I mean, the way the media manipulates the mind of the electorate, does rational discourse and free choice really matter?
I remember watching political strategy meetings on CPAN; I didnt see discourse on what the policy should be, but how to put the best spin on the policy they already had. And so what if you have free speech if the power elite has all the money needed to drown out anything you have to say?
I think you have a long way to prove that the media is actually manipulating anything, especially something as ill defined as “the mind of the electorate” I’m pretty sure there are millions of those, not just one.
But outside of that, if you are in the US you are in a representative democracy still. Each adult (mostly) has the right of suffrage, and that right must include making choices others would consider misinformed or poorly reasoned.
One more thing: Free speech is not necessarily connected to democracy. It is rather a liberty. For example a democratic public could vote to outlaw certain speech. That would be both democratic and an infringement on free speech.
When Gov. Stevenson was told that he had “The Thinking Man’s vote”, he replied:“Yes, but I need a majority”.
It is the mind of the majority that counts. Usually. Gore has some opinion on that.
But polite discourse, even if in dsagreement, is appreciated; so much of it is ad hominum, the negative TV ads, and sound bytes, dont really add up to “thinking”, as implied in the rights of free speech or free will.
I dont really know that it is that much worse, but clearly the world is a more complex place, and I dont see the thotfulness of responses like yours have much affect on the political process, or even the debates in the postings. Its a rare hare to see anyone adjust a position on reflection of the new facts presented. Psychological studies on group think have something to say about that.
Maybe read “The Wisdom of Crowds if you get the chance.
I suppose you are right that thinking (or at least rational) is implied in free will, but I think the implication only goes as far as saying that the agent expressing the free will has actual ability to make a choice, I don’t think it quantifies the degree of thinking required, but more simply that there are two choices (or more) and the agent can select one over another. So in terms of democracy they need to have enough thinking ability to punch an intended chad or whatever.
On the free speech it is again only implied in terms f the precedent of free will to conduct speech. It doesn’t seem that there is a prerequisite level of thinking other than making the choice to speak.
I would say we do still have a democracy, however, with an ever narrowing set of choices.
Money has become too important in elections, narrowing the choices to a few wealthy, influential people to participate. Even ballot measures are often represented on one side or both by corporate concerns.
The process has been hijacked by big business and wealthy individuals.
The people do still have a voice, but it is rarely heard above the paid advertisements from corporations.
I think you have a long way to prove that the media is actually manipulating anything…
Noam Chomsky, Ben Bagdikian, Ed Herman, Normon Solomon, etc have all done that. Chomsky draws heavily on the PR industry and how the media manipulates opinions. He cites people like Walter Lippmann, Edward Bernays and Harold Laswell as sources on propaganda.
Another good example is the CREEL Committee. That the media plays a large role in manipulating opinions is not really a new thing. It was quite obvious that the media was very complicit in helping Bush sell a false case on the Iraq War. These guys completely abandoned journalistic integrity to be a parrot for the pirate and admitted it afterwards in pathetic apologies. But theyre doing it again in regards to the occupation, Iran, the Middle East in general and even instances like the closing down of the tv station in Venezuela.
i raised the money issue in American politics and asked why no-one has thought of capping the amount that could be paid by interest groups/individuals to political parties or capping the amount they were allowed to spend on campaigns (paying this out of the public purse and allocating it). Occam argued that people were campaigning for that and had acheived it in some states, and if you would like more information on how you can get involved, ask him.
I like to compare the US to Israel, which has publicly financed campaigns, a far more politically involved society, and a set number of minutes of campaign ads for each party on national television instead of paid commercials as in the US… and I don’t see much of a difference there. The differences I can think about all boil down to Israel’s proportional representation system, which ensures that there are 10 or 12 parties in the Knesset at any given time. In the US, a political Christian must vote Republican, and a person concerned with socioeconomics must vote Democratic; in Israel, a political orthodox Jew can choose among four parties, while a socioeconomic voter could choose among five in the last election, two of which are the same as the religious person’s four.
But otherwise, I don’t see much of a difference. Just like in the US, everyone in Israel is convinced the media is biased toward the other side. People who think everyone ought to think about politics all the time complain that the media is shallow; centrists complain it gives too much air time to the fringe; leftists complain it’s right-wing; rightists complain it’s pro-Palestinian; religious people complain it’s too secular; and secularists occasionally complain it whitewashes religious crimes. And just like in the US, you have multiple interest groups pursuing divergent agendas, only in the form of different parties instead of different lobbies (lobbying is pretty much unheard of, which doesn’t prevent favoritist spending as egregious as in the US).
Alon’s post is quite interesting. We recognize a number of faults in the U.S. system that we feel must be corrected. However, even though they’ve managed to avoid them in Isreal, the problems still exist. What ideas does anyone have to really upgrade our socio-political system?
One thing that I think is important to reiterate is that we do not live in a pure democracy where every vote weighs equally. We live in a representative republic. I believe the Founders were wise in setting our nation up this way to avoid “mob rule.” Sometimes the mob is right, but not always. Pure democracies can only work in societies where everyone is well educated. That is clearly not the case in the United States.
Eric, I don’t know what “Pure democracy” means, but in Israel they have proportional representation, a unitary (i.e. not federal) government, a unicameral legislature… and it still works, in a way. I mean, a lot of problems get ignored, like widespread poverty, but they get ignored even more in the US, with a government set up by wise men to avoid mob rule.
Personally, my take is that reforming the system is generally not worth the effort. It will be good for the US to abolish the Electoral College and adopt proportional representation in the House, but to do that will take X amount of political capital, for a very high value of X. I’d rather have political organizations spend the same X on a good universal health care bill, safeguarding a woman’s right to choose, avoiding an attack on Iran, repealing the Patriot Act… the only time agitating for a process issue makes sense is when there’s wide dissatisfaction with the system on both sides of the aisles and especially on the center. Otherwise, by the time you get your, I don’t know, same-day primary nationwide, the other side has packed the court with Dominionist judges and justices and invaded half a dozen countries.
The media follow the money, which is what now controls political “discourse” if we can still call it that. Some media people like Murdoch have a very specific political agenda, but most of them are just looking at the bottom line. In the end, even Murdoch does that.
One reason it now seems as though the media are trying to brainwash the public is that what sells best is mindless non-news, like Paris Hilton’s staged fashion walk out of jail. Paddy Chayefsky predicted all of this thirty years ago in his film “Network.” I could write at length, but just watch the film because it really explains the whole thing. We are now in a global economy with mass media piped into every home in the developed and semi-developed world. That narrows political choice, which means that if we hope to regain the aspects and degrees of democracy we have lost, we’re going to have to develop a strong cultural ethic from very little, and work on it very hard. Monied interests will oppose us at every turn, and they have gained so much control that we have to climb out of a very deep hole. It may happen, but it’s not happening yet. That’s where I see Humanism coming in, but we have a very long way to go before our goals even take shape to the degree that they are commonly understood, even within our ranks.
One reason it now seems as though the media are trying to brainwash the public is that what sells best is mindless non-news, like Paris Hilton’s staged fashion walk out of jail.
I’d almost like to believe that ... but what happened to the hourly nightly newscasts? Low ratings. What is happening to the great newspapers? Readership is declining. What happens to PBS? Lowest ratings of the broadcast networks. People like entertainment, not news.
It isn’t that the media is trying to brainwash the public, so much as it is that the public is not particularly interested in learning. If people wanted to watch more of this stuff, the media would provide it. It’s a two-way street here.
Sadly, I think Doug’s largely correct. I would say I think the media can, to some extent, manufacture demand for products, incluidng media products. A taste for certain kinds of programming can be cultivated over time by what is promoted and how. But overall we get the media we deserve and demand, and if crap is king it’s not just because the media moguls are interested in profit, it’s also because we provide the profit by choosing to buy crap. One more reason to thank God (metaphorically speaking) for the Internet, and to keep sending money to PBS and NPR (which I also agree is not what it was but is still the best game in town).