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Honesty after our election tsunami

Restoring Sanity

Mike Yavorsky

Issue date: 11/12/10 Section: Opinion
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A little less than two weeks ago, I stood on the National Mall and watched Jon Stewart rail against the 24-hour cable media and its promotion of sensationalism. That same week, Republicans swept into power in the House of Representatives, in what analysts variously referred to as a political 'earthquake,' 'tidal wave,' and 'tsunami.' And there was a reason that all of their metaphors were natural disasters. But don't threaten to move to Canada just yet.

I cherish one sign I saw at the Rally to Restore Sanity: "I disagree, but I don't think you're a Nazi." However, I think a distinction should be made between labeling someone a Nazi and articulating a position in the deluge of false information that plagues politics today.

POLITICO reported two days before the rally that many political analysts thought Jon Stewart was transitioning from a comedic political commentator to a mainstream political player. Lawrence O'Donnell said Stewart was merely extending his audience to a new stage on the National Mall, and I think for anyone who was at the rally, that was definitely the case. Humor played a much greaterrole in the presentation by Stewart and Colbert, and the denunciation of mainstream media came only at the end. The mood of the rally was a muddied one, as predicted by one liberal executive. The people who came out were heavily progressive, and their message at times clashed with that of our host.

In what I saw as an effort to avoid alientating certain segments of his audience, Jon Stewart once again held up MSNBC as a Fox News equivalent on the left. It was here that his message jumped the tracks. The distinction that needs to be drawn is one between quieting misinformation and quieting dissent. While there are absolutely members of the political left who make egregious statements and must be reigned in, there is nothing that compares to the misinformation spewing from ex-candidates and failed governors at Fox News. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reported that polls commissioned for Fox News by Pulse Opinion Research exaggerated the strength of 55 Republican candidates, constituting a majority of the polls issued.

Should our political discourse remain as factual as possible? Yes. Will Americans ever abandon our preference for personality in political candidates? No. But the flavor of our national shouting match has less to do with personality than making as much noise as possible, and that is responsible for one problem today. It is much easier to make a splash when you are allowed to invent facts. Fox News, among others, has done this with audacity. And the result is that some of the extremist candidates who ran last week aren't successfully filtered out because their dialect gets lost in the tsunami of misinformation. Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle lost last week, and everyone who prefers a modicum of respect for America from the rest of the world should be relieved. But Rand Paul and Marco Rubio were victorious, and credit flows to the Tea Party for their victories, a harbinger of twisted political discourse.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart mistakenly suggested that we sit down and be quiet. I think the real message is one of substantially more subtlety: I'll laugh at suggestions that Christine O'Donnell is a witch, but I'll worship at a Satanic altar before I vote against her for that reason. We need to laugh at those accusing someone of being a 'communist' or a 'Nazi,' but there are times when you have to be loud to be heard. All I can think of today are anti-war activists, who loudly renounce violence when that is precisely what our country needs to hear. Under the yoke of a Republican House, it is important to ensure that our ideals are heard so we can give politicians the cover they need to do the right thing.

Mike Yavorsky is a third-year computer engineering major with a political science minor. He also serves on the executive board of Case Model United Nations.
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    posted 11/14/10 @ 7:46 PM EST

    You seem like one of those proud to be liberals that is 100% convinced that their political insight is factual, despite obvious flaws in logic.

    Stating that Fox News invents facts is a bold claim, and lacks any sort of support. (Continued…)

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