I blame it all on the 24 hour news cycle.
Filling air time meant stories gave way to thoughts spoken aloud. Thoughts became spontaneous rants. Rants were repeated as chants. And "journalism" took a back seat to infotainment.
Now callers add to the ignorance and, even worse, decide that shouting over the airwaves isn't enough and shouting at Town Halls becomes the norm. Even shouting at the President during his speech to Congress seems (at least in that brief moment) the thing to do.
Except . . . moments later, those words can't be erased. News programs have producers to check the calls and/or editing machines for playback later with lots of the glitches removed.
But live and in person, we get it all -- unedited, unchecked -- and we are stuck with it. Words hanging in the air, taking up space, causing pain, signaling the disintegration of civil discourse.
In one of my favorite movies, Broadcast News, the lightweight on air personality (can't really call him a journalist) is being led through a breaking news story by his producer. William Hurt listens intently as Holly Hunter tells him exactly what to say and who to throw the next story to. When her attention is diverted for just a moment, William is left on his on and sums up what was just said with, "And I think that means we're all ok."
The news director hears it and retorts, "Who the hell cares what you think?"
That movie is rather ancient now. But it's a testament to a time far removed from today's verbal diarrhea.
In the old reels of the reports of man landing on the moon, Walter Cronkite is visibly disturbed that he's showing emotion as he shares the announcement. Reflecting on the memorial service that occurred the same week as we had the "shout out" to the President, I wondered if, before he died, Mr. Cronkite hadn't shed a tear or two for what his profession had become.