Don’t be deceived by a radio or TV ‘sound bite,’ read the whole statement


By Greg Markey
For the
Opelika Observer

Many reasons are given for the lack of civility in society, which impedes compromise between Red (conservative) and Blue (liberal) people. This has led to “tribalization;” people with similar traits, backgrounds, and opinions keep their distance from the rest. Campaign ads feature half-truths and even falsehoods. Politicians rarely deal with the other party’s legislators as they fear a primary opponent to their Right or Left—so why make these ideologies angrier?”
I suggest hostility toward cultural elements can be minimized rather easily. When you hear a radio or TV “soundbite” that is less 30 seconds, go to the source to see what the speaker really meant. If you hear someone say “Osama Bin Laden is a great man,” don’t just call the speaker a traitor. Read the entire 3 or 4 sentence statement in a transcript from the broadcast.
Maybe the politician said, “To militant Muslims, Osama Bin Laden is a great man. But we Americans know that he is terrible and his actions reprehensible.” Selected editing is often used to make a speaker look bad, corrupt or un-American. This clipped approach, though despicable, furthers the radio or TV commentators’ agenda. One wishes it never happens. We citizens must try better to not just hear a “soundbite” and to instead see it as a whole thought.
“When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, it means what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Replied Alice, “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” Humpty responded: “The question is, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.” In 2019 do we want just “soundbites” to define what someone says? Or are we masters of reading more about a subject, before castigating somebody?
U.S. senators and representatives have software available that can read, for example, the 2,300 page Affordable Care Act, and locate “hot topics” for their constituents. A Florida congressman in a district with many retirees can study the impact on them. A New York senator can focus on a section on abortion and get “read up” on that for women’s choice voters.
Upon hearing that many congressmen DID NOT read the full 2,300 pages of the AC A health bill, or Obamacare, people were furious. Comments ranged from “What the heck are they doing up there in DC?” to “What are we paying them for?” or “Let’s get the bums out!” I disagree: congressmen and senators have a lot to do in Washington, while serving us. Successful members learn they do not have read every bill completely. They can employ trusted and experienced staff members as gatekeepers to summarize the bills.
In late July 2009, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said: “Members get up and say ‘Read the bill’…what good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”
Conyers was frustrated with “Read the Bills” talk but understood pressures on House members. An Act such as Obamacare, touching one-sixth of the economy, does merit substantive reading, though.
It is a lot easier to read a bill such as the USA Patriot Act, which emerged for George W. Bush’s signature at a total of nearly 300 pages. The president signed the bill less than seven weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. Senators and representatives were under intense strain in getting this national defense bill passed. But reading 300-some pages perhaps 12-15 hours. That beats reading 2,300 pages or even more.
Greg Markley is a longtime Lee County journalist and a former member of the Executive Board of the Lee County Literacy Coalition. He has been an avid reader since he was eight years old.


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