Guest piece from Red Chair Reflections
[Note: I have known the author at Red Chair Reflections for many years, and she is one of the best writers I have come across. Most of her pieces are not politically-oriented, but her voice is one that deserves to be heard. I thought readers here would especially enjoy this piece.]
It’s an election year in the US. I’ve started thinking more about how much effort is put into influencing our opinions – not just by the political parties and individual campaigns but by all of the intertwined sources of information we consume. It seems like immediately after every debate or televised speech, some variation of the following comes out of my television:
“We’ll break it all down for you.”
“We’ll tell you how the candidates fared tonight.”
“Let’s dive into what this all means to you at home.”
“If you are just tuning in, here’s what you missed.”
Think about these statements objectively, outside of the news cycle.
Next time you hear similar phrases from your television, think how condescending and offensive they are. Yet, they’ve become part of the media lexicon. We’ve been completely dumbed down and collectively convinced somehow that political discourse is as complex as brain surgery, and we shouldn’t form our own opinions without “expert” guidance.
Imagine being in a doctor’s office, for example. If you are reading a copy of your child’s latest bloodwork report or looking at an MRI image or an x-ray, these would seem like perfectly benign and soothing things to say to you. The doctor or assistant is the trained expert, and they understand what they are looking at, and you are depending on their training and expertise to explain something that you are not trained to understand. “Annie’s bilirubin reading is slightly elevated. Let me explain what that means. ” That is a perfectly respectful and reasonable statement.
On the other hand, imagine that you and your spouse are in a parent-teacher meeting, and have just listened to the teacher’s account of your tweenager’s behavior and performance problems in school. At the end of her presentation, a guidance counselor you’ve never met says, “Let’s dive in to what this means to you at home.” I don’t know about you, but my immediate reaction would be something along the lines of, “Oh, we know what this means to us at home, thank you very much. We’re not idiots.”