Friday, September 04, 2009

Radicals are sucking up the air


One of the biggest campaign promises of Obama was to unite America. In 2004, then Illinois state senator and candidate for the U.S. Senate, Obama had given the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. In his first national speech, he used a slogan that became an important part of his presidential campaign in 2008. Obama was said then, and said throughout the presidential campaign: "There is no liberal America, no conservative America, there is a United States of America; there is no Black America, no White America, no Latino America, there is a United States of America; there is no red America, no blue America, there is a United States of America..." Over the years, this slogan captured many hearts, even those that are made of stone like mine.

Obama saw the painful division in America and stepped up to claim that he has the medicine to heal this deepening wound. The American people were firmly united after the Sept. 11 attacks; then the United States went to war in Afghanistan, with the right reasons and got the initial victory quickly. But something else happened along the way. American foreign policymakers apparently thought, since we won one war already, we may as well take on one more while we are still out there. After starting the Iraq war, things quickly got out of hand; divisiveness came back to America and became even bigger.

Seeing the deepening divisiveness among fellow Americans, Obama did not hesitate to address the issue. Even if there were no dissipating issues like wars and many other socially dividing lines during the Bush administration, the unity slogan would have always worked for a presidential candidate. Still, with his amazing oratory skills, Obama got enough people to believe that he could bring most, if not all of them together and erase the partisan fights that have taken place especially in Washington, D.C.

After seven-and-a-half months of his presidency it is time to analyze whether the partisan divisions are diminishing, or are on the rise in America. One of the easiest ways to see it is to watch the TV news and talk-show programs on the American cable networks. The TV channels, which are mostly designed to satisfy either party's viewers, have become in recent times, amid new host hiring, even sharper in their criticism. In parallel, the voices that try to address those in the middle ground, or the independents, are abandoning the air. Even the news programs that are still affiliated withparty lines, but strive to find some kind of a balanced picture, are now having next hour news-program hosts air or rebuke their much more predisposed views to their "rooters." These programs, instead of bringing different standpoints to the comtemporary events, instruct their supporters what to say and how to oppose the other side's stances and arguments. In these newscasts one hears name calling and intention reading. These supposedly news or talk hours are not trying to get the facts straight or establish harmony anymore. The only goal of these new guys is to get their viewers angrier and meaner.

Especially during this last year, these radical TV and radio hosts are taking over the air time of American broadcasters amid their rising ratings. One of the most famous of these radio hosts, in recent months, openly called for his country's president to fail, and sadly did not get much reaction. Not supporting a politician is one thing, and opposing the ideas and bringing counter arguments is another. However, I should think that the American people would have said that openly wishing for failure of a president of "everybody's" country must be totally out of their league. On the contrary, the radio host who called for failure is topping the radio rating charts, and the other radical TV news program hosts are also seeing their ratings rise beyond their dreams.

The news programs that pitch for the viewers of the opposition party of America today are little more agitated and agonizing than the ones that address the viewers of today's ruling party, I must add. And the opposition voices bellow the division fire even more passionately, while others are seemingly a little more restrained.

What is more perplexing is to try to understand why radicalism or extremism pays more nowadays? Why is it that being a partisan foot soldier or protector of certain groups or movements makes one more popular and gets one the biggest “prize” of top ratings? Why is it that the people who strive to be in the middle, watching out for the flaws of both sides and pointing them out, without any fear, cannot become desirable, and are being marginalized as day goes by?

This is not only in the television business, but also in journalism and religion and the like that this very tradition is becoming more popular. The ones that oppose the preconceived ideas are having much harder times. The trend I see in America and in American politics, which I spend hours everyday studying, watching and writing, is also being seen in Turkey, which I spend hours reading, hearing and talking about. I cannot watch Turkish news hours as often I would like to, but I come across threats and posts more often on different social networking sites, in which many call at the outset a rejection of any kind of opening or compromise to other segments of Turkey's population. Some of them are my friends from a distance now, whom in the past I had never seen in them such burning, temperamental, chauvinistic characteristics in the past. I hear some of the Turkish party leaders who were making much sense only a couple of years ago, now using the most degrading slams while describing intellectuals or policymakers with whom they disagree. And I ask myself, have these people been always radical, or are they contaminated by a worldwide trend?

Radicalism is on the rise both in America and in Turkey. And the communication means flare up of this infection despicably with its rating hunger. On the other hand, for masses, instead of reaching out for information and checking it freely with other sources in this information age, the comfort zones once more became a preferable place to hide in and fatten. Is this just a trend that will find its way out soon or something that will linger longer?

If this is not a cyclical illness and is not about to hit its bottom and disappear, I guess I will be jobless sometime in the future!

No comments: