Is Persuasion Dead?
Matt Miller asks this question in a NY Times editorial this week. He wonders if most political speech isn't at all about persuading people but instead just preaching to the choir and helping people validate their own beliefs without questioning them.
This also reminds me of Deborah Tannen's book, The Argument Culture. She talks about how most debate isn't thoughtful or meant to appeal to people trying to make up their minds. Instead it is extreme and polarized, for the sake of argument and spectacle.
I don't do Tannen's book justice in that brief summary, but both her book and the editorial are worth checking out.
Miller wonders if people aren't just tuning out because their intelligence is insulted by the debate in which shrill gets the edge over substance.