Referring to the rise of talk radio, cable news & the internet, Michael Smerconish writes in today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

Today, that three-headed monster facilitates an artificial view of America – one in which every issue boils down to a left/right, liberal/conservative, Republican/Democratic standoff. Americans are now conditioned to choose a side and stick with it. Elected officials and candidates, all too eager to play the media game, emulate that behavior. The lack of decorum carries over from the split screen to the House floor. The cameras and microphones, of course, capture it all. And the cycle starts all over again.

Those who stoke the fires get rewarded with higher ratings fueled by the allegiance of a small but monolithic band of listeners or viewers. Concurrently, elected representatives who parrot what they hear and see experience a parallel growth in campaign contributions. In the days immediately after his “You lie!” outburst, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was flooded with more than $1 million in contributions. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., meanwhile, raised $850,000 in the final quarter of 2009 alone after his “die quickly” characterization of the GOP health-care proposal. In short, the common sense of the majority is engulfed by the fervor of a minority fringe. Any sober, substantive messages are cast as weak and unprincipled, and are drowned out by those who insist upon casting each political conflict in revolutionary terms.

That’s the real damage done when people with a microphone at their lips or on their lapels whip the knuckleheads into a frenzy. There’s less time for temperance. Critical thinking is diminished. The actions of a manic few are recorded, projected, and whispered down the lane for anyone with a radio, television, or Internet connection. The debate is cheapened, and, ultimately, the safety of our elected officials is threatened.

If you haven’t already, pick up a hard copy of today’s Democrat to see the cartoon.

(Photo credit Janice Ann Ford & thanks to Christine for pointing us to the article.)