Yesterday, I asked the question about whether the Iraq war could happen again. Could we, the American people, be pushed into a war of convenience rather than a war of necessity? Simply put, I believe the answer to this question is yes. My answer is yes because we live in an Oppositional Society. This concept, the Oppositional Society, was first proposed by Rebecca Costa in her fabulous book The Watchman’s Rattle. (I’m not sure who first proposed the idea of an Oppositional Society. I first read about the idea in this fabulous book.) Basically, Ms. Costa’s argument is that we boil very complex topics down to yes or no, right versus left, for or against.
If we look at how we debate major issues, we can clearly see how nuance and complexity of argument have been lost in the whole issue and the issue is boiled down to a yes or no question. Gun control. In my opinion, this is an amazingly complex issue. Can the government regulate guns? Most constitutional scholars will tell you that every right that is granted in the Bill of Rights is not absolute. Yet, in this debate, we’ve seen almost every aspect of nuance and complexity boiled down to yes versus no. Assault weapons. There are simply two sides of this debate. Should an American be able to buy an unlimited quantity of assault weapons? Yes or no.
We can come up with theories as to why the United States has gravitated to this extremely simplistic way of examining any problem. Personally, I believe that the majority of Americans get their “information” from the television. Television is extremely good at presenting two sides to any story or topic. Television gets a little bit messier when you present a third or fourth opinion. That simply doesn’t make for good television. Even when you have four or five or even six guests discussing a single topic like on CNBC or Bloomberg TV, the guests conveniently can be categorized into two groups for or against whatever topic is being discussed. Interestingly, this fits very neatly into our political system. Democrats. Republicans. Notice how any third party which pops up is shunted to the side and is painted as being out of the mainstream, crackpots, just as any idea that doesn’t help frame a question in a yes or no answer is also pushed to the side. (more…)