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Recently there’s been a fair amount of discussion in academic terms around blogtopia (yes, skippy coined the phrase!) of the state of our public discourse, in particular about the role of our media.

The Overton Window is one way to describe the public’s perceptual state when it comes to political ideas. In short, if one posits radical ideas on the far right spectrum and you have the ability to drown out or overwhelm opposing views with propagandist noise (for instance, The Faux News Channel) and/or censorship, you can move the “window” for what is acceptable public policy in another direction. By doing so you also marginalize opposing views.

Audience Atomization Overcome labeling the processes of media gatekeeping, which blesses some views and marginalizes others in our public discourse, has been discussed by Tristero at Digby’s place (“The Problem”) and Bob Sommerby at The Daily Howler (“THIS JUST IN-FROM 1986! Jay Rosen defines the sphere of deviance-and leaves some key things out:”).

Critical thinking is supposed to come into the mix here somewhere. That’s a big problem with our media. Otherwise, why would the following be out there absent certain questions posed to the individual “working the refs”?:

Former Bush Speechwriter: CIA Torturers Are ‘American Heroes’

…THIESSEN: They’re not torturers. They’re heroes. … And the thought that we’re sitting here discussing whether these people should be prosecuted or investigated is just outrageous. These people are American heroes who saved lives and stopped the next Sept. 11….

Yup. the same guy: Currently unemployed, will write fiction on spec…

You would think that waterboarding which is torture would be discussed in our media as such. But no, they are too lazy to actually do a little research, process the information, and present it. Instead we get “enhanced interrogation” as a label thereby moving the “Overton Window”, defining the parameters of acceptable public discourse, and hiding or obscuring what others do in our names.

Here’s an simple test which might prove enlightening for all concerned. Let’s show the public a videotape of suspects being waterboarded, then we’ll ask the public if they think it’s torture. Oops, too late.  

That’s why we’re here. Our traditional media fails miserably in fulfilling the need to elevate our public discourse. That, and we’re working the “refs” – we believe with a modicum of critical thinking to boot.