- Ted Cruz thanks Obama for denying visas to terrorists
- Survivors recall chaos, fear in Everest avalanche
- General Mills apologizes for ‘right to sue’ confusion, reverses policy
- Dealer wanted in U.S. for art fraud nabbed in Spain
- Easter morning delivery for space station
- Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76
- Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects
- Ukraine, Russia trade blame for eastern shootout
- Obamas head to church on Easter morning
- In Colorado, a pot holiday tries to go mainstream
WILLIAMS: The power of manipulated images
Veteran New York Timesman Bill Keller was asked recently what role he thought the newspaper played in journalism moving forward in the digital age. “Value added,” he replied. Astonishing if you think about it: The world’s No. 1 newspaper for more than a century had just been reduced to almost an afterthought in the eyes of its former editor. Tweets of 140 characters or less, immediate brief summaries, and instant analysis without stepping back to think are what feed the globe in the digital age. More reactionary and less thoughtful, however, has never been a good combination, and society suffers from this today.
No longer do we learn through subject and verb, but rather through a hybrid of images and slogans designed to spare us the rigors of closely examining issues for ourselves. Our preoccupation with television imagery has helped make this generation curiously artificial and particularly susceptible to the counterfeit. Essayist Michael J. Arlen has called it “the tyranny of the visual.” And countless other critics have lamented the perils of images supplanting words in this culture.
It has also made us susceptible to a new kind of intellectual deficiency. Television images have become remarkably successful at distilling complex issues into the broadest and most knee-jerk dimensions. This is particularly true of political programming, which has perfected the rapid-fire style of discourse that leaves little time for thoughtful analysis. We are constantly bombarded with images that reduce complex issues of our economy into the most easily identifiable symbols.
These images condition us to make immediate visual connections: Republicans are cruel and heartless and Democrats are forward-thinking and compassionate. Mitt Romney had arguably one of the most impressive resumes for a presidential candidate in recent history yet he was reduced to a corporate raider who fired people and destroyed communities. Television isn’t reality. It’s reality personified. Black, white, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat — they’re all distilled into the most easily digestible image. And a public that has grown up learning more through images than words just swallows it whole, then spits it back in a passive form of intolerance and condemnation — the sort that leads us to visually sum people up without ever bothering to listen to what they might actually have to say.
President Obama’s policies are a result of this reactionary culture. The only two things you heard from the left about why “Obamacare” should pass were that it created an individual mandate and that people with pre-existing conditions would not be denied coverage. But what about the other 2,000 pages? What about the medical device tax that has caused large layoffs around the country? What about the expensive new program for long-term care? What about the fact that more coverage means more doctors’ bills, and higher costs in result? Our politicians feed us one or two good things, and the other details get left out.
Maybe there is hope though. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times still turn a profit, and the Economist can’t find enough paper to print its magazines. “60 Minutes” is a highly successful show with in-depth interviews and investigations into complex issues. More information is always a good thing, because sometimes issues are more complex and require more thought than 140 characters can provide.
• Armstrong Williams is live on Sirius/XM Power 128 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan at facebook.com/arightside and follow him at twitter.com/arightside.
About the Author
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Justice at last: 'Evil woman' outed for grabbing girl's game ball
- CHARLES: Holder's undermining of the law deserving of contempt
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- EDITORIAL: Republicans finally fight back in phony 'war on women'
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.