If you want to be a successful social and news commentator, you will largely have to give up any notion of being a kind and decent human being. In fact, you’ll always have to be at least a tad bit angry at someone, somewhere, for something stupid they’ve said or done. And you’ll need to be angry on a pretty regularly basis if you wish to stay at the top.
This is true whether or not you are a personality on the left or right. This is true whether you are on TV, radio, a podcast, or Twitter. And while you’ll still need to be insightful from time to time, peddling in anger is key. And the more you beat up on others, the higher you’ll potentially climb.
Consider the following “classic” exchange between former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera as they debated immigration reform about 15 years ago.
People Want A Fight – Not Truth
The reason for all of this is simple. MOST people don’t want to consume actual information and knowledge, and consider reasonable differing perspectives as they attempt to understand the world they live in. They just want to watch the Jerry Springer show.
And what is the only reason to watch the Jerry Springer show? To see a bit of a brawl and to feel better about ourselves.
And that’s why over the years people listen in droves to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingram, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, or even the ladies on The View.
That’s not to say these folks don’t have an occasional good insight worth considering. But even Jerry Springer ended his show with a short homily peppered with sage like sayings. But it was still Springer at the end of the day.
Our Cultural Predicament
Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to totally ignore these “chowder heads.” These folks are pervasive and everywhere, and their perspectives represent as well as shape the average discussion happening in the street. They give us a sense of what’s happening in the world as the history of the world unfolds in the news.
And in turn, the riveting social and political commentary of these talking heads is distorting our humanity. They can’t merely talk about the issues of the day as they seek to explore the significance of everything. They must constantly call one another “pin heads” while doing it. And while facts may not have feelings, people certainly do.
And that’s not to say there’s not a time and place for making it clear that other individuals in humanity are troublesome characters worthy of much scorn. Even Jesus denounced some of His opponents in very pointed ways from time to time.
But such was rare, and not the regular diet of the things He fed His followers. Jesus didn’t major in the snarky hot takes of the Twitter-verse.
The Danger Of Forked Tongues And Bitter Mouths
Proverbs says life and death is in the power of the tongue. By it men are made alive and lifted out of their graves, and by it worlds are reduced to rubble. So we must take caution in not only what we say and how we say it, but what we consume, and what we regularly listen to.
And what we regularly listen to is down right abusive. As a result, our society has normalized verbal abuse, and has made talking over one another in a heated exchange the way we simply communicate. As a result we are always talking at one another instead of with one another.
Is it no wonder president Donald Trump became so popular? Whether you like his politics or not, his abrasive manner of speaking has become so typical in the way we talk to one another. So much so that even many deeply religious people didn’t bat an eye at his manner of speaking. Indeed, they often defended it, as Trump was just mirroring what they themselves had long been listening to on the radio and TV. They thought it was perfectly normal and acceptable to have their leaders speak like that.
And why not? Their thought leaders on TV, radio, and social media regularly talk like that. Being angry and poking others in the eye as you discuss current happenings is all people ever see. And if that’s all you ever see, it’s not long before people everywhere start mimicking such behavior.
Destructive Instead Of Constructive Conversations
And don’t get me wrong, people occasionally need a good poke in the eye. And we need more engaging conversation in which people exchange conflicting ideas as they hash out difficult topics and events. Proverbs says as iron sharpens iron so one man does another. And when iron sharpens iron, sparks may occasionally fly. Loud noise is inevitable. But the process is ultimately constructive, not destructive.
Our current level of engagement isn’t usually iron sharpening iron. It’s the exchanging of Molotov cocktails. And like watching an hour of Jerry Springer, it’s killing our souls, yet making us feel good about ourselves just the same.
As a result, we think nothing of openly slandering others and spreading gossip and lies. People caught up in the QAnon conspiracy theories suffer from this issue. With a sketchy string of evidence that can’t be validated, and is frequently debunked, people insist on sharing the most grotesque ideas about other human beings imaginable.
We’ve Become Divided
I recently lost a long time friend over this. One of my friends was incessantly sharing a lot of these conspiracy theories. I called them out on it, saying that if they have such strong evidence that Joe Biden and a bunch of celebrities are part of a pedophile sex ring, that they should share such evidence with police and other legal authorities. And, if they don’t actually have such evidence, they shouldn’t openly accuse others of such heinous crimes.
After all, you wouldn’t want someone to do the same regarding you, right?
Unfortunately this exchange resulted in us being unable to remain friends. I consider such behavior morally reprehensible. Yet we live in a culture where such behavior has been normalized. For a bunch of angry talking heads have made us think this sort of behavior is acceptable. And social media has empowered us more than ever to engage in such ridiculous conversation.
How We Can Heal
I believe the path forward that will bring healing, is not the electing of a new president, but rather, putting into practice the teachings of Scripture.
Don’t bear false witness by sharing unfounded conspiracy theories. Always seek to be truthful.
Practice the “Golden Rule,” by treating others as you would want to be treated.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Treat others kindly, as someone also created in the image of God.
Walk in forgiveness, and practice brotherly love.
And above all else, I think we would do well to distance ourselves from these destructive “talking heads,” that have so many millions of people in our nation spell bound, and addicted to the hatred that they regularly perpetuate. We should give them very little of our attention, and do our best to turn them off.