Thursday, May 31, 2012

Culture of Hypercriticism

With the rise of the 24/7 news cycle and expansion of media allowing everyone to create their own stories on the internet, a new void has been created. It has been filled by hypercriticism. Hypercriticism used to be reserved for celebrities, as paparazzi closely tracked every move of Hollywood stars. But the spread of cable talk shows and rise of the internet has allowed a microscopic analysis to transcend into politics; putting politicians and candidates for office under an unhealthy and irrational level of scrutiny. Instead of judging political leaders on real issues, they are now also judged on criteria that most of us would never think twice about if it was regarding one of our friends. They are held to impossible standards and put in catch-22 situations where they are criticized no matter what they do.

Much of this hypercriticism was on display during the Republican presidential primary. Now that it is essentially over, instead of remembering the candidates' positions on important issues, we remember the insignificant things. Rick Santorum wears ugly sweater vests. Newt Gingrich must not care enough about the election because he took a short vacation during election season. Michele Bachmann has problems with her makeup, eyes and has too many foster children. Everyone remembers these superficial “flaws” about the candidates but can't coherently explain where they stand on foreign policy.
Mitt Romney is criticized for a highly successfully career making money from investments in the private sector. But if he had been a career politician, like Newt Gingrich, then he would be criticized for being a Washington insider. Even that criticism of Gingrich is overdone, because he has significant private sector experience, which includes teaching, writing books, political consulting, and founding and running think tanks. Furthermore, criticism of politicians for being career politicians does not take into account the full picture. There are advantages to having an elected official who knows the system well. Granted, there are disadvantages because the politician may become influenced by the lobbyists who contribute to his reelection campaign, and may become ingratiated to other politicians and powerful people. Political office is the only type of job where people think the person with the least experience is the most qualified. In reality, it is far more complex than that.

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