From the Dispatches archive six years ago today regarding ‘A Farce, a Tragedy, or Both’:
Republicans and conservatives are supposed to be the folks who love the Founding Fathers, but I fear too often they ignore what those men said when it comes to (what I call) job number one (informing public opinion). Here’s James Madison on the topic:
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
Talk about a prescient prediction of Obama’s election and reelection. Republicans and conservatives haven’t established effective “means of acquiring” the right information. Americans have ceded unprecedented levels of power to their government because they don’t have the right knowledge.
Too many on our side seem to be waiting for something to happen that will magically transform enough independents into clear-thinking voters. That’s not going to happen. Worse news is that we’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up to the political left when it comes to mass communications.
Let’s do a quick review. The political left controls the K-12 public schools and much of academia. The left controls the dominate media, almost all of the old — newspapers, TV and radio news, and the new media with a big audience — such as Google and Yahoo news services. The left controls pop culture like movies and TV. In addition to that there are countless non-profit organizations and many labor unions that take political communication seriously.
Here are just three examples. The popular Microsoft search engine Bing has a news service and recently posted a ridiculously inaccurate news story about global warming. Have you watched any of the network or local news broadcasts lately? Some of their reports border on parody when it comes to presenting a balanced picture. I would guess that most people at one time or another have heard one of those sickening teacher union propaganda 30-second radio spots telling us that continuing to fund exorbitant pay, pensions, and benefit packages for the school employees somehow benefit the kids despite decades of evidence to the contrary.
And what have you heard from the political right? If you’re already on the right you’ve heard plenty because you know where to find good information. But what about the vast majority of your neighbors that live in the country, small town, suburb, or city? Think for a minute about what information is reaching them if they are detached from politics, are a low information voter, or are one of those wavering and uninformed “independents” or self-described “moderates.”
It’s an easy thing to answer since the left is always in outreach mode. The chances are far greater that your neighbors will hear some skewed report which is written by someone who is either clueless about the facts or has an agenda to prove that conservatives are the problem.
Fortunately there’s a lot of good news. The business model of the old media is dying and so there are a lot of things in a state of flux when it comes to newspapers, radio, and television. Newspaper circulation is down drastically. Commercial television, in case you haven’t been following it closely, is facing a transformation due to Internet alternatives. Just as years ago people began to drop their landline phones and go cell phone only, an increasing number of people are cutting their cable TV and relying on services like Netflix or Hulu or other Internet-based services.
The point of bringing this up here is that even the political left will have to make adjustments to continue their domination of the public airwaves. The technological race to the future is giving us an opening that can be capitalized upon by creative people on our side. Right behind that good news is the bad news: most of the creative minds on our side aren’t participating in politics or haven’t been hired yet.
What we’re addressing in these articles is the biggest failure on the part of Republicans and conservatives for many decades — so there’s a lot more to say. See you tomorrow.
Originally posted October 8, 2013.
Image credit: mmaynard119.files.wordpress.com.