Books and political polarization

Jumping of from a review of Crunchy Cons, Patrick W. Gavin offers some Interesting comments on the book market and political polarization:

Ann Coulter says liberals are guilty of “Treason.” Michael Savage says “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.” Al Franken says that “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.” Michael Moore speaks of “Stupid White Men.”

Who knew that so many adults could act so childish?

A truly groundbreaking book would realistically portray an America where most citizens are far too busy living their lives to concern themselves with such banal minutiae as whether liberals tend to drive hybrid cars more than conservatives or whether more Republicans watched “The Passion of the Christ” than Democrats.

Of course, these books don’t get written because, well, they wouldn’t sell. In fact, they’d be downright boring. In a world where “if it bleeds it leads,” a book painting an accurate portrayal of normal, everyday America might well fall under the mantra “if it’s serene, book sales will be lean.”

But the warring factions have turned polarization into an enormously profitable industry, with shelves of books, stacks of magazines, piles of op-eds and radio frequency upon radio frequency filled with people mischaracterizing other people … who then mischaracterize right back. In that putrid, sickening cycle, everybody wins (via their bank accounts and careers, that is), save the 95 percent of Americans who aren’t nearly as far from the center as you’d be led to believe. Sure, we disagree, but things aren’t so black and white for us, and we tend to be pretty agreeable about our differences.

I have to agree. This is one of the reasons I avoid talking head TV shows, talk radio, and a great many site on the Internet. These kind of arguments make me tired and depressed. I don’t like Ann Coulter, I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh, I don’t watch Fox news, I don’t get into endless flame wars with people on-line, the list goes on and on. In fact, this is one of the reasons I switched to blogging about books, I found I enjoyed reading and thinking more than I enjoyed arguing about the political topic du jure. Of course I still have strong opinions on issues but I try to avoid the largely emotionally based chatter that fills so much of the space these days.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


  1. Good post. I think you are right in the fact that talking heads and some of these bestselling political books do more harm than good. In part, they are a direct outgrowth of the way both major political parties act when they refuse to work together and would rather spend hours tearing the other side down rather than coming up with a compromise. I think that in many ways the authors of these books or talking heads NEED political polarization in order to sell their product, so they have a vested interest in keeping the debate the way it is. Unfortunatly, political polarization and those who exploit it only turn more people off from politics, and instead of having a healthy skeptism of the political system, many people don’t participate at all.

  2. Nicely said. From the other side of the political spectrum, I too avoid the chatterheads of the left who contribute to the debasement of political discourse Gavin describes.

  3. Been checking your blog now and then, since I’m from southeast Ohio and we seem to have common interests.

    Like to weigh in here.

    Up until about a year ago I spent a lot of time tuned onto the politico/large head blogs and talkshows, until I noticed something: most of these people never have anyone but ill-prepared idiots on to espouse the “other” side, and they all tend to “cut off” anyone who doesn’t bow and worship at their alter.

    All the Fox crew, Rush, Beck, McConnell, etc… are in the business of preaching to the choir, they aren’t changing anything.

    So I quit. And I’ve been much happier. I even think my blood pressure is better. Except when I get my tax bill.


    “Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” – Bruce Cockburn

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