Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Sound Byte Republic

     At various times, I have read parts of "The Federalist Papers." These are a series of articles that appeared in various newspapers that explained the Constitution to the common people in an effort to get their support for its passage. I am always struck by the obvious attention span that early Americans possessed, unlike today's Americans, who not only get their information in sound bytes but think that way as well. John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton authored "The Federalist Papers," and their expectations for a certain level of critical thinking skills among their readers is in clear evidence throughout.
     It would be unfathomable to these early Americans that their descendants, just a few generations removed, would accept a few short sentences as an explanation for multi-thousand page tomes of legislation. Or that 21st century Americans would elect a President on the basis of two words, or re-elect that same President as a result of a campaign based on the juvenile and shallow. Our ancestors would be appalled at the lack of substance in our news, the importance placed on the frivolous in our society and the unwillingness that many modern Americans have to not only provide for their own basic needs, but to think for themselves in any meaningful way.
     I believe the sound-byte culture began as far back as the 1950s, when television started to make its way into the typical American home. With TV becoming a permanent member of the American family, it's very essence, the immediate resolution, became a way of life for many Americans. Generations of Americans existed in a world where sitcom families solved all their problems in half an hour and the hero caught the bad guy in one hour. Of course this isn't reality, and most early TV watchers knew this instinctively. But as successive generations grew up with TV, then the Internet, our public figures began to speak in sound-bytes, and we accepted it because we had been conditioned to accept quick, well-packaged solutions to our problems.
     People of the sound-byte republic don't have to look any further for answers than the few words contained within the byte. There is no need for sound-bytonians to read long cumbersome books or study the wisdom of the ages that is readily available to them at their fingertips . In fact, there isn't any need to think or question, all will be answered by the wisdom of sound-byte. And as Thomas Jefferson said, "You can have ignorance or liberty, but not both." The people of the sound-byte Republic, at least for the time being, have cast their vote for the former at the expense of the latter.

Click here to watch my political song parodies.


  1. Bravo! As a writing and study skills instructor in a community college I can attest to the alarming lack of in-depth thinking and expression that has evolved in this nation. I, too, attribute this to "sound byte" communication. I have many discussions with my students about the danger of this and the necessity of critical thinking and careful analysis particularly regarding political talk. I suspect that truncated "social media" type communication (I heard recently that the average number of characters displayed in IMs, FBs, twitters, and so on, is about 124) is also influencing brain development. I'm not a scientist, but I will be tracking this topic.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and the comment. Hopefuly with dedicated teachers like you, things can change.

  2. Warren Buffett, in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the best quotes about the debt ceiling:

    "I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just

    pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more

    than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible

    for re-election.

    The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds)

    took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple!

    The people demanded it. That was in 1971 - before computers, e-mail,
    cell phones, etc.

    Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took one (1) year
    or less to become the law of the land - all because of public pressure.

    Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to

    a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask
    each of those to do likewise.

    In three days, most people in The United States of America will

    have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed

    Congressional Reform Act of 2012

    1. No Tenure / No Pension.

    A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no
    pay when they're out of office.

    2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social

    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the

    Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into

    the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the
    American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

    3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all
    Americans do.

    4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.
    Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

    5. Congress loses their current health care system and
    participates in the same health care system as the American people.

    6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the
    American people.

    7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void

    effective 12/1/12. The American people did not make this
    contract with Congressmen/women.

    Congress made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in

    Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers

    envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their
    term(s), then go home and back to work.

    If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will

    only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive
    the message. Don't you think it's time?


    1. The way to fix Congress is to elect people who will support the Constitution, not as Warren Buffett wants to do which is to bury it.

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