What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Why Politics Is Rude

July 2, 2011, 2:58 PM
P062911lj-0159

Washington was scandalized recently when MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin called President Obama "a dick” on Morning Joe. Halperin quickly apologized and was suspended for the remark, which he admitted was “unacceptable.” The White House told MSNBC that Halperin’s comment was “inappropriate.” Halperin’s remark certainly was obnoxious, and in my opinion it was just about worthless as political commentary. But I couldn’t personally care less if a political commentator thinks the president or any other politician is a dick.

We focus far too much on the gaffes of politicians and commentators. We fret endlessly about the delicate feelings of our politicians. And politicians—whose feelings I hope are not actually so delicate—are always happy to complain about the incivility of their critics rather than to address their substantive criticism. The real problem with Halperin’s comment was not that he was being impolite. It was that Halperin was wrong to suggest Obama crossed a line by being sharply critical of Congress’ lack of progress on raising the debt ceiling—Obama said that his daughters were better at doing their homework on time.

As Greg Sargent says, politics is supposed to be a “rough clash of visions.” With the credit-worthiness and long-term health of the nation at stake in the debt ceiling talks, some strong words from both sides are probably in order. With so much at stake, it’s not at all surprising our political leaders think their opponents’ ideas are dangerous and dishonest. And it’s perfectly appropriate in a democracy that they should make that case to the public.

The truth is, in any case, that when you are on a microphone all the time, you're going to say some stupid or obnoxious things. The media has had a field day with presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s recent claim that the founding fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States”—some of the founding fathers did oppose slavery, but as a group they nevertheless enshrined it in the Constitution—and the fact that she apparently confused the actor John Wayne and serial killer John Wayne Gacy. But, as Jonathan Bernstein sayswhile we snark about Bachmann’s poor grasp of American history, we let her more substantial claims that worries about defaulting on the U.S. debt are just “scare tactics” and that eliminating the minimum wage would “virtually wipe out unemployment” pass relatively unquestioned.

These are precisely the kind of real issues we should be debating—and debating fiercely. Gossiping about whether politicians are rude or have gotten all their details right is just a waste of time, and distracts us from what actually matters.

Photo credit: Lawrence Jackson

 

Why Politics Is Rude

Newsletter: Share: