I've banned myself from listening to the news.
My habit has been to put on music in the morning when I get up to write (I've got the iPod on shuffle at the moment -- the Pretenders just came up). At 7:30 when I pour a bowl of cereal before my shower, I switch to NPR, and continue listening on my drive to work. More NPR on the drive home, and then, while I'm fixing dinner, maybe watch a bit of MSNBC or CNN on the little TV on the kitchen counter.
It's not doing anything for me.
I could almost believe that Joe Wilson's outburst was calculated to divert the discussion from the specifics of Obama's speech to a raised voices argument about whether or not Wilson should be censured or praised. Obama gave a good speech, with the clearest statement he's yet made about what he believes should be in the healthcare bill. There's plenty to discuss there, and, indeed, plenty to criticize if you're a small government conservative. But that would still require some reasoned thought, and what's the fun in that? Wilson cleverly hijacked at least half of the news time that could have been devoted to those discussions. And then the House had to go through the senseless move of censuring him, thus keeping the vitriol boiling for another couple of days. Anybody want to talk healthcare? Nah, that's too complicated, let's talk about Joe Wilson and whether he's an idiot or a hero.
Then Jimmy Carter lifts the tarp off the elephant in the room and points out that racism is fueling much of the most hostile responses to the President. This seems to me to be quite obviously and unremarkably true and I still (almost) wish he hadn't said it. Now you've got Limbaugh using that as a launching pad for his line that in "Obama's America" it's alright for black kids to beat up white kids on the schoolbus. And then news commentators take Limbaugh seriously as a political analyst. Ai-yi-yi!
The notion that Limbaugh (and rising star Beck) actually speak for the Republican Party or have any interest in improving its standing is laughable. They're entertainers. Limbaugh has always been very clear about that. His objective is ratings, pure and simple. If he bothered to vote in the last election, I would imagine that he voted for Obama. Certainly having Obama in the White House is far more in his self-interest than McCain/Palin would've been.
Finally I faced the fact that I wasn't learning anything from listening to the news. It was just depressing me. I don't really think that the inability of most members of the public to think clearly is getting any worse, but social media and the 24-hour news cycle have certainly made it much easier to demonstrate one's complete lack of critical thinking than ever before. And I don't think our politicians are more venal, obnoxious, self-serving, lying and craven than in the past. Wilson himself barely holds a candle to some of his more illustrious predecessors in South Carolina. But I don't really need to hear about them anymore.