Monday, May 14, 2012

Vitriol vs. Vertigo

There is a common complaint these days about nastiness in the political debate.  Calls abound for civility in the public arena.  Politicians, clergy, newspapers…they’re all calling for people to settle down and make nice.

But when you stop and think about these so-called peacemakers they have a common denominator.  They are all elites and they are all losing influence.  They have recognized that other groups threaten their power and hinder their effort to “reframe the debate” to their liking.  New media and Internet communities have weakened their hold on the narrative.

What may appear to be the moral high ground is nothing more than an effort to grab back the power they once held.  They have no control over the message any longer and that’s bad for them.

The truth is, shrill works.  People who make noise and call out liars get attention.  It is seldom pleasant, but sometimes necessary.  It really isn’t right when a candidate sugar-coats an issue and goes all vague on us with their answers.  They are so good at it, and someone needs to push for a straight answer.

For the first time in history we have the background on issues and statements.  The web allows us to call up what Obama said and did 10 years ago.  Ditto for Romney.  And we have a right to a straight answer.  If the elites among us don’t want to push, we’ll do it ourselves. 

In fact, it’s the lack of candor by those in power that has created the need for New Media.  If NBC hadn’t climbed into bed with the Democratic Party, we’d still trust them.  If Dan Rather hadn’t foisted a fake GWB military document on us, we’d still listen to him.  If the churches hadn’t gone about protecting their own interests in the name of social justice, we would continue to follow them.

Remember the merry-go-round at the park?  We’d climb on and someone would get it moving fast.  Blood would rush to our feet and we’d lose our sense of direction.  Our brain would become disoriented.  We wouldn’t know which way was up.  We’d lose our balance.

And in such a condition someone could take advantage of us.

And so it is with politicians, lobbyists, activists, social justice advocates (churches mostly), media, college professors...  They want to make the world appear a certain way.  And so they twist the issues.  Gay marriage, crime, immigration, unemployment, the welfare state, taxation, global warming, banks, corporations…all spun to meet their purposes.

In the end we have a government that is too expensive and too ineffective.  But that big government has a big payroll and big power.  It will circle the wagons and fight exposure.  It will find ways to protect itself and form allies to help them.

One way they fight us is to call out their critics as mean-spirited and uncivil.  Stick a label on us rather than address the question.

My point is that what they are calling vitriol in most cases is just people pushing back against the hype.  We’re tired of the narrative packaged to fit the elite agenda.

To be sure, there are errors and agendas at work in New Media as well.  People must think for themselves and check out the stories.  But they are far better than those in power who would spin us around for their benefit.

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