The old saying about living and dying by the sword has different twists, but similar meanings. In days past, it meant that those who use violence to win a victory will likely die violently. Nowadays, it conveys the message that there is no escaping justice. So, why would I apply this expression to our current sound bite society?
What is a “Sound Bite”?
According to the dictionary, a sound bite is a short, memorable phrase selected from a speech or a snippet from a song or movie. It is usually selected for being easy to remember or is pleasing to the ear. Sound bites are often used as teasers for a news story or as a press release to attract attention. In another sense, a sound bite is ‘ear candy’, because it is pleasing to hear. Unfortunately, just like real candy, it is sugar coated and pretty but lacks substance or depth. Candy can’t nourish a body and sound bites won’t feed a mind.
Tools of Politicians and Advertisers
Let’s be honest, other than the Founding Fathers and Honest Abe, there is a general lack of trust when it comes to politicians. As voters, we view them with skepticism at best; disgust and contempt at worst. There are many reasons not to trust what our leaders tell us, the main one being that they deliberately mislead us. Before television, the newspapers tried to hold their feet to the fire. Sadly, with the advent of television and now the internet, politicians can trade on visual and auditory appeal. Voters recognize a face or a phrase and that is what candidates count on.
Advertisers count on sound bites to sell. They are called taglines or “hooks” but the intent is the same. Repeat something often enough and it sinks into our unconsciousness. A hook doesn’t have to be true, just catchy. With the immense popularity of social media, and our tendency to be easily distracted, everyone gets into the “sound bite” game.
Itchy Ears Crave Sound Bites
The Bible condemned our incessant desire to hear bad news or gossip. The authors also pointed out the trouble with our craving to hear what we want, not what we need. A Sound bite society feeds that craving in ways that appeals the most to people. It is so pervasive, that as a whole, no one wants to hear the truth anymore. We don’t care about those things that will really benefit us in the end. Instead, we want messages that make us feel good. Our sound bite society has even diminished our sense of compassion and justice.
Politicians use short or catchy phrases to get their point across. Before you know it, those phrases are shared on Facebook and are used in Memes. What was meant to tickle our itchy ears is now repeated as a fact. Sound bites don’t just sell a product, they sell an ideology.
Can We Rediscover Truth and Substance?
Every day there is a new, pithy offering from one source or another. Our current President eagerly plays this game of words. Sound bites have become the stock and trade of almost every public figure. Truth and beauty are casualties in the rush to win attention. Can we turn away from this tendency? Is it possible to rediscover the goodness of truth? Will we grow tired of a diet of sugar and frosting and realize our deep need for substance?
I think it starts with one person at a time. Are you weary of our society of sound bites. Is there a hunger for truth and knowledge? Do you remember the novel, 1984? George Orwell described a world that rejected truth and even limited vocabularies to lessen its citizens’ abilities to think and reason. The ruling party used sound bites to control its populace. I really hope that we wake up before we sink too far below the surface. Even though it’s full of hot air, a sound bite society makes a lousy life raft.