Gongol.com Archives: February 2024

Brian Gongol

February 13, 2024

News Don't cut off the water while the fire is being fought

Having a smartphone in every pocket means we have reached a point of almost pure entertainment saturation. For every moment of leisure, there is a television episode, a podcast, an article, a game, a tweet, or a Snap ready to absorb -- and monetize -- every blink of attention, right down to increments of 3 seconds. To our ancestors who waited all week to read the "Saturday Evening Post" or who may never have learned to read at all, this saturation would be utterly bewildering. ■ But a toxic side effect of our current situation is that it compels at least some people to treat entertainment as the source of political understanding and influence, rather than treating entertainment as a diversion from weightier matters (like robust debate around meaningful issues). This leads some individuals to reason from what sounds the most satisfying with the least effort, rather than doing the hard reasoning first and then passing their judgment through the tools of rhetoric to make them appealing. ■ Senator Mike Lee of Utah, in a dramatic display of the former, declares, "Prolonging this war doesn't help the people of Ukraine." And he filibusters to try to stop any aid from going to Ukraine as it struggles in a defensive war against its much larger invader. ■ Sen. Lee's argument may be pithy, but it is empty. He implies that in supplying aid to Ukraine, the United States is prolonging a war which Ukraine fights only in its own defense. His argument is the same as saying, "Prolonging this effort to put out a house fire doesn't help the family who lives here. We should shut off the fire hydrant." ■ Utah's other Senator, Mitt Romney, has reasoned the issue out. But his plain, honest, and compelling argument in favor of funding takes him five minutes to deliver. If the only thing that matters is entertainment, Sen. Romney's morally upright case is no match for Sen. Lee's debased nonsense. ■ What prolongs the war in Ukraine is the Kremlin's choice to continue a violent occupation. Period. If we don't have the patience to consider the consequences of their victory or defeat, that's a shame on us. And we will rue the day we turned our backs on our friends in their distress, especially if it happens because we substituted entertainment for judgment. Good arguments aren't always catchy, and catchy arguments often aren't any good.