aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, June 09, 2005
The Tyranny of Choice II
He says we’ve got too much choice and that’s bad, and he has a book full of data to demonstrate it.
Last time around, I disagreed with her take on Social Security privatization (and promised to return one day to income redistribution). This time I’m pleased to report that I’m with her on gay marriage:
Schwartz treats commitment as the opposite of choice rather than its complement. By this logic, a market without contracts is freer than one in which contracts are enforced. After all, what if I sell you my car and then change my mind and want it back?
“Social ties actually decrease freedom, choice, and autonomy,” he writes. “Marriage, for example, is a commitment to a particular other person that curtails freedom of choice in sexual and even emotional partners.” So gays who cannot legally marry their partners are somehow freer than heterosexuals who can? There’s something deeply wrong with this understanding of choice. Freedom to choose must include the freedom to commit.
Ultimately, the debate about choice is not about markets but about character. Liberty and responsibility really do go together; it’s not just a platitude. The more freedom we have to control our lives, the more responsibility we have for how they turn out. In a world of constraints, learning to be happy with what you’re given is a virtue. In a world of choices, virtue comes from learning to make commitments without regrets. And commitment, in turn, requires self-confidence and self-knowledge.
Bill & Diane
I’m not looking for politically pristine, but I am looking for an allegiance to journalism over politics. That’s what I don’t see in Tomlinson. Rather, there is a disdain for journalism that he thinks can be remedied by adding a little politics: Rightward politics to “balance” the perceived tilt.
Joe brought up Bill Moyers in his post. In discussing partisanship he writes:
We can just hear the talk show hosts says “But PBS had Bill Moyers.” Yes. But the talk show hosts and many conservatives have blasted Moyers for many years not just for his liberal beliefs but precisely because he had worked in a Democratic administration.
If Joe is right and conservative critics have blasted Moyers “becuase he had worked in a Democratic administration,” what of Diane Sawyer, who I posted on earlier today? She worked in the Nixon administration and later assisted him with the preparation of his memoirs.
I’m not against government, administration, or electoral experience for a journalist, or even a de facto critic of the revolving door. But I do believe in applying and abiding by established journalistic practices and a respect for the institution. Which is not to say they can’t be critical. I consided myself a fan of the Mainstream Media and I’m certainly critical.
But back to Moyers. The guy gets a bad rap! Setting aside that I don’t hear a lot of liberals harping about (or trying to dismantle public broadcasting because of) William F. Buckley‘s nearly 30 year run on Firing Line, here’s Moyers on picking guests for his show:
First, we wanted to do our part to keep the conversation of democracy going. That meant talking to a wide range of people across the spectrum—left, right and center.
It meant poets, philosophers, politicians, scientists, sages and scribblers. It meant Isabel Allende, the novelist, and Amity Shlaes, the columnist for the Financial Times. It meant the former nun and best-selling author Karen Armstrong, and it meant the right-wing evangelical columnist Cal Thomas. It meant Arundhati Roy from India, Doris Lessing from London, David Suzuki from Canada, and Bernard Henry-Levi from Paris. It also meant two successive editors of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Bartley and Paul Gigot [who was invited to become a regular contributor], the editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott, The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and the L.A. Weekly’s John Powers.
It means liberals like Frank Wu, Ossie Davis and Gregory Nava, and conservatives like Frank Gaffney, Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie. It meant Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Wilton Gregory of the Catholic Bishops conference in this country. It meant the conservative Christian activist and lobbyist, Ralph Reed, and the dissident Catholic Sister Joan Chittister. We threw the conversation of democracy open to all comers.
Most of those who came responded the same way that Ron Paul, the Republican and Libertarian congressman from Texas, did when he wrote me after his appearance, “I have received hundreds of positive e-mails from your viewers. I appreciate the format of your program, which allows time for a full discussion of ideas. ... I’m tired of political shows featuring two guests shouting over each other and offering the same arguments. ... NOW was truly refreshing.”
I don’t want balance, which has become a codeword through which the right both affirms its notion of a left leaning media, and tries to muscle right leaning perspectives onto all programs. Balance is “two guests shouting over each other and offering the same arguments.” Who wants that?
I want diverse views from a broad spectrum. You find that on the Internet. You don’t find that on television; not on the broadcast networks, not on the cable networks. And they no longer want to allow it even in that single one hour program (since reduced to 30 minutes), NOW on PBS. This they want to eliminate in the name of balance. Give me a break!
More GOP potential for CPB
Joe Gandelman points to this article in the Washington Post about the leading candidate for the top job at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Patricia de Stacy Harrison. She’s a high-ranking official at the State Department and former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. Joe’s comment:
Once again this administration has a huge pool of talent out there from which they could choose. They could pick any number of extremely well qualified Republicans, including staunchly conservative ones, to fill that slot. But they instead are getting ready to essentially throw down the gauntlet and pick the most partisan, divisive choice they can - someone who was actually a co-chair of the Republican party. You can’t get much plainer than that.
The larger issue is that this is yet another example of a troubling take-no-prisoners style of this administration. By picking a former RNC co-chair - no matter how skillful, qualified or thoughtful she may be - they are putting out there something that in Hollywood is called “high concept”: an immediately defineable, recognizable “hook” that explains it all. This will be a RED FLAG for Democrats who will likely battle it. The wise course that would help national unity would be to pick someone who was not clearly tied to not only the party or the Bush campaign.
It’s one more example of a style that seems to put a premium on divisiveness and political combat - perhaps stemming from a perception that doing something in a way that could accomplish the same political goal without inflaming those who may oppose you is somehow wimpish.
Morning in America
Couric and Sawyer are professional rivals, who may loathe or respect each other, but go to work each day, as many of us do, for companies that are in business competition. None of the stories I’ve read about them have mentioned that Couric, currently the highest paid journalist on television, is about to begin a new round of contract negotiations and that NBC might have some investment in seeing her devalued in the press. Even when acknowledging that each franchise has scores of producers who rework segments and formats, the “New York” story nudges readers to ignore the men behind the curtain and concentrate instead on the image that’s been created—literally, with PhotoShop—of two women staring daggers at one another.
Stories about male power rivalries have abounded since time began, but often in contexts where there were no attractive women to focus on instead (like, for example, for most of business history). When we have the option of zeroing in on glossy Sawyer and feisty Couric, who wants to read about ABC chief David Westin and NBC head Jeff Zucker duking it out with Blackberries and ratings spreadsheets? Stories about ex-"Today" producers Jonathan Wald and Tom Touchet or “GMA” producer Ben Sherwood’s temper tantrums aren’t likely to sell too many magazines, though former “GMA” producer Shelley Ross’s outbursts generated plenty of ink. No one even wants to write about Matt Lauer vs. Charles Gibson. What would the headlines be? Showdown of the Stoics? War of the Whipped? The Battle of the Balding?
No. Better go with nice girl vs. mean girl, black girl vs. white girl, good girl vs. bad girl, blond girl vs. brunette girl, smart girl vs. pretty girl, rich girl vs. poor girl, stay-at-home-mom girl vs. working-mom girl.