Sunday, February 12, 2017

Red Herrings in a Sea of Red Ink

by Meg Sonata

That title describes the state of US education, defense, and journalism. If US students can't read at a proficiency level, does it matter that teachers are employed? If the US military lacks necessary equipment, does it matter how many soldiers march in parades? If US leaders don't know where the country begins and ends, what is left to debate? 

The only winner in the current American chaos is the red herring--and that's not a trendy cocktail treat imported from Norway. Salted herring comes in creamy sauces, and it's delish. Even people who despise fish snatch up this delicacy to impress party guests. Unfortunately, the variety of herring most commonly set before the American public doesn't come in a jar, and it's more expensive than Trump Tower.

The red herring is the specialty of magicians who trick their audience to look THIS WAY when the big event is happening OVER THERE. Meanwhile, what they've got up their sleeve becomes a rabbit, a scarf, or just a giant predator they've slipped onto the stage from under their Congressional table. In fact, red herrings are the specialty of our most famous entertainers. That's how they get clicks, while the rest of us wonder what happened?

The red herring is also one of the most famous rhetorical fallacies, meaning that it will undermine an argument from beginning to end. Its existence in the American media demonstrates the state of American education. Yes, this is a cyclical dilemma: if readers are going around in circles, trying to learn what IS or IS NOT news, they are NOT prepared to vote to preserve the American experience, which cannot be going around in circles, unless hula-hooping has become our national sport. 

So, when confronting the news media, the solution is to ask three key questions:

1. Is this news or cheer-leading? If a presenter is using more adjectives and adverbs than nouns and verbs, this ain't news, Honey. It's paid advertising.

2. Is this news or prophecy? If a presenter is predicting what WILL happen, instead of what DID happen, s/he needs to go into the Old Testament prophet business.

3. Is this news or advice? If a presenter keeps insisting on what the government SHOULD do, instead of what it DID do, sh/e needs to submit a bill for services rendered to somebody--and it's probably not the American taxpayer. 

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