Humility Lost in Politics and Punditry

It is said that if you can teach humility you can teach anything. Humility is defined as being humble in spirit; freedom from arrogance or pride. That suggests that one who does not show humility is likely to be excessively arrogant or prideful. One who demonstrates arrogance may well have achieved that stature from excessive narcissism and its attendant self-absorption.

Some individuals in the society may demonstrate a near total lack of humility. They minimally show us a high level of arrogance that can be troublesome as it inevitably touches us and others. Such behavior may lead to lies, distortions and misrepresentations that attempt to make a grand story self consistent. These behaviors are characteristic of the propaganda artist, but are more regularly demonstrated in American society by politicians, members of the press, and many bloggers of note and, in particular, radio talk show hosts. We can all make a grand list. I won’t do that because then I would have to talk a little about each one. This would be far too depressing and activity for a Sunday afternoon.

Humility, on the other hand is a character to be desired, but it is entirely too rare in American public discourse, so rare perhaps that we hardly recognize it when we see it. Humility is observed in the speech of an individual who is generally speaking from a factual knowledge base and who likely shows a significant degree of control in his/her balanced presentation of the facts. Opinions and potential outcomes that may follow are generally left to the side for later discussion.

In journalism, reports in newspapers and magazines or on radio and television news reporting are presented in writing or orally and should be based on facts that are confirmed and then checked against sources that are part of the story. Opinions, editorial remarks or commentaries on news stories are generally for presentation in quite separate locations of newspapers and noted as such on radio or television commentaries. However, increasingly in these times so-called factual reporting is blurred with opinion. Many stories in the weaker newspapers and magazines are indistinguishable from opinion pieces.

In the leading newspapers and magazines reporters attempt to hold high standards but may be thwarted in their attempts to stay with a fact-based presentation by reporting what individuals say—while what they say, particularly if they are politicians, may be a distorted or even fractured truth built on lies or half-truths or deliberate misrepresentations. These are presented as facts or factual reports, and delivered with apparent sincerity on the Sunday morning talk shows or stated and unchallenged on a televised political debate and then reported in the next day’s newspapers. Occasionally later the true facts are reported in a separate piece, usually in a less accessible part of the paper, and noted as changed after “fact-checking.”

This narcissistic, self-absorption many has surfaced in the relatively recent format of the Reality-TV show (also in Celebrity-TV) with many hosts who are clearly “legends in their own minds.” They take themselves far too seriously. Most of us see that, but not everyone.

Thus America is in its public self-presentation a collectively confused world filled with arrogant, self-absorbed pundits most of whom are very harmful to the body-politic. Long term, they may be an enormous menace to the social fabric of the nation. One can’t say for certain—but they seem to be growing in malignant proportions.


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