By: Cole Riley, Contributor
Tuning into political roundtable banter each night has become an exhausting affair. I watch in awe as each major news network pits commentators and analysts against each other to duel over the day’s latest revelations, speeches and lies. With an unnerving stench of arrogance, each side unabashedly defends their candidate then only to pivot and attack the opposition with bitter vitriol. Concessions are foreign to these disciples of polarity. If such a thing as compromise existed in today’s media coverage and discussions, then maybe our country wouldn’t be left with such disgusting candidates for the presidential office.
I make this argument from an interesting vantage point. I’m a lawyer, raised in an industry ripe with its own disobedience and loathsome views of the art of argument. But in my schooling I had the opportunity to study many ideas from the great scholars and philosophers of history, principled individuals with elegance and foresight. One of these individuals, Plato, wrote about the cardinal virtues of a society in his Republic; the virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage.
When we watch our evening quarrelers lob insults and misinformation across the aisle, we can see how greatly they lack these very virtues. They neither use wisdom or caution when they speak (prudence), nor treat each other with fairness and sincerity (justice). Gone is any vestige of restraint (temperance) and, most importantly, not one has showed any courage in accepting defeat and parting from their platform’s backbone. What remains is a free-for-all, a venue for the entertainer not the intellectual.
Any viewer is in some degree informed and manipulated by this media. As we watch these roundtables persist night after night, their behavior and divisiveness undeniably seeps into our societal framework, their slurs into our country’s lexicon.
We take this attitude to the voting booths, electing for partisanship over partnership. We build up debates as a fight night when instead we should strive for a forum in which our people’s greatest minds come together to lead us into the future.
Thus a vicious cycle exists between our media, ourselves, and our elected leaders. We crave opposition and oppose agreement; we encourage the uninformed to inform us; and we look at compromise as weak and treasonous.
I starve for someone to give in on an argument, to withhold a pivot, to admit that sometimes you can be wrong. Someone to show some semblance of prudence, justice, temperance, or courage. But this fantasy won’t occur anytime soon.
Perhaps what Plato wrote about was merely of a hopeful nature, not of quiet observation. And if this year’s election has shown us anything, that hope has yet to be fulfilled.
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Cole Riley is a lawyer and talent manager in New York City. He runs Cole Riley Management. He is a graduate of New York University and Brooklyn Law School.