26 April 2008

Why you can't invite a fundamentalist to a roundtable

I just watched a clip on YouTube of a "rational" "discussion" between an atheist, a minister, and a politically liberal talk show host which aired on CNN. It was in response to an earlier segment discussing atheists in which no actual atheists were involved. No respectable media outlet would consider airing a discussion of marine biology without including marine biologists, so why make an exception for unbelievers? Fortunately, there was enough of a backlash that CNN went back and made amends.

The two things that stood out most in the debate were these: one, that I really want to start listening to The Rachel Maddow Show, and two, that the minister was an absolute boor. He interrupted the others repeatedly, blathered on and wasted precious seconds in an already too-short opportunity to have an honest conversation, wandered off the subject at hand, and generally displayed that complete lack of organized thinking that is so often characteristic of extremists. By the end of the segment, the other two were pleading with him to shut up long enough to let them finish a sentence, and I was shouting angrily at my monitor.

The format also frustrated me. Of an eight-minute segment, three minutes was spent interviewing Richard Dawkins (which was nice, but the theme was Atheists in America), and five were spent on this lousy excuse for a conversation. Five minutes! I felt like I was watching a speeded-up tape as everyone yammered out their thoughts as fast as they possibly could, in order to pack even the least smidgen of useful information into what little time there was. Does the corporate media really have such disdain for the American attention span?

Video is provided for your morbid curiosity.


ksatyr said...

I take the view that every little helps and while the format was terrible and the minister was very annoying, at least information and opinions that most Americans really need to be exposed to were aired on a national cable station. Better still, some of it was in the form of well reasoned arguments from Richard Dawkins!

I wonder what the demographic of the viewers is for this show/segment and whether any minds were changes about Atheists. I hope so, because I really dislike being the least trusted member of society, especially as I've never committed a crime and likely never will.

Karthik Shetty said...

Since I'm from India, I'll add an Indian dimension: most Indians remember the last thing they hear; so if this tape were played to an audience hear that needs to make up its mind, they'd remember more of the crackpot minister than the good professor. Add to that the fact that the minister was loud, and constantly repeating the same nonsense which we heard over and over again, it usually strikes a chord with those trained to agree without thinking to those who speak with an air of authority.