My friends Barney and Hugh have noted often that the one thing worse than an uninformed voter is a misinformed voter. My friend Linda wrote an excellent post yesterday called “We, the people, have been had – Part I” which can be accessed by the following link: http://rangewriter.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/we-the-people-have-been-had-part-i/ which gives this issue more meaning.
Her point is to make our country work we have to be informed citizens and question our leaders. If we do not stay informed, we will be duped into believing what politicians and their funders want us to believe. Unfortunately, in our country, it takes so much money to get elected and with the Supreme Court’s inane ruling to permit more unfettered funding, our country is being controlled by a small few with great means.
The only guard against this is to stay truly informed, question leaders and organize in a grass-roots fashion toward common causes. The “Occupy Wall Street, etc.” movements were good and had merit in their mission, but were set up as rudderless ships and failed to move forward. On the other hand, the “Moral Monday” protestors who started in North Carolina to oppose limitations on the rights of voters, teachers, women and impoverished people, is picking up steam and scares the GOP led legislature here and elsewhere – they should be scared as this group is on the side of the Angels with their cause and data to back up their arguments.
Which leads me to Linda, Barney, Hugh and my point that we need to stay informed – and it is hard work. Let me start by making it easier for many – to be truly informed, stop watching Fox News and MSNBC. And, let me throw in to stop listening to entertainers disguised as pundits who are only trying to stir up extreme bases of listeners.
I have had three conversations in the last few weeks about how people watch both Fox News and MSNBC to get a balance of views. I say now, what I told them – do not watch either one of them. Why? These networks provide a biased view of issues reflecting their spin on the news. So, the water is not just fine, by getting the hot and cold version of an issue. A good example is the old joke about the northern relative who was visiting his home in Alabama. When the household dog becomes rabid and has to be destroyed, being the better shot, he was asked to put down the dog. The news in the northern papers was “Visiting relative puts down rabid dog” while the story in the Alabama paper was “Damn Yankee kills beloved pet.” Same story, but…
The other problem I have noticed is most news outlets cover the game of politics and not the issues. The issues are too complex and boring, so people do not want to pay attention to them. Yet, who wins and who loses is important news. Last night, one of the newscasts was tracking what people thought of the President’s speech. People who were not as informed as they should be were grading a speech. Talk is cheap; action is what matters. We need to understand the problems and ask our people to do something about it, not just grade them on how they spoke.
I tend to read and watch a variety of sources of news. It helps me detect when I am reading something biased. I was watching the BBC World News America the other day, and an expert was asked how this event would impact the US and he started to respond with the public relations impact. Katty Kay, the very astute host, said “no I mean the real impact, not how someone will be viewed.” I applauded her for stopping a “spin” comment. My other watching and listening sources of news are PBS Newshour and NPR, as they tend to have people who know the subject matter, sharing opinions without being talked over by someone who disagrees. In fact, if they are not civil, they do not get invited back. Plus, the hosts and reporters have a deeper understanding of what is going on and ask better questions and not whether Santa Claus was white.
Also, I am big on data, so I look for reasonable sources which are cited to support arguments. We have too many governing by anecdote. For example, there is no evidence of a significant voter fraud in this country. Our problem by far is not enough people voting. Yet, there are some who know a couple of instances of fraud, so because of that, there must be rampant fraud. When I have asked for data from politicians like I did last week, I get none.
So, let’s start be altering where you get your information. Seek out multiple sources who can give an even-handed view of the news and not a spun version. Read news columnists who cover issues and less on incumbents. There is one ultra-conservative writer who writes a variation of the same column every week – “I hate Obama because of (name reason).” Obama is far from perfect, but really, every week? You cannot write about our poverty, wealth disparity, global warming, infrastructure, etc. problems?
One of my favorite movies is “The American President” starring Michael Douglas. During the climax to the movie when he realizes he is being self-serving and not thinking of the country, he says something that supports Linda’s post of yesterday. “America is advanced citizenship. You have to want it real bad.” This means we must tolerate the right of someone to disagree with us, but it also means we must stay informed. Work hard at it. And, when you do get informed, be willing to share this with others and question our leaders. I used to think politicians were more informed than the average citizen – I no longer feel this way. So, please question and ask if they have data on their positions.
And, do share information with others and how you feel about an issue. Pete Seeger, who died this week, was quoted as saying be wary of great leaders; it is better to have many smaller leaders doing good things. This is another way of saying it takes a village. Thanks Linda.