Sunday, March 7, 2010

Going "Nuclear" and "Collateral Damage"

The political divisions and dysfunctions of government in the US are exemplified by the increasingly common use of war metaphors and expressions in ordinary political discourse. No issue, seemingly, is too small to be compared to atomic warfare. An example appears in this morning's Washington Post (here), in a story on the conflict between Walt Disney Co, which owns ABC, and Cablevision. Having reached an impasse in negotiations over transmission fees, Cablevision stopped airing ABC at midnight, which means that 3 million people will be deprived of watching the Academy Awards tonight (unless they have a digital converter box to obtain a signal over the airwaves). Because this is happening in Washington, members of Congress are taking a keen interest in the dispute. Senator John Kerry is quoted as follows: "When pulling a signal becomes the nuclear option in negotiation, it inflicts collateral damage on consumers who pay their bills and have done nothing wrong."

Now, I'm aware that television is considered a fundamental right by most Americans, second only to their right to drive, and I'm further aware that many people consider a television show celebrating this year's films, most of which will be forgotten by next year, is must-see TV. But to describe a contract dispute over transmission rights as akin to nuclear war that inflicts "collateral damage" on consumers - ins't that going a bit too far?

Maybe if we toned down the rhetoric a bit, we might manage to reduce the overall level of political heat.

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