The relevance of crowds to policy

The image below is doing the rounds, and it’s one that I consider with some confusion. Courtesy of CNN, the photo is an aerial shot of the crowd for the inauguration of Donald Trump as President on 20 January 2017.

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Now, many will debate the legitimacy of the photo, citing the timing of the photo (ie being taken well prior to the actual proceedings), but I honestly think this is a red herring.

Aside from the fact that DC is very deep Democrat territory, and therefore fewer local people would be interested in attending the swearing in of a Republican President, the point of a low turnout has very little relevancy, I feel, to the actual process of determining policy.

The general story in the lead up to the electoral college casting their votes was to throw doubt upon the legitimacy of Trump’s election victory. There was a decidedly pointed effort to highlight that even though he won, he kinda oddly didn’t when you consider the measure that doesn’t count (ie popular vote).

Regardless of crowd turn out, and regardless of people expressing their right to free speech in marches across the United States, Trump remains stubbornly in the Oval Office, and will continue to sit there for the next four years – impeachment pending.

We appear to have another situation of George W Bush on our hands now, and the media has seemingly decided that actual inspection of policy is not the right path, but rather we paint the President as a buffoon – rightly or wrongly.

Personally, I am interested in his ideas. Like it or not, he’s in the driver’s seat. If the media chooses to not actually inform the people of his proposals, and instead focusses on his character, then I am afraid there is no helping the media. They haven’t learned their lesson, and they might doom us all to a possibility of a two-term Trump.

Don’t get me wrong, Trump ain’t gonna sail through. A lot of people who voted for him will turn on a dime if they feel he isn’t delivering. Despite a popular belief, a majority of people voted for Trump in the faith that he’ll offer something different to the staid politics of yore. Those who voted for him aren’t die-hard supporters, but those who wanted to protest. To spite.

But the media needs to avoid going for superficial attacks on him, and needs to actually go deeper. Start reporting on his policies and not the person. Maybe then they can regrow some trust in their flailing service.

 

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Ongoing payment of the price

The axiom goes, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. The origin of this phrase goes back some time, and has been printed in varying ways, but the sentiment still carries on.

Back when SOPA was a thing, I marvelled at the resources and people online who saw the devil in the details of the law. Since SOPA’s defeat, I remain bewildered and astonished at how people will find another head of the hydra and keep us all informed how the serpent might slither into our homes through another crack.

My applause for these people gave me an idea of what is meant by that phrase. These people were the eternally vigilant, and were doing the best they could to ensure that the rest of us weren’t impacted by rights being stripped away.

However, following the ascendancy of Trump to the White House, there is another avenue on which we should focus our vigilance, and it is the one of the media.

It is well-known that trust in the media is at a low, however that doesn’t stop a lot of their reporting from “going viral”. Never before has a saying felt so much more apt than one that invokes “virus”.

The below video from the YouTube channel Counter Arguments is a neat intro to what I am talking about.

The takeaway from this video is that the media – even comedy media – are happy to willfully misrepresent, exaggerate and generally fuck up public discourse on a matter. The video above targets liberal pundits such as Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert, but conservative hosts aren’t much better. Take the below clip of Tucker Carlson;

The title of the video is misleading in its claim that Carlson “DESTROYS” the writer for the Huffington Post. What I saw was Carlson attacking a source that the HuffPo writer uses in an article, and from there the discussion descends into madness, finally ending with the HuffPo writer lamenting “partisan bickering” and Carlson shuts off the call.

This is not political discourse.

I have precisely zero fondness for The Huffington Post. Their blatant partisanship during the election cycle was pathetic to say the least, topped off by the continual use of the “Editor’s Note” at the end of each and every Trump article to remind the reader that he’s a really, really naughty man. The writer’s lament above about partisan bickering seems laughable when the HuffPo was the summit of Mount Bullshit.

So, what am I getting at?

Eternal vigilance. We need to be vigilant when it comes to what the media reports. We are all victims of our own bias – myself included – but we need to really take a step back and review whenever we read an article.

I’m not saying we need to re-evaluate our political alignment. Not at all. Quite the opposite. All I’m saying is that before we share any articles on social media about how awesome our party is and/or how stupid their party is, we need to look at what we’re being told and look at the actual story without the media’s bent.

What was the full quote from Trump? What was actually said? Was it really an attack? Did someone really get insulted? Whenever we see an article that bemoans the party to which we oppose, we need to really get our opinions right. We need to not let the media dictate our opinions to us.

And this is also for any article that praises actions of the party we support. In fact, this is doubly more important. Your party needs to represent YOU, and you shouldn’t give them a pass just because you saw a nice puff piece in your media of choice.

This is the price we pay for our liberty – we ingest our information properly and without the taint of the rich corporations.