[Conor Friedersdorf]

Jack Shafer, Slate's excellent media columnist, offers up an e-mail interview with Michael Crichton. I want to highlight this bit:

...the media narrows the expression of viewpoints to an extraordinary degree. We've already discussed the small population of talking heads on cable shows. At the same time, the interest aroused by figures like Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul occurred because, in my view, the American public had never heard people talk that way. Similarly, the Rev. Wright is espousing views that are hardly rare, but people react with shock and awe. People should take it as a sign that something is wrong—the media isn't giving them the full story. By a long shot.

There's a lot of truth to that. I'm a voracious consumer of media, but prior to the Rev. Wright fiasco I'd never heard of Christian sermons of his style. It's a tradition I've read up on since. Weird that rhetoric inflammatory enough to dominate public discourse for weeks on end never garnered any kind of sustained attention before.

I'm also always struck by media coverage of religion. The Catholic church, for example, is often in the news. Few people are unaware of its official stance against birth control. It's a topic I argue about sometimes when I get together with a good friend who studies theology at Catholic University. He hasn't convinced me that the Catholic position on birth control is correct, but it sure is a lot more sophisticated than many of its opponents imagine, mostly because the reasoning behind the Catholic position on birth control is rarely fleshed out.

As someone who has read a lot of libertarian philosophy I'm a poor judge of popular exposure to views like those espoused by Ron Paul. Those who read this blog are probably similarly handicapped. Just in case, though, are there any readers who'd never heard certain arguments until Congressman Paul raised them during his campaign?