Tuesday, February 22, 2011

About Opinion

Wilfred M. McClay wrote about Rush Limbaugh in Commentary magazine, and his essay was reprinted in our local state paper today. Put your politics aside when you see Rush. Stay with me, this is worth it.

After devoting several thousand words to how no one is giving Limbaugh a fair assessment, McClay turns to the talk radio genre at large. In his close:

The critics may be correct that the flourishing of talk radio is a sign of something wrong in our culture. But they mistake the effect for the cause. Talk radio is not the cause, but the corrective.

Not unlike I've said before about television/computer, I give this Postman-esque clarity on digital media if you only substitute "message board" for "talk radio". McClay continued in the same paragraph:

A problem of long-standing in our culture has reached a critical stage: the growing loss of confidence in our elite cultural institutions, including the media, universities and the agencies of government.

In other words, the vitriol isn't causing the problem. Like a fever, it's the product of a problem. Randy Pausch said this little parable of his short-lived time playing football in high school. He didn't like that the coach was on him every day in practice. He finally vented to an assistant coach, who told him this life lesson:

When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.

In other words, as long as the opinions are there -- pro or con -- there's always room for improvement or changing the opinion of fans. The time to worry is when there are no longer harsh comments. That signals the fans have simply given up, and moved on to other interests. Much easier to win back an angry fan than to re-recruit one that has quit.

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