Sunday, May 9, 2010

Polarized Promotion

I was watching "Talk Soup" yesterday. Don't judge me. I know it's a big waste of time and a fairly mindless pursuit, but it's still fun to watch. I don't need a lecture on wasting time. I'm a Facebook user, and worse, a dedicated player of Farmville. I know how to waste time and I'm aware that there are countless "better" things to do with my time. I personally think we all need some time each day when productivity and "misuse of a valuable resource like time" are not considerations. Okay, you may not "need" this, but I do. Or, at least I want it, so I'm going to continue.

On the program, Joel McHale was lampooning Ann Coulter for her belittling remarks regarding global warming. The clip that was shown had Coulter rolling her eyes and derisively making a statement to the effect, "We had snow in all 50 states this year. So much for this so-called global warming."

My initial reaction was to think Ann Coulter was ridiculously uninformed. Detractors of global warming often site snow and cold temperatures as "proof" that global warming is a myth. Global warming proponents counter that climate changes of any kind are indications that this phenomenon is real and increasing. They would say that the fact we had snow in all 50 states (and often times in great amounts) was evidence of unusual weather, which could and should be attributed to global warming.

Whatever your stance on global warming, what I didn't like about Coulter's remarks was the way it made her look deliberately closed-minded and ignorant. She dismissed a controversial topic in a disdainful, cocky manner which made me distrustful of any comment she might make on any topic. If she was willing to dismiss outright the opposing view of a topic that cannot be proved definitively one way or the other, then she is not a critical thinker. Those were my thoughts.

So, I decided to find out what Coulter actually thought on the subject. After all, what does weight does a 10-second video clip from Talk Soup have anyway? I visited Coulter's blog and found an entry on global warming posted in 2007. The entry was well thought out and had arguments worthy of consideration. I was surprised. I was not expecting that after my brief encounter with her soundbite on television.

What weight does a 10-second video clip from Talk Soup have? Well, actually, a lot. Because of it, I was willing to discount Coulter as a non-thinker. Is that what she wanted? I doubt it. But, she had made the comment live and in person that made her seem that way to me. Maybe she makes those kind of statements to please her target audience? Maybe her fans expect her to offer one-sided statements? Maybe those are what get attention? Her comment certainly got the attention of Talk Soup, and in turn, my attention too.

I'm not saying I agree with Coulter—on anything—but, I do think she can and does think through her positions.

Do people who can think, like Coulter, have to stoop to low levels just to get people's attention and market themselves? Is this "polarized promotion" the only thing that makes us sit up and listen in this crazy, noisy world? Coulter must feel she needs to make inflammatory comments in order to create some heat. Maybe she thinks that after getting a reaction, viewers will be spurred (either positively or negatively) to explore her writings and videos and discover what she really wants them to get—her real, full opinion on a topic.

Well, if polarized promotion was Coulter's tactic, then it worked in my case. Maybe I'm the one who needs to reconsider my considerate and moderate approach to sharing information.

Of course, the more likely scenario is that Coulter just expected her supporters to accept what she said with enthusiastic "Amens!" and her opponents to hate what she said and for both to simply go on their merry ways. I doubt her goal was to incite further consideration and exploration. I believe Coulter expects that her audience was likely to respond in one of these two ways. I believe she is correct in that understanding. And, to me, this is the most disheartening part of it all.

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