This post on politics will probably not be what you expect. That post is coming either tomorrow or Thursday. But since this is my first ever post about politics, please go to the * and read my disclaimer. This is an election year. For me it's a year to vote for governor and US Senator as well as another office you may have heard of, President of the United States. One of the interesting phenomenons that is a part of the election process is the coverage in the media.
I am not writing this post to simply complain about the coverage, although I am not happy. I already know the situation. In college I was a political science major. Part of studying poly sci in this age (even though I was in college last century) is studying politics in the mass media. Although there is a new form of mass media since I was in college, these lessons are still useful.
The first lesson about politics in mass media is about the practice of negative campaigning. (The Willie Horton ad is the most famous attack ad of all time.) The short summary of negative campaigning is this – it works – very well. And refuting the messages in attack ads does not work – at all. So how do you combat negative ads? With negative ads, of course. People all say that they hate them, but they work, so they are not going anywhere. Get used to them. BTW, now you can recognize an attack ad before it begins because the "I'm ___ ____, and I approved this message" is at the beginning rather than at the end as a way of separating the candidate's name from the negative ad.
Here’s the second thing to learn about politics in mass media, the news only covers the election as a horse race. For example, if one candidate comes out with a huge policy statement, lets say he is rolling out his policy on terrorism. Here’s is the coverage you will get on the news on every level. A brief summary of the plan, nothing that would ever take longer than 15 seconds, maybe some bullet points, and quite a lot of discussion of how the plan will affect the candidates standings in the polls. The closer the election gets, the less talk of anything substantive. The coverage becomes only stories of new polls and how a particular candidates latest move will affect their standings. After a debate, the number 1 question will always be; "who won?" Nobody covers what they actually said, unless it was incredibly stupid. Watch and see as we get closer to November.
The world we now live in is slightly different than when I was in college. Now we have the internet. (We had the internet when I was in college, but it was video free and blog free. It was a very different web.) A quick perusal of digg on any day, (Go there now, I’d bet there are at least 3 of the top 10 stories on politics (and probably negative about McCain/Palin)) or the top technorati tags or wordpress tags will show you what is popular. And politics is very popular. The problem with the internet is that so much of what we see and is popular is what is called an echo chamber. It’s people blogging about something somebody else already blogged. Then, rumors and half-truths become so popular that nobody can tell them from the truth. I still know people who believe the Obama is a Muslim who refuses to say the pledge of allegiance, and Palin’s youngest child is actually her grandchild. Nobody believes it because of any proof or reason, but because they heard it so often. That is the major problem with the internet as a news source, so much of it is just a giant echo chamber. Over half my posts are just linking to videos or other stuff. And my blog is an actual blog with original content a couple of times a week. Of the thousands & thousands of typepad, wordpress and blogger blogs, I would love to see what percentage contain original content as opposed to reposts of links of stuff from around the web. (BTW – That is why there will always be a need for professional journalists, Their form may just change from newspapers to the web.)
Finally I believe there is a greater influence of celebrity now than there has been in the past. Celebrities have always been involved with politics, but it seems like now there is either much more news about them, or somehow they get much more attention. In just the last week, Matt Damon, Pamela Anderson, and Lindsay Lohan have all publicly bashed Sarah Palin. Every time it makes headlines, and people seem to care.
* Although I am a staff member of LaGrange Park Baptist Church, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not that of the church. They may not be construed as an endorsement or attack on any candidate or party on behalf of the church. They are my views as an individual.