we can determine who we vote for, or even watch on television. But the operatives here are “legitimate, and “honest”… not “animus”.

Whenever I see high profile Liberals and Conservatives debate one another, it has always been my contention that as long as they critique the other, their arguments will remain substantially convincing. Indeed, there is so much perfidy within both Left and Right politics that there is a virtual bottomless pit of ideological assault points. But it is when the political apologists try to defend their own parties abhorrent disregard for both civility, and reason that the perfidiousness of their agendas become clear.

So the problem has become, “How do we manage ideological differences of opinion which will contribute to the Democratic process rather than hinder it, while not infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights, let alone their honest expression?”

It is not altering language or symbols that we need… nor do we need to re-examine the First Amendment. It is not censorship we require, but rather journalistic, and political INTEGRITY. When the Founders wrote the First Amendment, they did so with an understanding of the necessity of having independent press in a free society. They recognized that even setting up three branches of government wasn’t enough to ensure that corruption wouldn’t find a way to creep back into men’s souls, and that we required a system whereby the citizenry would have credible advocates working on their behalf, and reporting on the activities of the politicians whom we elect.

That sacred trust has since been betrayed. Journalism is all but vanished from the American landscape, and what we have left are editorialists shilling for politicians, and their respective lobbies. This is what now passes for news… and the cerebrally bankrupt — albeit frightened — proletariat rush to choose sides, ignorant of the fact that the people they have put their trust in have no credibility.

The malicious bombast which has grinded our legislative process to a virtual halt exists because Left and the Right continue to police one another’s language, and speculate on how they perceive each other’s intentions. That can’t work, because of the source of the criticism. All that will accomplish is to further the divide between otherwise (potentially) conciliatory differences of opinion. In order to create a more civil public discourse, we need to require more from those who steer public opinion.

We must require that both Democrats and Republicans demonstrate integrity, and chastise the fringe elements of their own respective parties, not the others. Rather than placating incendiary, irrational, and purposely deceptive hyperbole when it comes from someone with whom they allegedly align, both pundits and politicians need to behave like the adults in the room, and not excuse the failings of *anyone’s* illogical ravings, regardless of party affiliation. This problem is much less about what we say of one another, but what we fail to admit about ourselves. The lunatic fringe would be far less powerful if their own parties called them out when they are behaving irrationally.

The more reasonable method of addressing the toxic political environment is not to seek censorship over what we say about one another, but rather to cease censoring ourselves when it comes to what we say about the extremists within our own respective parties. Perhaps then, we can go back to being Democrats and Republicans — and moreover, Americans — instead nation of the bitter, warring Liberals and Conservatives that we have become.

This article is dedicated to those who have the capacity to think critically… especially congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Please get better soon, Ms. Giffords.


About Rich Woods

Rich Woods is the author of the critically acclaimed books, UnLearn Vanilla Marriage, and Yahweh to Hell. He is also a columnist, sociologist, and satirist who has performed seminars around the country. He's also made several TV and radio appearances. Transitioning from a blue-collar background has given Mr. Woods a unique perspective --and an even more unique elocution--among his peers. Raised Catholic, Mr. Woods is now a very public atheist who champions the separation of church and state. He's an advocate for non-traditional relationships, including --but not limited to-- negotiating non-monogamy, as well as being a vocal opponent of political correctness. Throughout his career, Woods has had colorful metaphors hurled in his direction from both liberals, and conservatives. To be honest, most of the vitriol comes from the Tea Party. However, he considers one of his greatest accomplishments having been called "Harry Reid's Lapdog" , and referred to as being "just like Rush Limbaugh" from two different sources within minutes of one another. Originally from Queens, New York, and presently residing in central New Jersey, Rich Woods is madly, and hopelessly in love with his wife Jane since before they were wed in 2002, and is the proud father of two successful, brilliantly creative, young adult children. Try as he might, he can't juggle.

Posted on January 14, 2011, in Archived Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hey Rich,

    You just keep getting better & better with your writings. I especially enjoyed this one.

    “We’ll wrap ourselves in the security blanket of denial… insulating ourselves from the cold, hard truth that most of us are simply too emotionally immature to be candidly introspective, let alone honest with ourselves. All too often, we’ll pick and choose our “truths” based –not on facts — but on what we *want* to be true.”

    “The real truth is that we believe the lies we want to hear.”

    That is so profound!

    Keep doing what you do best Rich…bringing out the truth…as you always say…”It May Hurt.”


  2. You are a good egg, Rich Woods.

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