[FoRK] Is Balkanization really a problem?

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Tue May 29 05:37:47 PDT 2007

On May 29, 2007, at 1:35 AM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:

> My take, and it is not well thought out, is that you are conflating  
> the consequences of complex dynamics with people becoming more  
> ignorant/stupid on average.  Frankly, in many ways people are more  
> informed than at any time in history past as an unavoidable  
> consequence of technology.

(Note:  this started with me attempting to summarize Gore's own  
argument and related issues that I thought he might have glossed over  
--- this when I was about halfway through the book.  I do find myself  
agreeing with his argument, though.)

Almost certainly there's more (apparent) information.  The question  
is this:  is the information better or worse?  Is it more or less  
diverse?  Is it really more information, or is it more  
*disinformation* --- or is it just more data?  I don't really think  
people are more ignorant or stupid --- they're more "educated" on  
"issues" to be sure.  Just listen to a few hours of talk radio and  
you would conclude that people have *much* more information to feed  
into their political decision-making processes.

I'll put a stake in the ground and say that the information that's  
out there is more controlled, more manipulated than it's been in some  
time.

> I guess we need to define "new problem".

Fair enough.  I'll ponder this and try to frame both my points of  
agreement and disagreement with Gore's argument after I wrap the book  
up.

> I view the problems we have today as old problems exaggerated by  
> changes in the environment.  The environment may be novel, and  
> almost certainly is novel,

Indeed.

> We are in a very uncomfortable place right now politically, and  
> every time I go overseas (frequently) I learn that people elsewhere  
> are far more confused about the reality than even the people at  
> home, who are plenty confused as it is.  In my estimation you are  
> observing the inevitable de-lamination of the coalitions that make  
> up both parties in the US.  When I stated a few years back  
> (something like four years back, before Bush was elected again --  
> and I called that election pretty closely) that there would be a  
> strong libertarian shift predicated on the de-lamination of old  
> alliances, I was talking about what we are seeing now.  At that  
> time, I stated that I expected 2012 presidential election to be the  
> first libertarian-ish election in ages in the US, and that was  
> predicated on everything getting shrill and falling to pieces,  
> which is happening.

I wish I could agree;  unfortunately we saw exactly the kind of  
haymaking that's going to happen during the GOP debate.  Giuliani  
ripped Ron Paul a new one, in fact basically Ron Paul won the debate  
for Giuliani...  Paul asked a very reasonable question about how our  
foreign policy might have motivated 9/11, and Giuliani went on the  
warpath, toeing the "they hate us because of our freedoms, we never  
did anything..." line.

Unfortunately, rationality and thoughtfulness don't make good TV drama.

> The extremes of both parties are currently left holding the media  
> access, but I do not expect it to last.  The media increasingly  
> exposes us to the fringes, but I do not see evidence that people  
> are actually becoming more fringe.  In fact, most of the anecdotal  
> evidence I see is that most people are increasingly ignoring  
> conventional media, which is not necessarily a bad thing regardless.

I don't think that's true in Peoria.  Or Kansas City, or Dallas, TX.   
It would be nice if they were, but they way I see it it:  a really  
awful lot of people get most of their politics from 30 second  
candidate and issue ads, Fox News + drive-time talk radio, where they  
beat the RNC talking points du jour into your head over, and over,  
and over --- almost hypnotically, like an angry mantra.  CNN and  
MSNBC offer no real respite, except for the occasional Olbermann.   
And when those folks get online, they don't seek out challenging view  
points or communities --- they look for validation of the  
particularly right-skewed POV they've been force-fed...

Also note that the pathology I'm describing may be more common among  
aging Boomers / retirees --- probably closer to accurate the less one  
"grew up online."  But then, the voting demographics skew that way.


jb



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