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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 15 August 2014

Robin Williams vs. Ezra Levant: Hope and Inspiration vs Fear and Anger

Although Kinsella opens his article suggesting his pick for "biggest name in broadcasting" will shock, shock his audience, there really wasn't much surprise.

First, the reference to shock value is a gimmick, a thing to hook reader interest - essentially, the closest you can get to literary shouting without turning to the CAPS key.

Second, Kinsella is a die-hard loyalist to his tribe, whatever his tribe may be.  It's an admirable quality in an age where loyalty tends to be to oneself first, though there are all kinds of obvious problems with my-country-right-or-wrong partisanship.

Kinsella works for the Sun; Levant works for the Sun.

You know who Kinsella's going to pick from the moment he broaches the subject.

All that aside, though, Kinsella raises good points about the medium of television - it's visual, it's emotive and now more than ever, when we're watching TV while tweeting on our smartphones, it needs to be volume-heavy to tap into what remaining attention we have left.

TV takes this to extremes, but every medium is the same.  We don't listen to monotone speakers, any more than we enjoy lengthy monologues.  How many of us have read War and Peace?  How many read full news articles?

People have short attention spans (which isn't the same as short memories) and, as we are more hard-wired to be emotionally reactive than consciously active, we go for what moves us over what informs us, nine times out of ten.

This is why partisan politics leans increasingly towards street theatre - it has to compete for public attention and that seems to be the only way to shine a light in the public's face.

Which is why attack ads and emotionally negative material - defend, attack, troubles at shores, scandal, etc. are terms partisans lob back and forth at each other.  You have to stir the people to get them active and nothing engages quite like a threat.

This is part of Levant's shtick.  He's bitter, partisan, combative, belligerent, bellicose, bullying, resentful, so on and so forth.  You watch Levant and you get mad - either with him or at him.  Either way, more people are apt to pay attention to Levant than a more thoughtful, lower-key broadcaster (not news presenter).

As people are drawn to the negative, the assumption communicators, political, media, etc, tend to make is that fear and anger draw in viewers.  The positive message stuff isn't visceral; hope is cotton candy when what the people crave is a roller coaster.

Hence, the preponderance of negativity on live TV.

Are they right, though?  Does negativity win?  Is volume and emotion strictly a negative thing?

Recently, Robin Williams died.  The circumstances are well-known, as is the tragic context.  While there are those who are taking a Levant-like tone and criticizing Williams as weak, a poor role-model, selfish, etc, the vast majority of comments that have emerged are ones of gratitude for what he gave to people as a performer.

How many people can recount magical tales about that one time they met him, and for that brief moment he made them feel like the centre of his universe? How many stories have we heard about a spontaneous concert in a crowd, that performance or performances that enriched a life or helped form a world view?

Williams was not a mad ranter; his message was never bitter, never focused on blame, resentment or anger in general.  Williams was a Roman Candle, bringing light to the world - he was loud, energetic, frenetic, but in the opposite way that Levant was.  

Robin Williams lit a fire within the people.  Levant seems to want us to burn the world down.

How many stories will people share about Ezra Levant when he is gone?

For how long will Robin Williams' legacy of touching people with positive energy last?

There are no people like Robin Williams' in Canadian broadcasting; we tend not to be an exuberant people, unless, in increasing measure, it's in a negative sense.

If you were to put Robin Williams up against Ezra Levant in a debate or a contest, though, who do you think would win?

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