Your song is not an argument

Brian Kutzley and Brian Kutzley

There is a trend in pop culture that I had hoped to avoid, but apparently it just will not go quietly. I call it pop politics. This occurs when various rock bands – many of which are not even American – decide to go on tour together in hopes of changing the outcome of an election. It also occurs every time some otherwise intelligent person finds deep and insightful advice in the words of a drugged-up high school dropout. Granted, not all rock stars are either or both of these things, but the point stands. Allow me to throw out an example.

I worked for a small, but effective interest group over the summer. One of our outreach projects was a series of interviews between our chairman and men and women who are experts in their field. We posted a whole series of our best and most insightful on YouTube, to net a maximum viewership of about 7,000. Then one day I decided I wanted to hear the song from the Transformers movie, only to find that first, it had over 15,000,000 hits and secondly, there is an exhaustive discussion of the moral and political significance of the images in the music video. At this point, I think I would prefer an apathetic public.

Let me clarify something. There is a way to argue almost any point, but a proponent of anarchy should be citing Rousseau, not Bad Religion. Unfortunately our music is only the beginning.

Let me go back to something I learned in elementary school: The word fiction means not real. There is a great deal to be learned from works of fiction. The meaning of life or the destiny of a nation probably should not be one of them. Movies like “Blood Diamond” or “Lord of War” are a great way to demonstrate problems in the world, but that does not mean it is a valid source in writing a letter to a senator. On the flip side, there are the movies which are deliberately trying to make a point simply by aiming for the gut. If you have ever had the misfortune of watching such a thing, please do not cite it in an argument.

That said, there is value in fiction literature. Reading American classics can tell you a great deal about the way people think and feel about a specific setting or time period – otherwise it would not have been so widely read.

Even science fiction and fantasy has a great deal to offer. Card’s “Ender’s Game” provides a setting virtually unimaginable in realistic fiction which then allows the author and reader alike to reconsider everything they know of morality and utilitarian ethics.

Novels like “Brave New World,” “1984,” or “Atlas Shrugged” may even cause a person to rethink their most fundamental values. While I will readily admit the value of these novels, I will also put out a word of warning: It is remarkably easy to win a debate when only one side is present. In judging a book of that nature, the most important question is, does the author represent his or her opposition fairly and accurately? Otherwise the book is a masterful work of deception.

So while there may be a great deal of value to fiction, it still must be kept in context. Whether its origin is “Ender’s Game” or “Brave New World,” opinions gleaned from novels are still just that: personal opinion.

My biggest pet peeve is the documentary. If novels occasionally practice deception, documentaries are the modern age sophists.

To clarify, I do not care who produced the documentary or what its intended message is. Creating a documentary is a process of finding exactly the right sound bytes and graphs and ignoring, if not burying, anything that disagrees. Then when asked about it, the producer simply calls it editing.

While this manipulation of data might be considered common knowledge, I know more than a few people who completely changed their behavior right in cue with “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Fast Food Nation.”

The moral of the story is, it is okay to be intellectually stimulated by something that, in all honesty, is not remotely intellectually stimulating. The problem arises when an otherwise intelligent person begins a conversation with “Yea, but did you see the video where”.” Please remember that we live in a country and in a time where – for the first time in history, I might add – over half of the populace has some college education. Do not devolve to an argument posited to a heavy metal backbeat. Using it as a Facebook quote is bad enough.