Monday, September 21, 2009


According to James Thomson, president of the Rand Corporation, “Polarization in the US has reached its highest measure since the late 19th century.” His words were disturbing when I realized the civil war had just ended in the late 19th century. To say we are again at that level of animosity is disquieting. Thomson is not stating anything profound or new. He is merely echoing the words of President Obama , and quite frankly, echoing the words of just about everyone. Obama thought that too much attention is being paid by the media to “the shrillest voice.” Thomson’s take is "The proliferation of new, low cost media, able to aim only at a niche audience, allow people to hear or to read only what they want to, not exposing them to any challenging thought or uncomfortable opinion,"

Compounding the problem is the glut of shows that present themselves as “news” but are really merely entertainment. The goal is ratings and not education or debate. Perhaps I should heed the words of Samuel Marchbanks (aka Robertson Davies) who said “If you attack stupidity you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.” But I feel I have to try. The only upside to the polarization of ideas is better ratings. We need more than that.

By Sam DelPresto

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