Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Baghdad Bob Syndrome

Does anyone remember this guy??? It's Saddam's press secretary, aka "Baghdad Bob". He was certain that Iraq was defeating the American troops and all was well (after all, it took 3 full days before a tank rolled through the heart of Baghdad, success!). I remember watching McClellan spin himself into an ataxic stupor during his press conferences and finding myself muttering under my breath "there's no way this guy can *possibly* believe what he is saying". I'm reading his book now and even still, despite his claims that he believed what he was saying at that time, I find it very hard to believe.

The Baghdad Bobs of the world are all over the media- Limbaugh, Hannity, Oreilly, Beck, and a few left wing ones most liberals are too embarrassed to listen to... They all have one thing in common. They know that just the act of saying something- no matter how ridiculous, outrageous or obviously warped it is, makes it seem like a potential reality to some people. It plants an idea in the mind. If Baghdad Bob goes 1000 miles into the outfield and he gets you to follow him only halfway into loony land, he's succeeded.

The job of the Baghdad Bob is that of the defense attorney. He is getting paid to defend a client. In this case, the client is a political ideology. Like a defense attorney, he is not so interested in the truth about whether the client is guilty or innocent in this particular instance. He is merely interested in winning the case in whatever way he can, and preserving the reputation of the client. Being wrong repeatedly is only a small price for Baghdad Bob to pay for preserving the reputation of the ideology.

And that, in a nutshell is exactly what is wrong with the one way conversation found in the "new media". It is not designed to inform anyone and it discourages the aperspectival awareness necessary for good critical thinking. In short, it is pure propaganda. It preys on every human weakness and seeks to eliminate every virtue involved in human rationality. It attacks depth and sincerity. It ridicules detail. It punishes brilliance and replaces it with cheap counterfeit soundbites.

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