Saturday, March 22, 2008

Political Talkback

Recently I wrote about how the Internet users had become defacto fact-checkers for the claims of political spin doctors. Cameron, who I used as an example, recently responded to my post.

So consider -- even though I'm here in Virginia, my commentary about Cameron came to his attention in California. I know that "CE Conversations" has a fairly modest readership compared to many blogs, but that didn't matter. Cameron found out and responded.

And that's the point I don't think many comprehend. Online, everyone's accountable -- even me. I'm sure if I had seriously misrepresented Cameron's post I would have been called on it (and rightly so).

Take the recent flap with Barack Obama and his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. A short clip from one of Rev. Wright's sermons started the uproar -- a clip that's been endlessly repeated on the news channels.

But what's the context? If we heard more of Wright's sermon would it change our impression or simply confirm it?

I'm not going to tell you what I think -- because a good portion of that sermon is readily available online. You can watch the entire segment and judge for yourself.

And in the wake of Barack Obama's race speech, there's been no end of opinions from the pundits. Some point to this section of the speech and say it shows racism, others point elsewhere and say it shows statesmanship. This phrase means Barack's clueless, that phrase shows he has his hand on the pulse of America, and so on. No, I'm not going to provide any links to those sites, because unlike the last election, we don't have to rely on talking heads and looping sound bites.

Again, I'm not going to tell you what I think about the speech and what it means. Rather, I encourage you to watch the video, read the transcript and judge for yourself.

We're just at the start of this new paradigm. The source material's readily available online. In the past, we've relied on mainstream media to pick out what they consider important and to tell us why.

Now we can simply say, "Yeah? Says who? What's your source?"

And once the majority of the electorate starts saying it, we're into a whole new ballgame.

Thanks to Cameron for responding to my post. You help keep me honest!

- Ralph


  1. No thank you, Ralph! I found your reference to my blog very flattering.

    Blogging is a funny thing. It can feel sometimes like you're writing in a vacuum (which can be frustrating) and then suddenly you get a reminder that people actually read this stuff (which reminds us to stay honest).

    I'll add ya to the overbreadth blog roll. (And sorry for the post, post, delete, delete, post! Didn't mean to spam your inbox there.)

  2. On the flip side, you've also got a problem insofar as disinformation can spread around more quickly and easily (see the "Barack Obama is a Muslim" emails). Cass Sunstein also wrote a book recently about how there is a tendency to surround yourself with like-minds online, and potentially use sorting tools (like StumbleUpon)to filter out news you might not like to hear.

    In the end, I've been ecstatic over how the Internet allows for better fact-checking of radio and television personalities (who aren't burdened by citing sources). It makes my job as a citizen so much easier to have all these great tools, resources, and people online.

  3. Cameron:

    Don't worry about the post and delete thing. I did a little clean up, and we're good.

    You're absolutely right about being in a vacuum. It's the same feeling I have when I'm on the radio. It's sort of like talking on the phone with the other person remaining absolutely silent.

    We originally called this blog "CE Conversations" (short for Consumer Electronics Conversations) because Ken and I were going to do just that with alternating posts -- it's changed somewhat, and now the conversation is with the commentators (such as yourself).

    Thanks for adding a link to us from overbreadth -- filing us under "smorgasbord" is right where we need to be!

  4. Samuel:

    You're right on both counts. Mis-information (like the Rev.Wright short clip) can take on a life of its own, and there are plenty of folks who want to spin stories on the Internet the way they can the mainstream media.

    The concept of surrounding yourself with like-minded news sources isn't anything new. In the heyday of newspapers, you could tell someone's party affiliation by which of the local papers they subscribed to.

    And of course it's pretty easy to only watch certain TV news channels and only listen to certain radio stations.

    And while it is possible to filter Internet news, I think its a little harder to stay completely isolated. Anytime you do a Google search there's a possibility that things may come up outside your worldview.

    Whether you click on it or not is your choice, but at least there's some minimal exposure to views at variance with yours...

    - Ralph