From firstname.lastname@example.org Sat Oct 21 13:26:32 2000
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 22:42:24 -0500 (CDT)
From: Norman Solomon <email@example.com>
Subject: Debates: Truth Stranger Than Science Fiction
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
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
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."