The new winner of the Nobel Peace Prize walked out of his house just after 11 a.m., dressed handsomely in a dark suit and a classic blue tie. He descended a marble staircase into a manicured garden, flowers in full bloom, and stepped up to a podium on a perfect autumn day. After making a joke about the lightheartedness of children, he said he was "surprised and humbled" by the award. Then he asked the world to unite by providing all people with opportunity, dignity and freedom from violence and disease.
All told, Barack Obama spoke for six minutes Friday. He said little concrete, nothing controversial, nothing contentious. And yet, once he walked back into his house, contention dominated the day.
This is how it has always gone with Obama: His latest coronation, this time as Nobel Peace Prize winner, inspired a dozen different reactions that were similar only in their intensity.
It's very odd, that a person can win the Nobel Peace Prize and set off a public opinion war. We saw something similar a few years back when Al Gore won and the right-wing machine kicked into high gear. It was easier to dismiss the uproar back then, because Gore has so clearly devoted decades to environmental activism.
People are looking at this and saying, "Huh?"
But Obama has actually done a few things that give me, yes, hope. One is that he is is reducing nuclear stockpiles and pulling other nations along. The other is that he's taking a distinctly different direction in Israel policy by opposing the expansion of West Bank settlements. So an Obama presidency will eventually have its good points.
I was thinking about how vehement and relentless the attacks against him are (again, keeping in mind my own objections to his policies). And what I've concluded is that much of America is caught up in a giant stadium "wave" of media manipulation. As soon as one wave completes itself, the media creates another one.
And of course, we're supporting different home teams.
God knows how many of us there are, but there's a substantial percentage of the public who are, for lack of a better word, hyper-informed. (I hate to use the word "informed" because it indicates actual understanding, and I mean it more in the sense of over-consumption of information.)
We over-consume via 24-hour news channels, talk radio, print media and blogs, in something akin to the binge-and-purge cycle of bulimics.
The thing is, media manipulation is ultimately about selling soap. The soap might be dish detergent, a candidate or an economic philosophy, but someone's trying to sell something. And the more media we consume, the more we're willing to buy.
Media manipulation is so pervasive, so insidious that even people like me who identify it for a living are occasionally distracted from the real point.
All these emotional highs and lows are the results of hypervigilance, brought on by media overconsumption. (Look at your typical Beck fan. I rest my case.) Yes, there really are bad things happening - but probably not as many as you think.
Unfortunately for bloggers, it's our lot in life to play political Paul Revere. In order to protect and warn the village, we must constantly scan the horizon. But you? You don't have to.
The more life experience you have, the more diversity of people and places, the less susceptible you are to media hypnosis. So do step away from the computer occasionally.