Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When Do Books Divide Us?

It’s becoming a rare phenomenon to hear both sides of a debate on any issue, whether we are consuming the news media, a blog, a book, or a movie.  We used to get all sides to a debate, but now it’s become obvious that we live in a one-sided world.

When do we get to hear both sides to an issue?  Let’s look at the media for a moment.  If cable TV features a bunch of opinionated personalities, where you hear a pile-on from one side onto the other, is that useful?  Ok, so you get a right-wing perspective from Fox and a leftist one from MSNBC.  Should the viewer be forced to watch both and then choose which one to believe?  

What happened to having two sides debate each other on one show?  Further, why debate at all?   How about a discussion – raise ideas, examine all angles, and look to come to a consensus rather than a cat fight?

And what happened to the middle?  When a media outlet sticks to just one side without acknowledging any merit to any aspect of the argument presented by the other side, we all lose out.  We need a mediation or negotiation to happen – to find a reasonable compromise, at least on some issues, or we’re left with polarization, ignorance, and a divided society without a unified agenda. Nothing changes, as a result, and the frustration builds, leading to more one-sided vitriol and attacks.

Some arguments may be one-sided for a reason, simply because the other side lacks merit.  So I don’t believe in automatically giving credit to the other side merely for them claiming another viewpoint.  But we should present all of the viewpoints and use facts and relevant statistics to shape the debate.  It should, at the end of a good debate, become obvious, which way to proceed.

Unfortunately, our books are taking the same approach to major issues as our news media is.  Too many books attack an issue for one side. How are we to really educate and influence people by feeding them half-truths or limited arguments?  If your side is  really“right,” the facts will show this.  More than likely, what’s missing is the compromise line.  That doesn’t mean each side gets to be right on an equal number of points nor does it mean we water things down just to accommodate more people.  It means that each side accepts the weak points to their argument and that some of what they propose is wrong, harmful or not beneficial.  It means that sometimes we have to admit the other viewpoint should be given some merit.

Perhaps the problem behind all of this is there is an agenda or bias behind the media’s reporting, the author’s writing, and a blogger’s post.  If you look at something through fundamental glasses, you’ll always shade things, but if you look at things with your eyes wide open, you might just uncover some new truths.

There is certainly ignorance behind what people write and say, meaning they misreported due to a lack of facts or a lack of understanding them.  No evil intention here – but nevertheless, this shapes our views.

There is definite bias out there, however, due to money.  Fox and MSNBC operate under the idea they won’t try to win over all potential viewers and instead, will preach to their bases.  Therefore, it becomes harder for them to criticize their own or present an alternate viewpoint.  They’ve moved from reporting on the news to shaping, and in some respects, censoring the news simply by ignoring other facts or failing to raise other ideas.  It doesn’t serve the public well, but it helps their ratings – or so they think.

I believe people are turned off by the media due to it coming at them through a limited prism.  We want to hear intelligent arguments from all sides and not be fed limited gossip, innuendo, or political attacks. The media shouldn’t act like it has an agenda or political platform to protect.  It should pursue the truth, wherever query takes us.

Books, one could say, are no better.  Look who writes them.  Is a politician going to suddenly write a book that praises the other side?  No.

It extends to others, those who are affiliated with a certain viewpoint.  Books may no longer examine an issue, but rather just present the best possible one-sided argument on one.  The one-sidedness could come because the author honestly believes the facts took him there but most start out with a premise that they hope to support, even if it means editing out conflicting views, data, or theories.

Books should be titled with questions, rather than statements.  They should be written not as if the answer is already known, but that issues are very much up for debate.  Instead of a book that is titled “Kill The Death Penalty,” why not have a debate by calling it “Is The Death Penalty Good For Society?”  Instead of proclaiming “Global Warming Is A Hoax” let’s examine things by saying “Is Global Warming Real, and if so, What Could Be Done About It?”

Don’t get me wrong, books can make conclusions, and ultimately a good examination of facts and philosophies should lead the majority of people in one direction or another, but books – and our media – should not have to be so one-sided and consistently only on one side of things.  We need a real debate, or better, a discussion of the issues, otherwise no matter how right we think we are, we just get extremists moving further apart from each other and the truth.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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