Friday, September 19, 2014

"A More Respectable Appeal"

It’s interesting.  I am not going to write about it today, or perhaps ever.  But I have made cursory notes concerning a future blog post concerning baseball announcer “homers.” 

Baseball announcer “homers” are baseball announcers who are transparently biased, ruining their broadcasts – for outsiders at least – by rooting overwhelmingly disproportionately for the team that they work for. 

“The opposition should be worried today, folks.  Our boys have lost nine in a row, and are definitely due for a comeback.”

I have trouble coming up with appropriate examples, as I am equipped neither nature nor inclination to produce even a parody of optimism.  These “homers”, on the other hand, have a gift for finding ways to pump up the faithful via manipulative distortion and evidentiary omission.

And with this preambling analogy he segues seamlessly into cable news.

Which I had promised not to watch, my steely resolve having deteriorated into “not watching anywhere nearly as much as I used to.”  Which is a qualitative upgrade from “I don’t know what happened, but I am back watching it ‘wall to wall.’”  Still, I am not at all proud of my occasional backsliding.

So I’m checking out MSNBC, and it’s Chris Hayes, a hyper-smart, super-articulate arguer for the positions of the Left, his unmistakable “home team.”  Which is fine.  We pretty much agree on most issues, so there is less tearing out my hair than when I peek in over at Fox, a good thing since I am rapidly running out of hair.  (A product of age-related rather than frustrational concerns.)

Here’s where I stand.  It is natural for me be exasperated by conscienceless hucksters for the “other side.”  That’s “dog bites man.”  No news there.  Nothing earthshattering to report. 

What upsets me considerably more…

Wait.  Lemme approach this another way.
When (now Senator) Al Franken (who I know from having worked on his TV series Lateline) had his radio show on Air America, I received permission to sit in the control booth and audit his three-hour broadcast.  
After it was over, I went to his office and, apropos of nothing except perhaps what I had heard him do on the air, I said something like this: 
“Anytime you exaggerate of your position or disparage the position of the other side, you are showing, it seems to me, a visible disrespect for your argument.  If that argument is strong enough, and right enough, and persuasive enough, and sufficiently resonating, it can stand comfortably on its own, without exaggeration and without distortion.”
Those were not exactly the words I used, but the idea is in there.  My point – which was greeted with the characteristic dismissal of all my comments unrelated to comedy writing – was that if you believe in your argument, leave it alone, allowing the veracity of that position to speak successfully for itself.  By applying this strategy, you also gain the enhancing advantage of not sounding like just another prejudiced partisan.
Now back to Chris Hayes. 
Chris Hayes is doing a segment on bias against Muslims in America.  And he has as his guest a representative of the Muslim community, a woman dressed in traditional female Muslim attire. 
The presented argument is correct.  It is wrong to be prejudiced against an entire group (this one comprising billions of people around the world.)  I myself try never to hate entire groups, greatly preferring to dislike people one at a time.  Group hatred is invariably discombobulated by encountering members of that group that you turn out to like.  If you don’t like an individual, it is more likely that you will continue not to like them because, unlike an entire group, individuals are less likely to provide evidence of contrarial likability.
Okay, I agree that blind prejudice against an entire major religion is, for want of a more articulate word… bad.  In fact, very bad.  In fact, in fact, totally unacceptable.  Why do I believe that?  Because it’s “Duh!”
The thing is – and here’s the problem – in the course of a perhaps seven or eight minute segment about some Americans’ irrational hatred of Muslims, there is no mention whatsoever of either the attack on September 11th  2001, or jihad.
I don’t get it.  Why did they allow that to happen?
You are holding the winning argumentarial hand.  What need then do you have to exclude commonly known information that, for some Americans, is cause, not for hatred certainly, but for, for them at least, understandable suspicion and concern?
Why didn’t they talk about September 11th and jihad, in the context of an entirely justified, opposition to Muslim bashing in general?  Their “anti-prejudice” position is rock solid.  Could it not have withstood an honest, factual examination?  Parenthetically, how do they look by avoiding one?
My side, embarrassingly, in my view, let me down.  In favor, it would appear, of an unfettered pep rally (in this case supporting a long-ago-won argument against prejudice.)  That’s why I have drastically slashed my cable news viewing time, with the goal of ultimate complete disengagement.
I have no enthusiasm for “homers.”
Not in baseball.
And not anywhere else.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

Perhaps they thought it would be rude to their guests? Or perhaps the guests were sick and tired of addressing that particular question?


If you want to find great examples of homers in sports, I commend to you US tennis coverage of any match involving a US tennis player (admittedly, in increasingly short supply).


Canda said...

The only religious group MSNBC traditionally demonstrates little tolerance for are those who are Evangelical Christians.

They also aren't usually happy with Israel's policies, either. They were more apt to defend Hamas, giving little credibility to the consequences of a policy that allows rockets to be shot from civilian neighborhoods.

In fact, the only religious intolerance they ever speak out against are the ones directed at Muslims.
Like Ariana Huffington, any example of jihad or terrorism by Muslim groups, is usually combined with the phrase, "But these should not be construed as the attitude or beliefs of most Muslims". Finally, Bill Mahr took her to task on his show for not defending the tenets of liberalism, the status of women in Muslim countries, etc.

Leo Lassen said...

I don't know that you or anyone could find a more pronounced (and proud) homer than the White Sox Ken Harrelson. He is absolutely the worst in that regard, that I've ever heard, and I've been around for a long, long while. That said, when he was a player, I liked him. Don't recall his playing stats but he has a terrific personality. Still, I cannot stand to listen to him on his broadcasts - so I don't.

I too quit watching cable news about 5 years ago. I feel much better.

Canda said...

Agree that Ken Harrelson is a big homer for White Sox games, but he's so over-the-top ("At the end of the 5th, the score is now Good Guys 2, Orioles nothing"), I enjoy him. The late Ron Santo would literally groan when an opposing team team scored a run against the Cubs. I don't mind that, as long as you know it going in. Heck, most of the young radio announcers out there now sound they were all trained at the same communications college.

Mike said...

there is no mention whatsoever of either the attack on September 11th 2001, or jihad. Why did they allow that to happen?
Because it's not relevant? If you were interviewed about antisemitism, which historical event would you like mentioned as the cause?