Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Are Liberal Ideas "To Complex" For TV?

Todd Gitlin has a new article up at The American Prospect that you should check out. I'd like to draw attention to the following:
In case you haven't noticed, it takes more to seize your attention now, to paralyze your itchy finger before it gets to the remote control. ... To the problem of securing attention, the FOX News Channel has found a 24-7 solution: Get its hands around your neck. ... Could liberals fight back? In a provocative book, The Sound Bite Society, Jeffrey Scheuer argued that television's formats, not just its ownership, tilt rightward because liberals are partial to complexity whereas television prefers simplicity. (Radio, too.) If a liberal is, as Robert Frost is said to have said, "a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel," a conservative idea of a quarrel is a fight against straw wimps.
Reading this made me reflect on something: Is the "liberals are partial to complexity" meme just another myth pushed by the right, and willingly accepted by the left, to keep the left from even considering a serious attack on the Limbaughs of the world? Who says liberals can't produce soundbites? Who says liberals can't distill their ideas down to the simple slogans that TV and radio demand? I attended the January anti-war rally in Portland and saw plenty of examples of strong, left-wing soundbites all around me. Are liberals deliberately hobbling themselves by buying into the comforting notion that they aren't successful on the airwaves because their ideas are to complex? Are they being lulled by this meme into a sense of resignation? The right may win the airwaves, but the left gets the consolation of thinking that they are more complex. Or is that just so much bullshit?


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