Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Why this blog? Why this show?

"I’m mad as hell. And I’m not going to take it anymore!"

-Newsman Howard Beale, "Network," 1976


In Paddy Chayevsky’s 1976 movie "Network," news anchor Howard Beale breaks down on the air, calls for his viewer audience to get up, toss open a window, and yell, "I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore." join him in an expression of general anger with society, the world, whatever. All around Manhattan people laughingly shouted and joined in defenestrated choruses Beale’s expression of general anger with society, the world, whatever. I was in college when "Network" came out. One night during mid-terms, someone flung open a dorm window and yelled Beale’s line. All over campus people joined. In "Network," the entertainment division, run by an evil Robert Duvall, takes over the news division. Duvall uses Beale’s nightly tirades to spike ratings. The evening news is re-formatted. Beale is dubbed the Mad Prophet of the airwaves. A soothsayer predicts the future, etc.

Today there is little real communication or debate.

Stripped to its basics, communication consists of an exchange between a speaker and a listener. The roles alternate. What passes for political discourse today usually does not enlighten and rarely is civil. Whether it is MSNBC, Fox, or whatever network, when four people on camera simultaneously shout, they do not communicate. All speak. Few listen.

Debate is one form of communication. I was raised with the notion that candidates for political office, prior to election, debate the issues. Voters sift through candidates’ stands to pick the better or best (if more than two candidates) for the job. When I was quite young I became chagrined to realize candidates rarely debate, but issue talking points in the guise of answers to questions.

Debate became important to me. I was on the debate teams in high school and in college. I coached a college debate team for four years. Debate enabled me to develop intellectually. A debate typically consists of a resolution on a specific topic. Example: "Resolved: that all drugs should be legalized." The affirmative argues in favor of adoption of the resolution. The negative argues in opposition. Formats differ, but each side has the opportunity to speak, uninterrupted. Each side has the opportunity to cross-examine the other. In audience debates, members of the audience may speak or ask questions. Usually a winner is determined, whether by a single judge or panel of judges, as in competitive debate, or by vote of the audience, as in audience debate.

There has been a recent demand for civil discourse.

"3 Left Turns Make a Right" is an effort to engage people in discussion and debate. The chagrin I felt with debates between political candidates has increased. I chose the title because it expresses a notion of how circular our views, in general and on political issues, can become. In college, friends told me not to discuss politics with a mutual friend, Chester, because he was extremely right-wing and I was extremely left. Those same friends expressed similar feelings to Chester. Of course, eventually Chester and I discussed politics. Essentially, Chester was so far right-wing and I was so far left-wing that our views overlapped. Our chief difference was in our views of people’s basic natures.

The hostility of public discourse of late is little different in nasty extremes from public discourse throughout this country’s history. The charges made by and against John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the presidential campaigns of 1796 and, especially, 1800 were vitriolic, to describe them politely. The problem with the current public commentaries is the way in which heated words have been used in context with, and while people brandish, guns.

And who am I to start such a blog as this? I am a human being and citizen of the United States, where I have a First Amendment right to express myself via a medium such as the internet. If you are interested in my qualifications, look at my bio.

In the original "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," directed by Frank Capra and released in 1936, Gary Cooper plays Longfellow Deeds, who inherits a huge fortune and wants to give it away. The movers and shakers who want, instead, to profit from his inheritance attempt to have him declared insane. During Deeds’s competency hearing, he is characterized by the Faulkner twins, two elderly spinsters from his home town of Mandrake Falls, as being Pixilated. When finally Mr. Deeds cross-examines the twins, he asks if anyone else in Mandrake Falls is Pixilated. One sister replies, "Why, everybody in Mandrake Falls is pixilated - except us."

In today’s discourse, people on all sides call each other various things, frequently crazy. Often the person, like the Faulkner twins and "Pixilated," sees everyone, except him or herself, as crazy. Maybe we all are crazy. This blog and the show we will run are part of an effort to bring civility to our discourse; for all us crazies to communicate with one another our differences.

I intend to have a one- or two-hour debate filmed each week and posted on this site. Please stay tuned for our programs.

At the end of "Network," Howard Beale commits suicide. At the end of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," Mr. Deeds is found competent and resumes giving away his money. I opt for the latter as a more optimistic view of matters.–Mark Small.

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