Monday, January 6, 2014

#141 - Shock and Awe

I saw on the CNN website that the so-called “Tiger Mom” had come out with a new book. “Tiger Mom,” for those who don’t remember, is Amy Chua, the Yale Law School professor whose “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” was seen as claiming that Chinese parents (and by extension their children) are the best and also as advocating a very strict style of parenting. The book at the time caused a huge debate over parenting and child-rearing.

Chua’s new book, “The Triple Package,” co-written with her Jewish husband alleges that certain groups are superior and that the rest are contributing to the cultural and economic decline in America. The merits or lack thereof surrounding Chua’s book are beyond this post as I have not read the book and likely will not do so anytime soon. However, the news that such a book had come out reminded me of the old tactics of saying something for its inherent shock value and also of saying something “to get a rise” out of someone.

Both are things most of us have done at one time or another over the course of our lives. Speaking for shock value is something many outgrow by the time they become adults. Others at least reduce their tendency to try and shock. Saying something “to get a rise” out of someone is usually only done on occasion and is even done to sometimes make a point.

Then there are those who never seem to outgrow this desire to shock and awe, as it were. Chua may or may not fall into this category; I will leave that conclusion to those who have read her books. If, however, she does fall into that group, I can’t imagine she would conclude that those with whom she would share such a classification are doing much to effect the cultural and/or economic advancement of America.

From where I sit, such a group would include Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. Both may have entertainment value for some people, but neither as far as I can see is doing much in the way of being uplifting. Stern is perhaps the original “shock jock” of radio. He certainly perfected and came to embody the term. Limbaugh could be argued to have taken the “shock jock” classification to the next level, going beyond the desire to shock simply for the sake of making people uncomfortable to trying to shock people in order to make them angry, either in support of or in opposition to whatever viewpoint he espouses.

I don’t listen to or care for either Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh. I don’t find Stern funny or provocative, merely juvenile and offensive. I also don’t find Limbaugh thought-provoking or insightful, merely hateful and divisive. The former viewpoint comes from having lived long enough to be exposed to a variety of humor styles, from one-liners (Henny Youngman and Milton Berle) to racy and controversial (Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor) to topical and insightful (George Carlin). I don’t find Stern to be good or funny in any of these.

My views regarding Rush Limbaugh come from my own political leanings, which I describe as being slightly left of center. However, I don’t think any but the most myopic of people can consider Rush as anything but divisive. The clips I’ve heard in the past seem to me in no way intended to unite or bring people together in this country. Talk radio hosts from both sides of the political spectrum, the new “shock jocks,” could be considered equally to blame for this division in America if not for the fact that the so-called “liberal media” in America features far more such programming from the right than from the left.

Regardless of whether mainstream media is liberal, I see little call from either end of the political spectrum for collaboration, cooperation, or compromise. I believe that in ability to at least occasionally meet in the middle, Amy Chua’s arguments notwithstanding, is what is truly contributing to the cultural and economic decline of America.

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