Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Is there more anger in the news media, or is it just me?

Seems to me like news editorials, magazine commentaries, printed news analysis, letters to the editors, guest columns and news talk shows are full of anger these days. I don’t remember that always being the case. I don’t mean just disagreement over issues or people, I mean real anger toward people or groups that are in power or are in opposition to the ideas of the editor/writer/commentator.

It has become almost common place for journalists/commentators to include statements of hate in their commentaries. There are spoken and written comments saying they wish a politician would die, or saying they hate a particular group or ideology. What I’m seeing and hearing is more than just simple name calling (although there is far too much of that). This is real anger, real hate, leveled at groups and individuals.

One author, Peter Wood, says we have a “national epidemic of anger.”

Wood is provost and academic vice-president at King's College, an in his new book, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now, Wood explores the roots of that anger and the way it manifests itself in our culture.

In his book, Wood says this cultural anger has become central to our political process. In a recent commentary, Chuck Colson (breakpoint.org) explained Wood’s ideas in this way:

The discourse of our time has become about anger, with pundits, politicians, and their supporters acting as if their anger and hatred were virtues in themselves. Political and journalistic careers are built on being angry. It's a nationwide case of "I-hate-therefore-I-am," says Wood. As traditional virtues like self-control have eroded, replaced by new "virtues" like self-expression, anger and hatred have become celebrated, even cherished.

If you doubt it, look around. Read a bumper sticker or a comic strip. Pick up a newspaper or a magazine. Although Wood cites prominent cases of New Anger on both the right and the left, he sees a September 2003 article in the New Republic as "pivotal." That was the article that Jonathan Chait began with these words: "I hate President George W. Bush."

Wood comments, "Chait is a serious political commentator, not a barroom drunk." But Chait and others like him have legitimized a new way of talking about culture and politics that once would have seemed more at home in the barroom. They have demonstrated "that people who were eager to maintain a view of themselves as 'serious' and 'thoughtful' could, without risk to self-image or reputation, indulge in public vituperation" of the president or any other politician that they happen to hate. And many have followed their lead, with the result that true seriousness and thought have gone out the window. If you get angry enough, you prove your viewpoint worthy of respect—and that no one else's viewpoint is even worth considering.

Americans should do some serious thinking about how common anger has become in our culture and in our discussions of political ideas and people. Political debates are not won by who can shout the loudest, get the maddest or hit the silence button first. A person who cherishes anger can be downright dangerous.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting- this is a truly important topic- somehow we do need to change this in our system- anger and hate don't help anyone or any situation.

11:15 AM, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate you ... just kidding. I hear more of this than I read. Some "news" formats don't exactly follow the media's Code of Ethics so this problems comes up more in those formats. Plus, I've just noticed in normal office and social settings that people seem to feel more comfortable with saying they "hate" a politician. Could it be the fact that we have seen and heard so much of this on TV (and on radio) that we have become blind to its impact? Anger has become the new social norm ... so true.

11:20 AM, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a symptom of the culture. As American culture becomes more secular we become more depressed and angrier. What you are seeing is a very real symptom of that problem.

2:23 PM, August 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with this quote from Wood, "The discourse of our time has become about anger, with pundits, politicians, and their supporters acting as if their anger and hatred were virtues in themselves." Every talk show on TV and many on radio begin with anger, right out of the box. I think it is part of the entertainment factor. It seems to take strange behavior or anger to hold the interest of the viewer and that is what broadcast journalism is all about, holding the interest of the viewer.

12:07 PM, September 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote, "If you get angry enough, you prove your viewpoint worthy of respect—and that no one else's viewpoint is even worth considering." I hear more examples of this than I read. Hosts that shout over another person, even a caller, who is expressing a view they don't like. Heck, sometimes I don't like the views expressed but that doesn't mean my idea wins because I shouted louder or turn off the TV or radio. Yes, I think you hit a nerve because, in the absence of a moral foundation, our culture has anger.

12:28 PM, September 05, 2007  

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