Day by Day



17 July 2007

The great divide...


A recent article in the Washington Post - yes I read it once in a while - underscore something which many, including myself, have been pointing to for some time. The fact of the matter is that there has never been a better time to be a consumer of information. The wealth of options available to people in the free world are nearly limitless. As a consumer I can see a story on network television, research it on the internet, e-mail the originators and gain a level of understanding heretofore unheard of in society.


The cost of this undertaking is small. All the hard work has been done by scholars and others who full the net with content. I can even search libraries for original source material, read UN transcripts minutes after meetings (which never make the news) are concluded.


So why do people cry foul and claim that the news consumed by the masses is skewed this way or that? Why do Democrats whine and moan about a fairness doctrine? Doesn't the failed Air America project underscore that there is little market for liberal talk radio? And doesn't the fact that a Kucinich voter would hardly listen to (much less be swayed by) a Sean Hannity mean anything (and vice versa)?


The premise of the WaPo (I love these homey nicknames) article is that it's not about the plethora of information, but the range of choices. Simply put, most people (and I mean ALL people, everywhere) opt out - to some extent. They turn on Dancing with the Stars or idle away their time online in MySpace or any other of a host of niche realms. This is what the market has wrought. If you offer me NBC Nightly News or a repeat of the Sopranos, I may not choose the news. Even Katie Couric, in all her intern slapping, photo-shopped tartiness can not save such a narrow track vehicle (network news).


So how do you get the population of a country so overflowing with choices to pay attention to politics long enough to make some informed decisions ? The politicians do not care. They know that as long as enough people keep voting for them the rest of the nation can quietly slumber on in ignorance. The sleepers actually risk little. Their interests are connected inextricably with those of the engaged. If you are routinely reading blogs, news and other informational sites you are not one of the sleepers.


Does it all matter? As long as a sufficiently representative portion of the populace maintains watch, the rest of the country seems happy to cede its authority over to us. In essence, we have a representative, representative government. One which we earned and one which we (apparently) deserve. If I ran the zoo. I would require every citizen to devote some period of time to government.


Augggh! Deux! That's dictatorship!


Perhaps, like the Heinlein novel, Starship Troopers - in which only those who served in the military could vote - an arrangement could be struck. If you participate, you get to vote - otherwise you are excluded from the choices.


If you think about it, we already compel folks to engage with the government. The payment and preparation of taxes requires no small amount of effort and certainly conscious engagement.


I don't think a couple hours per week on local, state and national matters would be too much to ask.


Wait a minute, isn't that the premier of Kid Nation?


zzzzzZZZZZ.


23 comments:

sonicfrog said...

read UN transcripts minutes after meetings

Tell Me You Do Not! And I thought I did stupid things to pass the time.

sonicfrog said...

Oh, because my college degree is in Telecom / Radio, Video, Film Production, and I still have the itch to keep up with all things media, I'm gonna be blogging on the threatened return of th fairness doctrine very soon.

sonicfrog said...

Oh, and if you think government censorship works in the digital age, think again.

sonicfrog said...

Oh... nevermind.

Citizen Deux said...

Frog!!! You rock, and I mean that metaphorically.

BostonMaggie said...

I have had similar thoughts over the years. I work as an appointed election official where I love and some of the utter stupidity and ignorance I have seen has made me long for some regulation. However, in the end you realize that you can't. It's elitist. While I am a terrible snob and contemptuous of people who flaunt their ignornace (there are such people - my sister-in-law for example) it's not what the concept of democracy is about. I know, I know, we are not a democracy strictly speaking. But once we start setting up barriers to certain people voting, where does it stop? Who draws the lines?

Citizen Deux said...

Maggie, we have lines now. You must be 18 to vote, you must register, you must prove your identity. So there are lines, the question is how far should they extend?

captjackharkness said...

How is this....people have a right to vote, which few of us exercise. Should people who are eleigble to vote be COMPELLED somehow to vote? A fine? Jail time for not voting? Perhaps not a good answer, but neither is taking away a peoples right to choose and giving it to a select few. What would the country be like if only members of the military were allowed to vote? If only people with college degrees were allowed to vote? We would have a government much more self-serving and draconian than we have ever seen in the past, me thinks.

Too many flies, too many flies, and its hot as hell in Philadelphia....won't somebodey open up a window?

Citizen Deux said...

Yes, already too few of us vote to even truly be called a representative democracy. But what if voting were somehow incentivized? Some break on annual taxes or another item to prod or cajole folks to get involved. The most important votes for people are those which are local. In our own region of Atlanta, a mere 30,000 people made a decision on a tax referendum for almost 5 million.

BostonMaggie said...

Capt. - A "1776" reference! I love it!

captjackharkness said...

Mags-Best Musical Evah! (And if Deux ever gets too windy, we can always chante "Sit Down, John, Sit Down, John, For God's Sake John sit down!")

Also, I understand that from Framingham to Boston, you cannot find any pins, Madame? And how is that saltpeter coming along?????

Citizen Deux said...

Ladies and gentlemen, the Broadway Blogs may be accessed via another portal!

Indeed!

captjackharkness said...

Oh, Pish Posh, Deux.Let us have our fun!

Don't you know there is war on, say the merchants with a grin? Of course, John, but you have failed to tell us how saltpeter is made!

Salpter, John. Pins, Abigail. Til then, til then,....

sonicfrog said...

Mr. Adams, Dear Mr. Adams, You're obnoxious and disliked,
It cannot be denied....

sonicfrog said...

Funny, of all the founding fathers, if I were to get into character for a presentation, wigs and all, it would probably be Adams. We're different in so many ways (he's dead, I'm not, for one), but he intrigues me most of the lot of them. Second would be Madison.

Citizen Deux said...

Jefferson still is my favorite. Although Franklin seems to have led quite the life!

sonicfrog said...

If you haven't heard it, here is a link to The Thomas Jefferson Hour, which is originally an NPR show, but is now also available on iTunes. I can't recommend this show strong enough. It is one of the things that pushed my interest in becoming a history teacher. I highly recommend shows 673, 672, 662, 661, and 651 to start.

BostonMaggie said...

Adams, is of course, the favorite of the girl from Boston.

"It doesn't matter. I won't be in the history books anyway, only you. Franklin did this and Franklin did that and Franklin did some other damn thing. Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them- Farnklin, Washington, and the horse- conducted the entire revolution by themselves."

Not to worry sir, I remember you.

captjackharkness said...

Wow. 1776 bring us all, differing political opinions and all, together. Even those cool, cool, conservative men, whose likes may never be seen again. I myself, like John Hancock, wish to continue dancing to Mr. Adams new gavotte...

After all,Mr. Jefferson, I am only 41(okay, plus 6) and still have my virility, and can walk through cupids grove with great agility. Not all of us are from Philadelphia, Franklin.

Citizen Deux said...

Bravo!

ver word: dalyafd

Major John said...

If one cannot get off their dead a$$ and get to a polling place - I am more than happy to NOT have them vote. Think of the numbers of twits, fools and the malinformed that vote now - then multiply by 2.... gah!

Citizen Deux said...

I agree, the impact of the U2s is staggering, but not just limited to elections. Just look across the social spectrum to all the things which exist (or not) due to ignorance and apathy.

See wind farms off Massachussets.

captjackharkness said...

U2's? Don't you be dissin' my Bono!

ver word: muliast. (n) a person or thing which holds the political viewpoints of a mule (not democrat).