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Posts Tagged ‘McCain’

Lileks writes, in part: I don’t know if anyone’s stated the obvious yet, but this might be the first time people have become unhinged in advance over a vice-presidential candidate.

And finishes it with: I have to confess: I think Palin is an interesting politician, but the people she’s driving batty are much more fascinating.

I had composed – in my head, where I compose all my amazing, fabulous blog posts – at 3am a post on why this election cycle has become even more vitriolic than the last. But, as with all things composed on a mental notepad in the middle of the night, the thoughts had faded by morning into something like “We be crazy.”

Thanks to Lileks, I was reminded of just what I was thinking as the stupid crickets kept me awake.

A friend who leans to the left wrote me yesterday: How did we get so polarized? Polls show the fast majority of Americans are solidly in the middle, a little to the left on some issues, a little to the right on others.

The answer, in a word: Internet. It has shaped politics into a new form, something misshapen and ugly, for the most part. While there are many good things that have come out of the Internet as far as politics go – grassroots movements, large scale campaigning, more awareness – there are terrible things that have come of it also.

Everyone has an opinion and now the masses are able to get those opinions heard within seconds of forming them. For every blog that gets one hit a day and is basically ignored, there is a political blog with a mass audience. For every blog that’s dismissed as being too “out there” there is a blog that’s taken seriously by readers and politicians alike. That’s made it much easier to spread rumors, tell lies, exaggerate the truth and to get the readers riled up to the point of delirium. Then each of those readers goes to their own blog and retells the rumors, lies and exaggerations.

Then the side that is the subject of the rumors and lies will attempt to debunk all of it and there is this back and forth, a tennis match of name calling that not even John McEnroe would want a part of.

Of course, the smart people can dismiss all of this. They can see the forest for the trees, they can discern truth from fiction, they can turn off their computers and form their own opinions without the hyperbole coming from all sides.

Unfortunately, the mass of people do not do this. Read the comment section on any politics heavy blog. What you’ll see is a few dozen people saying the same things over and over again. They read what they want to read, see what they want to see, and your words will mean nothing to them. No matter how many times you say “No, this is what I was saying,” someone will completely ignore that and go on blustering, oblivious to the conversation going on around him. Rule of thumb: when someone leaves a comment longer than the blog post itself, don’t bother reading it.

So what is the difference between 2004 and now? Who in the world would have thought that this campaign would be meaner and more obnoxious than the last? The vitriol that was thrown out in the blog world – and let’s not let the mainstream media off the hook here – was ugly, harsh and loud (guilty as charged). But there was a clear subject matter involved: war. It was the election of “with us or against us.” It was clear cut, lines drawn, take no prisoners. You were either a terrorist appeaser or a bloodthirsty war mongerer. There was very little in between. In the world of the Internet, there were few other issues talked about. It made for an unruly game of tug-of-war, and whichever side had the better insults won that day’s battle.

Could you see this happening at any other time? Yes, the 60’s were like that, to an extent. And while masses of anti-war protesters were able to gather in large numbers and get their voices heard, they were lacking in the ability to mobilize in minutes, like we can do now. As soon as the a rumor leaves someone’s keyboard, it’s a very short time frame before the words appeare on blogs, on Facebook, in emails forwarded a thousand times over.

And for every time you say “That list of banned books is false,” there is someone else picking up the story and running with it as if it were verified truth. Because they read it on a blog, and that blog has thousands of readers, so it has to be true, right? Or do they just want it to be true? Three weeks after the fact, I’m still seeing stories that have debunked pop up again and again.

That’s what makes this election louder than the last. That’s what makes it meaner and dirtier. More people are reading and writing blogs than four years ago. More people are connected. More people are looking for a side to take and for someone to gang up on, because they need to belong.

The Bush presidency has lost a lot of followers since 2004. A lot of Democrats have lost faith in their party since 2004. So you would think this election would be more middle ground, less yelling and screaming and name calling? Right? Not quite.

Back to what Lileks said. Palin has completely unhinged some people. What some people who weren’t in the thick of things, as far as the Internet goes in 2004 will say is “Who pays attention to those people, anyhow?” These days, everyone. Believe it or not, they are taken seriously. You can find bloggers everywhere, being interviewed and given air time or print time in all your favorite newspapers, on all your favorite news channels. They are no longer the fringe. They are the voice of the people, and their words are given significant weight. So when I say “such and such blog is promoting this rumor,” don’t dismiss it as nothing. It’s something.

I have tried very hard to not become what I was in 2004; a raving, ranting player in the game of the unhinged. I have tried to stay somewhat in the middle, I have tried to find an even ground and give each side the benefit of the doubt.

But when I see things like this and this, I feel the old familiar need to seethe start to kick in. And even though I have my differences with Palin, I feel the need to rush to her defense. Never before have I seen a candidate – a vice presidential candidate – smeared and run through the mud to such an extent. It’s unnerving, it’s disturbing and yea, it’s fascinating. Train wreck fascinating.

I know that people who disagree with me will email or come in here and say “But the Republicans… But McCain….But the conservatives….” and that’s all well and good. But I’m not here to compare. I’m not writing this to do a side-by-side chart of which side spreads the most outlandish lies. I’m simply writing about my distaste for this whole campaign, and for the ugly campaign launched against Palin.

See, that’s the good thing about the Internet. I can have a thought, write it down, hit publish, and it’s out there for anyone in the world to read.

And that’s the bad thing about the Internet, too.

(This is part I, part II tomorrow)

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new PJM article – reaction to the McCain speech

As someone who has been a fence-sitter for this whole election cycle, I went into McCain’s acceptance speech not expecting much. I especially didn’t expect to be swayed into moving to either side of that fence.

Here.

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