Living in different boxes on Maui by Curt Bennett

    Living in different boxes on Maui by Curt Bennett

    Aug 28, 2018

    Living in different boxes

    By Curt Bennett

    First, to avoid name calling and cursing, this blog is not advocating either side of our current political divide. As George Carlin once said, “I’m just watching the show.”

    I just rode 60 minutes on the exercise cycle at the gym.

    The TV for my exercise cycle defaults to Fox News.. I fumble through the screen while pedaling to get to CNN, probably because being from Atlanta I am used to CNN. Both stations claim to be fair and unbiased. This workout is a good time to experiment with different media coverage, so I watched 30 minutes of CNN and 30 minutes of Fox.  

    Wow, two different versions of the news. Which is right?

    You get immersed into two different realities. Kelly Ann Conway called them alternative truths. I call them different boxes.  We tend to migrate to one or the other, then we settle.

    We like our life to fit in a neat box. Our family encourages us to accept their religious and political box. Kids rebel, of course, so they get into other boxes. The can't believe how stupid their parent's box is. 

    When I was 19 I left home not believing how stupid my dad was. I came back at 21. I was amazed how much he had learned in two years. Mark Twain 

    Take the instance of gun control. Two separate boxes. Ah, the security and comfort of your box. The longer we stay in the box the more we find reasons to justify the box.  We want the world to make sense, have neatness and order. When we have found our box we settle in. We have all types of boxes, a religious box, a political box, and a social box. We like and protect our boxes. We don't want anyone disparaging our box and yelling , "your box is stupid, mine is better, "Go back to your box, moron", we yell back, the insult probably negating any meaningful dialogue, "I like my box. Asshole". Insulting words, especially profanity, will close meaning discussion. Those attacked refuse to listen. They put their fingers in their ears.  

    One way to get someone to change boxes is to us humor. Take, for instance, this conversation between two 12 year olds, “My dad is better than your dad”, one says, “oh, yeah”, says the other, “no, my dad is better than your dad”. “Well”, the first says, “my mom is better than your mom.” “You got me there” the 2nd says, “my dad says the same thing.” Humor can do more than the best rational arguments.

    When people say, "thank god for Fox TV", I am as mystified and angry as my opposite hearing me say “thank God for Barack Obama”. 

    “I talked to a childhood friend yesterday who lives in my home state, Rhode Island. He watches only Fox, thinks CNN is a left wing nut station. If you live in the CNN box you'll find comedians like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel lampooning the right. If you look in the Fox box you'll find Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly doing the opposite.

    These men all report the news, but, to be fair, they are entertainers, not newsmen. They will not deny this. They get good ratings giving their opinion of the news, but they construct completely different boxes. How can 4 obviously intelligent and successful men have such different boxes

     My brother listens to right wing radio, watches Sean Hannity or Bill Riley on TV. They built him a box he likes.  I'm just as guilty in my liberal box as I watch CNN, Steve Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, well just about every other comedian.(see how i"m protecting my box) Switching channels as I did while riding the bike forced me to listen to commentary from both boxes. 

    You have to go to great lengths to change boxes. Look at Bruce Jenner.

    Bill O'Reilly is well educated, has written countless books, says he is an independent, but when interviewed by Dave Letterman, Letterman said, "you are too smart to believe all those nutty things you say on your show?" O'reilly in a poll in 2008 was said to be the most trusted name in news, 2nd only to, and brace yourself, Russ Limbaugh..

    I can't fathom those boxes, but some of my best friends and family love these boxes. “These guys know what they are talking about.”, they say.

    Realize that Fox claims these are “opinion” shows, not hard news and surveys say that many of the younger generation get their news from comedy shows like Steve Colbert and John Oliver. If we only listen to them they define our box. Bill O’Reilly and Stephen Colbert reinforce their boxes every show. Colbert uses comedy, O’Reilly yells so loud you have to believe him. As

    Colbert said when he was on O’Reilly’s show, “Bill, your opponents criticize you for what you say, but they never give you credit for how loud you say it..” The more we listen to them the more we believe in their box.

    Confirmation bias

    This is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis and ignore or underweight evidence that would disconfirm their hypothesis.

     Ben Carson, Trump’s appointment to the cabinet post of Housing and Urban development became the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the country at age 33.[6] He has received more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees, dozens of national merit citations, and written over 100 neurosurgical publications.[7] In 2008, he was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

    Dr. Carson and his wife are members of the 7th day Adventist Church. He told Katie Couric on National TV he believes in the literal interpretation of Genesis in the bible that the world is only 6000 years old. Even though he belongs to a distinguished and erudite medical box he chooses the Adventist Church box. The science world does not have many people in that box.

    This psychology and cognitive science mumbo jumbo is too recondite to deal with. The answer is simpler. We react negatively to someone with a different bias, a different box, swearing at us. “You and your beliefs are stupid.” Baby boomers remember Saturday night live when news anchor Dan Akroyd replied to his co-host’s argument, “Jane, you ignorant slut.”

    Swearing is the kiss of death when confronting others about their boxes. The President has made this acceptable in his tweets making disparaging and distasteful remarks of those who disagree with him. Productive Discourse and dialogue just can’t survive anyone calling each other stupid. We, at once, refuse to listen and try to find any argument possible to prove, “we are not stupid, you are stupid.”

     How else can you explain people not believing in climate change or evolution? “You have to be stupid to believe the world is only 6000 years old” is not a way to win a discussion. People will actually not believe their eyes. We still can’t convince them that Trump had a poor turnout for his inauguration. Below are pictures of Trump’s 2017 and Obama’s in 2009. Sean Spice claimed that Trump had the largest turn out ever. 

     Trump has overwhelming support of evangelicals, has a deeply religious partner in Mike Pence, but gets a “mulligan” for his philandering behavior. “He’s not a saint,” Pence says, “ but he’s carrying our cause”.

    I’m guilty myself. In the 7th grade I was rushing down the corridor and accidentally knocked down a girl’s books from her arms. Her 9th grade boyfriend immediately confronted me and said “pick those up, stupid”. I knew I was wrong, I wanted to apologize. He should not have used the word “stupid” “No”, I said, and punched him in the face.” I see this same defense occurring in political arguments these days. If Trump were more like his predecessors, the Bushes and Ronald Reagan democrats could still argue without name calling. How do you do this with Trump. His behavior immediately yells out, as Rex Tillerson reportedly said, “he’s a moron”. What are his supporters supposed to say, “yeah, he’s a moron, but I believe in him.”  “No”, they say, “you are a moron” and punch you in the face.

    Confirmation bias

    Trump is such a great showman and so much more fun to satirize than Obama. Alex Baldwin has so much success imitating him he can’t stop even though he doesn’t like doing the impression.


    Yes, you just can’t scream at people and tell them they live in stupid boxes. We are evolving society. Though we are told the Constitution is our bible, we have come a long way in revising and improving it. We have become a nation of religious tolerance, have outlawed slavery, and allowed woman the right to vote. In hindsight we say, “how did we even think differently?”. Remember when we had people in boxes that believe the earth was flat or that the sun revolved around the earth?

    The “Civil War” was not “Civil” it was bloody and cruel. The political discussions we are having these days are not “Civil”. You can’t insult someone into seeing things your way.

    Go to the gym and while riding the exercise bicycle, tune into equal times of CNN and Fox. You may be somewhat tortured and cry out, “how can they both be right”, but respect the views of these boxes Be “civil” when disagreeing.


    To end this civil blog take the issue of whether Elvis is dead or not. You could say to someone that claims so, “you are stupid” or you can be civil and gently suggest an alternative:

     “Sir, may I politely say, you are wrong. Elvis is not dead. Elvis is alive. He’s in the west wing and has morphed into Mike Pence.”

    You need humor to move out of a box.