Item 1 What’s Wrong with Brit Hume?
There is a lot of attention to comments made by Brit Hume on Fox News recently as he urged Tiger Woods to abandon Buddhism in favor of Christianity. Certainly I found this an odd approach both to news and preaching and something more appropriate to an organization such as the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Since the utterance seemed to cause discomfort to the other panelists as well it struck me as something wholly out of the blue for this guy. So I decided to dig into it a little more. I compared video of Hume on camera over a year ago with the current controversial remarks and with remarks made the next day on the O’Reilly show.
I watched each several times both with the sound on and the sound off, the latter to get the body language cues. While undertaking this exercise I was reminded of the words of George Orwell in the novel 1984 in discussing Facecrime.
“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.”
Here are my notes on these videos.
Old footage of Brit Hume
From Dec. 23, 2008
- voice is animated and emotionally expressive
- face is animated, smiling and expressive
- responding to social cues
- noted by others for being a good speaker and attentive to things like grammar
- blinking normally and eyes conveying the emotional expression
- staring and hardly blinking as if he’s looking at a teleprompter. He’s just staring straight ahead while making off the cuff remarks. Normally people look slightly upward to either the left or the right when improvising. (depending on if they are accessing their imaginations or remembering something-its one of the cues interrogators use in questioning suspects)
- words occasionally slurred. Not enunciating words clearly
- hardly opening his mouth to talk.
- not cognizant of social cues. Consider the recovery the other guy on the panel has to make after Hume’s statement. All the panelists look decidedly uncomfortable yet Hume doesn’t seem to notice this. Certainly as soon as he started to move into the topic, if he were paying attention to social cues he’d have realized he’d gone in an uncomfortable direction and brought the discussion back to topic. He has decades of experience!
- face is without affect, hardly moving, almost emotionless
- voice is very monotone and without much inflection
- choice of words and grammar seems difficult and he seems to be having difficulty coming up with words
Contrast that with the O’Reilly interview.
Between the original statements and the O’Reilly interview he seems to have “woken up” a little bit and is more like the first video. Even so he doesn’t respond to some of the questions but only elaborates on what he said the previous day. And it appears by some of the errors he makes in speaking and being somewhat out of sync with O’Reilly that he is talking from a memorized statement if not a teleprompter. I have no doubt as to the sincerity with which he speaks since he has stated
“I came to Christ in a way that was very meaningful to me,” he said; it was in the aftermath of his son’s death by suicide in 1998. Washington Post
but the lack of cognizance as to the appropriateness of the timing of his statement is puzzling. Even O’Reilly seemed to be covering for him.
Now there are any number of explanations for these differences. He appears to be very tired at the least. I asked my sister, a nursing instructor with over 25 years of experience in geriatrics, to look at the video that sparked the controversy. She wondered if he was on medication or if he was in the early stages of dementia considering his age. Something along these lines occurred to me as well the first time I saw it which is why I asked her opinion.
I don’t know of Brit Hume has some kind of medical issue or not. But I would not be surprised if he went on leave in the next 6 months or so.
As to the content of his statements there is a lot of hue and cry over something that strikes me as fairly small. One has to have expectations of Fox News to be fair and balanced in the first place to get upset about it. And it strikes me that his statement about Buddhism not offering forgiveness in the Christian sense is quite true. It doesn’t. The statements made by author Dan Savage on the issue are ones I agree with also.
Pushing religion or any kind of bias on a news program is nothing new. Usually it is more covert that simply blurting it out. Emotional editorializing, that is emphasizing positive bias with positive emotional cues, content and context and negative bias with negative emotional expressions happens with some regularity.
Consider the expressions when Fox News reports on Obama or Bush. With Obama there is a higher tone of voice and indications of anger, dismay, incredulity or scorn. With Bush there was a lower, more serious tone indicating respect as well as a look of interest, smiles etc. Every news anchor on every channel does the same thing in subtle ways reflecting their biases. Even the words chosen can reflect this.
It’s about feeding and shoring up values and changing culture to suit the bias. Mass pursuasion. Usually more artfully done.
Item 2 What’s Wrong with the Current Airline Security Situation?
Lots of people are very upset with the direction airport and airline security is going. The underwear bomber has brought the matter a little too close for comfort. The measures being instigated are making people uncomfortable.
Full body scanners. Worries are that security people will be using the images for sexual purposes.
Body searches or pat-downs. Being touched by strangers runs contrary to people’s security of person and seems to bring up the same kind of fears of sexual exploitation.
Honestly my first thought was “Think much of yourself or what?”
The reason this thought came to mind was because once upon a time I had a job for a security company that required me to pat-down people while looking for contraband. It was not an enjoyable part of the job. The main thing I and my colleagues hoped for was that the people with whom we interacted in this fashion had at least put on deodorant during the day or had a bath. And that they weren’t ticklish, shy or obnoxious as that made the job more difficult. The objective was to remove any contraband and then get the people through the process as thoroughly and quickly as possible. There wasn’t time to ogle the crowd or waste time with sexual fantasizing and the like. And the stress of such a situation tends to put such notions on the back burner anyways. It’s just not where the focus is at.
Now that geographic profiling has come into being with the people or 14 or so nations identified as needing additional screening including searches it occurs to me that this is highly ineffective and a bit of a red herring. There were and are plenty of terrorists whose citizenship is American, British, German and from other countries aside from those 14. Searching innocent people on the basis of citizenship is a method that won’t lead to curtailing such incidents.
But in the panic to “do something” to assuage the fears of travelers this is the method that has been adopted.
I have 3, more appropriate suggestions that will both save money and time.
1. Travel naked. Everyone who wants to board an airplane will have to check their clothes at the gate and receive them back upon landing. No need then for scanners, searches or additional security procedures. People could wear paper hospital gowns if they felt shy and paper covers for the seats could be provided. It’s way cheaper to build changing areas than security areas. The body hair removal industry would be a good investment should this approach be adopted.
2. Ban men from travel. Most terrorists are men. Simply keep them off the planes. Blowing up planes full of women and children doesn’t make the same kind of political statement as planes full of men on business. The capitalization of men in every society, despite blatherings to the contrary, has been and is much higher than women and children.
3. Address the issues of global inequality and corporate exploitation and greed at ground level and effect systemic changes to alleviate that. This is likely the only one that will work but the last one that would ever be considered.
Links for Further Information
For US readers Hulu has available the complete video of Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent. Highly recommended.