Susan Crawford has an interesting post today about the “me-TV” that has resulted from today’s wide selection of media outlets.
It seems Michael Powell, the former chairman of the FCC gave a speech yesterday at the University of Colorado. Susan talks about one of the themes of his speech: that there are so many media outlet choices that we have lost the communal media experience.
I’m not sure what communal media experience really means (it’s one of those “pre-owned cars” phrases), but I think it means that we don’t all get our news from Walter Cronkite. Which, for better or worse, is true.
The part that I do understand and agree with is the notion that there are so many targeted old media outlets that you can find news that matches up perfectly with your existing beliefs and preconceived biases and, as a result, avoid having to really think about the issues.
But this is nothing new. There have always been a ton of organizations, some with captive media outlets, that are happy to spoon feed beliefs to the masses. This is precisely why I stop listening to anyone who tells me, near the beginning of a conversation, that he or she is a republican or democrat. I don’t want to hear why the other side is wrong. I want to hear both sides of an issue and try to arrive at a solution that might actually work.
Too many people want to avoid the middle truth in favor of the lunatic fringe.
As Susan points out, the same thing has happened to a large extent with old media. She mentions Fox news as one example. Air America is another. You can find someone semi-famous to tell you you’re right, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But if you really think you’re right, shouldn’t you want to hear the other side of the argument just to make sure? Sadly, the answer seems to often be no. My take on it, of course, is that the political parties have conscripted the minds and mouths of far too many people who run around spouting off viewpoints they have memorized, but not tested.
There used to be this guy on the radio in Houston. He was the most right-wing, holier than thou person I have ever heard. His predictable responses and black and white approach to every issue made me not only dislike him, but also start to wonder if I should change my views on the things I agreed with him about, just so I would never be on his side in any debate. But I know a lot of people who thought he was the smartest guy around. Well, until he got indicted for indecency with a child. Then they didn’t think he was so smart.
This sort of extreme viewpoint is not limited to the right. You can find the same sort of gibberish on the other end of the dial. I quit listening to KPFT in Houston just so I wouldn’t inadvertently hear Democracy Now. It’s just as extreme, only in the other direction.
I tend to relate more to the liberal viewpoints, but someone needs to tell the liberal commentators that just because it can be said doesn’t make it feasible. In its continuing effort to discredit the right, the left has lost touch with reality. Their stories generally sound better, but in a fairy tale sort of way.
The actual solutions offered by both sides are few and far between. Most of the talking points force fed by the political parties are more about attacking those who disagree than trying to do any real good. And the content of the associated media outlets reflect this.
I had already written the part above when I noticed a discussion of another theme of Powell’s speech on David Isenberg’s blog. Apparently Mr. Powell believes partisanship is out of control too. David paraphrases:
The Washington DC political process is more broken now than at any other time I’ve seen in my life. It has collapsed in on itself. I went home and asked my father [Colin Powell] if I was missing something, and he agreed with me that the process has collapsed into pure partisanship. The power of the incumbency has grown. People are not concerned with what’s right or what’s in the nations interest, they are purely interested in killing their opponents.
This political and philosophical polarization is one of the major reasons why I remain hopeful and excited about the citizen media movement. The citizen media movement, by virtue of the way it is presented, forces a much needed move to the middle. Because there is not just one Walter Cronkite in citizen media. There are millions of them, and each of them has a roughly equal platform from which to be heard.
And unlike when I see a story on TV, if I read something on a blog that I don’t agree with, I can immediately add a comment and/or post a counterpoint here and link back for a cross-blog conversation. People who disagree with what I say here can do the same thing. And it happens. It happened last night and it happened over the weekend. And it’s happening right now.
Is it chaotic? Maybe, but it’s better to pick at the plate of many than be force fed from the plate of one.