News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Anger Industry

Our airwaves are awash in people with anger to sell you. And apparently the market is bullish.

The rage usually comes from the right but the left is trying hard to increase its market share. Our insatiable thirst for vitriol spans a range of political flavors from Rush Limbaugh to Gerardo Rivera. The long term effects of our national obsession with anger are anybody’s guess. In the short run, however, the anger merchants instantly polarize every issue, often reducing complex issues to bumper sticker arguments.

“Amnesty” has become the poisoned arrow conservatives fire at anyone who suggest anything short of deportation for illegal immigrants. Anyone who disagrees with open borders is usually tagged a racist by the left.

Flip-flopper. Fascist. Tax and spend. Cut and run. You’ve heard them all. These mean-spirited accusations get in the way of practical solutions and necessary compromise. But, man, do they draw audiences. And therein lays the real culprit.

It's fashionable to bash the media. But we the people get the news media we deserve. Thoughtful broadcast journalism like Face The Nation or the Jim Lehrer News Hour fail to draw big ratings. It seems we’d rather be entertained by a shouting match than inform ourselves about an issue and form a reasoned decision.

Perhaps worst of all, with so many shows making no attempt at political objectivity, we can insulate ourselves from any credible voices that challenge our preconceived notions. In this hostile landscape, proponents of an opposing view are trotted out as demons used to whip us into a bigger frenzy.

The Anger Industry is big business. So is crack cocaine. It’s up to us as viewers and listeners to kick the habit.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Author of America Libre