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From mediabeat@igc.apc.org Sat Oct 21 13:26:32 2000
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 22:42:24 -0500 (CDT)
y From: Norman Solomon <mediabeat@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Debates: Truth Stranger Than Science Fiction
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Article: 107291
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The debates: Truth is stranger than science fiction

By Norman Solomon, Creators Syndicate
20 October 2000

Earthlings have continued a tradition of bizarre rituals during their planet's current season. A columnist from the Galactic Syndicate provides this analysis:

From afar, we may be inclined to smirk at the activities of humanoid creatures who inhabit the only life-covered orb in what they call "the solar system." But all of us should do our best to understand events on Earth, no matter how strange they may be.

The watery planet, located 93 million miles from its sun, is currently dominated by one nation, the United States of America. Because of its preeminent power on that globe, the governance of the USA is of considerable interest.

While admirable in some respects, Earthlings -- who number several billion -- are not the most self-aware of beings. Their conceits and pretensions are apt to calcify into formulaic rites, often embraced with credulous fervor.

And so it goes in the United States, where a new leader is selected once every 1,460 cycles of darkness and light. Prior to the election, in which some of the USA's citizens vote, events occur which are known as "debates."

With enormous amounts of attention devoted to those spectacles, you might imagine that they profoundly explore subjects of great importance. Unfortunately for the millions -- indeed billions -- of affected and hapless Earthlings, this is not the case.

Clerical participants in the "journalism" faith are eager to assess those debates in terms that are superficial, even idiotic. Not only is the focus on appearance, style and practiced composure. Even more astonishing, after the latest series of debates ended, most of those ecclesiastic professionals voiced satisfaction with the mode of discourse.

Perhaps a form of shared delusion or even mass hypnosis is involved. How else can we explain the constant evaluation of leaders as performers -- as if their facile and glib verbal fencing could make up for the absence of discernment about the self-destructive essence of deeply ingrained institutional habits?

In the planet's mass media, the most absurd Earthlings are commonly employed as "pundits." While claiming special expertise in fields such as journalism, history and social science, they function like fleets of haywire spaceships -- staying in fairly symmetrical proximity to each other, apparently embarked on rational explorations, yet sharing reliance on wacky compasses that send them tumbling and spinning through vast expanses of time-warped space without relation to fixed points.

After the most recent series of debates, these pundits were prone to go into raptures about the transcendent value of lavish generalities, platitudes, homilies and miscellaneous poll-tested buzz phrases spouted incessantly by the candidates. Because the standards are so chronically debased, craven drivel is likely to be rewarded with profuse accolades.

To explicate such dynamics, one might visit a few of the Earthling libraries. In the USA, those long-term repositories for books exist in sharp distinction to the modernized and elaborately maintained holy temples for the sacramental material known as "money." In contrast to banks, the public libraries tend to be in various stages of disrepair and neglect.

In the library sections devoted to young beings, there are some books which can explain the fatuous musings of pundits. One tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," illustrates a key dynamic of journalism in the USA region of Earth. Desires for safety and peer approval -- and deep fears of vulnerability to social disapprobation -- lead pundits and countless other Earthlings to remain in step with prevailing nonsense.

As a result, the ritual abuse of reasoning faculties is treated by pundits with inordinate respect. In fact, most members of the punditocracy are determined to match the patronizing exercises in circumscribed debate. Amid all the glaring injustices, looming ecological disasters and economic priorities that place the accumulation of wealth over humanoid well-being, the media commentators seem as anxious as major candidates to confine themselves to discussing options for minimal tweaking.

Inside the often-dilapidated and sparsely funded structures of public libraries, humans can find books by the Earthling writer Mark Twain. One, titled "Roughing It," includes an apropos passage at the end of a chapter about the vagaries of mining for a fortune. When Twain regretfully observes that "all that glitters is not gold," his more experienced companion, a fellow named Mr. Ballou, retorts: "Nothing that glitters is gold."

"So I learned then, once for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only low-born metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter," Twain wrote. "However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica."

Unfortunately, the Earthling journalists usually seem unable to resist the glittery. They are in the easy habit of mistaking its shimmering gloss for substance.

Perhaps this distant mirror can shed light on some of our own foibles and foolishness. Traveling at 186,000 miles per second, illumination could get here in a hurry.

Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."

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