Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Political Animal

Yes, it's a school, I'm not appolozing.

Man is by nature a political animal
Humans have been engaging in politics time immemorial. What is politics? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines politics as: "the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government" Now, political systems and issues have come and gone over the years. The advent of the information superhighway (better know as the net) has added new dynamic to the way people connect. Solomon got it right when he observed that "there is nothing new under the sun." The internet is just the latest instrument to join the chorus in the age old symphony of politics. Not a single issue faced by the America at large is truly new, indeed the tune is an old one. Yet because humans are stubborn and quick to forget, the song appears unfamiliar.
Technology and several other issues shape America's political landscape today. There is (paradoxically) an enormous connection over age old issues because of technology and a splintering along ideological lines.

Cable television has provided a shiny new soapbox for political detractors. Men like Glenn Beck (on the conservative side and Keith Olbermann (on the liberal) pull in millions of viewers. Their goal has nothing to do with actually helping anyone. Instead, such men tap into the anger of the respective audiences, blasting the opposition for the problems faced by all. The logic is simple, nobody is going to watch a political show centered around bipartisanship and progress. It is much easier to gain a viewership by appealing to negative emotion and demonizing those who are wrong or don't agree with you. Brutus did the same thing when Caesar was murdered. The only difference is Fox is able to reach a much wider audience with cable TV, and they aren't interested in murdering anyone.

This point about cable news networks leads directly into the second point, namely the 24/7 365 nature of news. To be sure, things have come a long way from the printing presses of Benjamin Franklin. Now, with the click of button, HLN, CNN, FOX, and MSNBC are accessible. News stories are cycled through like pez out of a dispenser. Once the public has munched one for a few seconds, the anchor tilts back the little head and ejects another thirty second highlight. Long gone are the days where weeks passed before states knew who the new president was. Instead of having adequate time to process a story, people are expected to have answers immediately. After all, the story is breaking right now, shouldn't an answer be available simultaneously? After any major news story breaks, the cable news networks are faithful to gather round the proverbial campfire with a few experts favorable to their cultural paradigm and hash out exactly what is going on.

Yet, even the idea of a Television news network is bit Archaic in light of the new media. With the advent of the net, the press went digital. As with any technological leap, the traditional sources of news are fading into the background as younger, more nimble outlets supplant their elders. Trains, once set in their course, are not easily rerouted, and the internet represents a totally new set of tracks. Such a fundamental shift in the way Americans consume news and information, shapes the way they interact with politics. Sites like the Huffington Post, the drudge report and even Arab news network Aljazeera engaging technology, helping to define how people interact with politics. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" would probably be abbreviated into about 5 pages, and even that would be pushing it. After all, it's hard to sit down for an intellectual three course dinner when your mental diet consists of pez and fast food. It would be posted on Paine's blog, googled by revolutionaries, posted on Facebook and retweeted like a bouncy ball. Then, in all likelihood, it would be relegated the digital dustbin in a month's time. 

Now, more than ever before, politics are a global concern. What Columbus believed and WWII solidified, technology has only continued to affirm. It's a small world after all, and America has a very big role in the story. People are able to experience news as it's occurring. Protests in the middle east, earthquakes in Japan, protests in the Capital. Imagine having a modern video camera during the sit-ins or Nazi persecution of the Jews, or Jesus ministry. Voters are able to see and hear first hand, how the actions of their leaders effect the rest of the world. Today Al Jazeera is the most watched news channel on You Tube, receiving 2.5 million views per month. Launched on April 16, 2007, the Al Jazeera English YouTube site has more than 10,000 videos currently live on the English channel. SITE

This historic deluge of information makes for the most informed and ADD voter base in history. It remains to be seen whether the free flow of information which technology permits will generate serious negative consequences by causing voters to lose focus. It must be noted that people have always been selfish and near sited when it comes to picking leaders. Look at Israel's old testament cry for a King; it didn't go over well.

Technological advances have have been tremendously impactful in political campaigns. Suddenly, it doesn't matter very much that you bought every 30 second slot during prime time. Now, it matters how many people follow you on Facebook and twitter. It matters how many hits your youtube channel gets, it matters how much money you can raise from small donors via the net. The under dogs have been given a golden ticket.

In the words of King Solomon, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." The internet, even though it may seem new, is really just a fancy tool, helping humans accomplish things they have always desired. Things like better communication, information collection, and a voice in politics are attainable through technology. Just as with any other tool, it may be used for good or evil. Prayerfully the internet will continue to serve as a way for people to engage in the political process, not because they have the most money or a large organization backing them up, but because they deserve to be heard. The Greek city state where very voice had a place is not such a distant memory after all. 

ESV Bible

Webster's pocket quotation book