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July 14, 2006

Again, the dopey idea that choice makes us worse off

In my opinion, this is a really dopey idea, but it's rarely expressed so openly: a Fortune writer argues that "the explosion of choice has left us poorer in at least two arenas".

One: choice is hurting the mainstream media. Oooooh, cry me a river.

Two: choice is hurting our politics. Why? In part because "people can now filter the news and opinion they get to avoid exposure to ideas with which they disagree". Well, I admit he's got a point, here. A couple of generations ago, I recall well how all the Liberals were forced--forced, I tell you--to read Adam Smith and Hayek and Milton Friedman and the National Review.

(Why do I suspect that the real complaint here is that yes, Conservatives more or less used to have to read the New York Times and the Washington Post and watch ABC, CBS, and NBC, but now--damn it all--we don't?)

There's also this: "Mass culture provides intangible benefits, too. Big stars, hit TV shows and even commercials help knit a society together. Think of the feeling that comes a few times a year - the morning after the Super Bowl or the Oscars - when tens of millions of Americans share a common experience." Oh yeah, take a look at how warm and fuzzy Americans feel toward each other these days. Those "common experiences" are invaluable. (And by the way, how did the country manage to survive before the Super Bowl?)

I make now a standing offer: any individual who feels too burdened by all his or her choices can give them to me. I'll take them off your hands, free of charge. You're welcome.

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KipEsquire

"Big stars, hit TV shows and even commercials help knit a society together. Think of the feeling that comes a few times a year - the morning after the Super Bowl or the Oscars - when tens of millions of Americans share a common experience."

This is just another manifestation of those who yearn for the Faux Fifties, when everything was perfect and we all got along with each other -- mainly because we were all suburban, educated, fully-employed, heterosexual white males with no physical or mental disabilities.

dearieme

KipEsquire: the Real Fifties were pretty good too, at least for this rural child.

JorgXMckie

Actually, kip, I'm guessing they're pining for the late-60s. early-70s early when CBS and Walter Conkrite ruled the airwaves, Woodward and Bernstein brought down a president, etc. I remember all the choices we had if we didn't want to suck up nothing but liberal media. There was the National Review, and, uh, well, there was the National Review. Of course, you could read the various nutty John Birch publications, or some that were (honest-to-God) farther wacked-out throwaway publications.

kyle8

Jorg is right. They long for the days when Alan Alda could go on MASH every week and tell us how evil we Americans are and how we ought to be ashamed of our commie hating, imperialist ways.

panasianbiz

I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. Interestingly enough, researchers have proven that having choices is indeed psychologically positive, but that having an over-abundance of choices can be overwhelming and cause stress.

Jake

Excellent Craig

Christopher Meisenzahl

Glad you posted this! I read it the other day and thought the same thing. It screams of someone that wants to make sure you only see what they want you to see.

Chris
http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/

quanta

Those in academia pushing that choice hurts consumers want to the ones who decide what we all should choose among. Yes, choice can be daunting, it is the price of liberty.

Raphie Frank

Somehow or other Gunther entirely leaves out the role media consolidation and news by corporate caveat courtesy of Rupert Murdoch & Co., may have played in both the weakening of the mass media and the polarization of our country. Indeed, as Gunther states, the mainstream media "had the money, access, skills... and power to deliver lots of original reporting and put important issues on the national agenda, " but "commitment" is another issue all together.

When the mainstream media still had the power, what did they do? They lobbied for the relaxation of anti-trust legislation and the repeal of the Fairness doctrine, a policy the FCC, interestingly enough, abandoned in August 1987 under the watchful sleeping eyes of big business friendly Ronald Reagan, paving the way for all the Rush Limbaughs of the world to salivate over misplaced cigars and stained blue dresses.

Oh, and what is the fairness doctrine? As Media Matters elegantly sums it up...

"The fairness doctrine required licensees to 'cover vitally important controversial issues of interest in their communities' and 'provide a reasonable opportunity for the presentation of contrasting viewpoints.'"
http://mediamatters.org/items/200410130008

Hmmm... so let me get it right. All that chatter and noise out there is the reason the mainstream media has become diminished? Or. perhaps, is it just even remotely possible that the mainstream media diminished itself back during those heady Internet 1.0 days when it laid down all those millions of miles of cable even while bilking investors out of billions of dollars ? Well, whatever. If in doubt, just blame it on the little guy...

JorgXMckie

Well, the MSM back then didn't like the Fairness Doctrine because it forced them to put on stuff they didn't like. Anyone who remembers Johnny Carson doing his bit as 'Floyd R Turbot' knows what most local stations did to fulfill the Doctrine. (Am I the only one to see Dan Ackroyd do 'Fred Garvin, male prostitute' and think of Floyd R Turbot?) They wanted to keep their monopoly on commmentary.

Now that there is no Fairness Doctrine and there is no monopoly on commentary, the MSM desperately wants its return so as to force the MSM viewpoint back onto the public in venues where the public has roundly rejected it.

Choice is a very bad thing, indeed, when it allows the masses to reject the direction of their masters.

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