"Talking Heads"

Television’s “talking heads” share a symbiotic relationship much more important, to them at least, than politics and/or ideology. This relationship can properly be described as an airborne disease attacking healthy debate within the body politic.

Consider the following names and try to determine what they have in common: Al Franken, Brit Hume, Ann Coulter, Bob Woodward, Dan Rather, Ed Meese, Dick Morris, Eleanor Clift, Governor George Pataki, Henry Kissinger, Fred Barnes, George McGovern, James Baker, Jesse Jackson, Jesse Ventura, Laura Ingraham, Leslie Stahl, Leon Panetta, Mikhail Gorbachev, Morton Kondracke, Newt Gingrich, President Clinton, Tom Brokaw, and Sean Hannity.

The answer has nothing to do with politics or ideology. They have something much more important in common- their opinions are for rent. To rub elbows with the above-mentioned pundits, and too many others to list here, one need only pay a visit to The Allen Agency, Inc. and have a checkbook at the ready.

The Washington Speaker's Bureau is another "promoter" that boasts many of the same speakers- and more. It offers speaker and/or subject choices. It even has a section that highlights speakers that can be rented for $10,000 or under.

The problem is that none of the above would command even a fraction of the fees they receive if there were no conflict. That's why even the most sane and rational solution to any problem must be debated (yelled) about in a "pro" and "con" manner when no such distinction exists.

The constant need to create or perpetuate controversy is best evidenced by the simplistic red/blue distinction on television's political maps without examining the differences in a methodical manner that could go a long way to healing any perceived rifts in our society which, in turn, would eliminate the need for television screaming or, at least, lessening its proliferation.

The desire for divisiveness in the country rests with more than just the television personalities. Many groups make comfortable incomes in perpetuating and exacerbating differences. It is when both the groups and personalities join forces and are fed to the public on a daily basis through television that the danger of a false reality can begin to take hold of the national psyche.

The mere fact that money is exchanged for speeches and/or appearances should not necessarily lead to a dismissal of the individual speaking. However, it should highlight the need to look at television's designated "experts" with a healthy dose of skepticism.

After all, if appearances are determined by fees, then it's not a huge leap to wonder if fees can also determine what is said by speakers at these agenda informercials masked as serious discussions and intended for a much larger audience than the one attending (e.g., AEI's effort to monopolize C-Span's coverage of "Think Tank" discussions).



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