Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Debating about debating

Dear Internets,

I read an interesting article yesterday in the NY Times about the autism debate. In particular, this quote jumped out at me:
[Dr. Nancy J. Minshew] blamed journalists for “creating a conspiracy where there was none.” By acting as if there were two legitimate sides to the autism debate, she said, “the media has fed on this — it’s great for ratings.”
While I'm not interested in starting an autism/vaccine debate on this blog*, I found the quote really intriguing. It made me wonder if other "hot issues" are amplified by the media's (in my opinion, generally legitimate) need to present both sides to issues. Maybe there aren't that many people who think, for example, that homosexuality is a choice, or that global warming is some weird government conspiracy to help polar bears steal Alaska. This was an interesting paradigm shift for me.

What do you think, Internets?


*For one thing, I don't want to start talking about kids and give my ovaries any ideas.


Gretchen said...

I think with most controversial issues there are *always* two legit sides to the debate, but the media polarizes those sides, since they typically only show the fanatics. I think that's where the controversy arises.

Jane said...

Gretchen - I agree. I guess what I was getting at is that maybe some issues wouldn't be controversial at all were it not for the media giving voice to people at the extremes of the issue. Maybe the media doesn't do a good enough job of giving voice to the neutral majority, so the neutral majority feels compelled to take sides. It is just interesting (to me) to think of things in that way.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea the media is fueling the debate about it is this side of ludicrous... Every time they mention the supposed link they say there's no proven link...

Jane said...

Liam - I haven't followed the autism debate too closely, since I don't have kids and don't expect to have them any time soon. (Although lord help the mother of an unvaccinated kid who exposed one of my nieces or nephews before they were old enough to be vaccinated).

I wonder though, if in general the media presenting issues in a "one side vs. the other" gets us thinking that issues are black and white, or that there is a controversy when there isn't one there in the first place.

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting indeed!!! Has made me think!

I am going to ponder on it then will add some more insight!

Off the bat though I would tend to agree with her actually!

Anonymous said...

It tends to be that the people who oppose something, even if they are a small group, are a vocal group. So the media picks that up because it's an easy find.

I think with global warming that might be the case and I'm thankful that maybe too many people aren't morons. But with homosexuality I fear that people are truly ignorant.