The Icon and the Straw Man
During a recent conversation over a social network something striking occurred. The interchange became quite heated requiring retrieval of a footnote from a book. When I produced the footnote my fellow communicant mocked the source, and informed me that it was spurious if it did not have a link to the Internet. This statement shocked me, in that it was coming from someone older than I who claimed to be well read. This suggested to me that consumption and dissemination of the opinions of others is now what liberals believe passes for being well read. Many political tricks cause this kind of thinking. The most effective trick is the creation of Idols to be worshipped and emulated and straw men to be derided and burnt by the idols. The dichotomy of the accepted ideal and the other is incredibly powerful.
The most severe example is that of John Stewart and Fox News. In the conversation I mentioned at the outset, one of the first responses I received from this individual was an admonishment of Fox News and was accompanied by a clip from John Stewart’s Daily Show. The clip showed numerous segments of anchor Megyn Kelly contradicting herself. I didn’t respond to the clip because it was not relevant to the conversation. The individual brought this argument and clip up because she assumed – because I was a conservative – that I view specific news anchors, pundits, politicians as she does, as idols.
The people idolized by the left are frequently built by manipulating public perceptions. Stewart is so effective in this role because he has a special bully pulpit at his disposal. His show, being a comedy show, is not required to be truthful or factual. It also provides a vehicle to attack people without looking mean. Ironically, Stewart admits his show is “the fake news.” Despite this contradiction, Stewart’s show is, for many liberals, their only news show. When looked at discerningly, one sees that Stewart’s show is nothing more than propaganda. Although incredibly funny, the show consists primarily of Stewart mocking his ideological adversaries. This is incredibly powerful sociologically because Stewart is in a position where he never has to admit he was wrong. He shields himself from criticism by describing himself as being “just a comedian.” Many young people on the left do not consider receiving their hard news from a comedian as being suspect, despite their opinion being provided to them sans an intellectual struggle. They simply do not entertain the notion that their idol, Stewart, could be wrong, so why would they need to look into an issue any further. Of course, the other side of the argument is ‘the other’ and cannot be trusted. It is far easier to show a thirty-second video clip of an opinion, than having to explain a footnote.
Stewart’s largest straw man is Fox News. Stewart, being the liberal idol, must project his superiority over what is the most popular news network of his adversaries. He has been incredibly effective in this for years. I have been told by many with an almost religious certainty that the Daily Show does not only have better news, but is more reliable news than Fox News Channel. They believe the Daily Show is a better source for news overall.
In reality, the Daily Show is a thirty-minute comedy performance. Unlike the New York Times and other print media, it does not have to print retractions. In contrast, Fox News is a cable channel that is under consistent scrutiny from both sides of the political spectrum. Although the left will not accept it, many conservatives deride Fox News just as much as liberals. Fox News, to the chagrin of many conservatives, always puts forth opposing opinion no matter how dearly the right believes those arguments to be hogwash. Fox News also engages many liberal voices daily, even on the perpetually derided shows of O’Reilly and Hannity.
A liberal now need only say, “you must watch fox news,” to justify themselves to the other. To liberals opinion has become fact and fact has become irrelevant, for to be right is to be on the side of the idol, to question the idol is marking ones self for immolation. Self-satisfaction, safety in the herd, and exclamations of intelligence await individuals who will submit to the idol. While those who question receive an ‘a priori’ belief of their stupidity from the herd. Our education system has already been devalued through liberalism, and now it seems that comedy and self-satisfaction is exalted over individualism and what Sociologist Le Bon called the “critical spirit.” People’s opinions have been bought by pop culture popularity like so many “Mean Girls” and “Heathers” types have through beauty and money. It is a devolution…and these people call themselves intellectuals.