Monday, December 31, 2007

Are the minds of Americans really closing?

There was an interesting editorial piece in Newsweek by Evan Thomas entitled "The Closing of the American Mind - Partisan warriors may love our polarized political culture. Everyone else is turned off, and tuning out." It is an interesting thesis, but I am not convinced that the alleged "closing" is a done-deal and one-way street. It may well be that the media itself has had a front-row role in how partisan positions are perceived, packaged, and promoted. The Internet, Web, blogs, and cable TV channels may highlight various partisan aspects, but I am not so sure that any of these technologies has created any divides that were not already there.

Go back 10, 20, 50, 75, 100, or more years and you will undoubtedly find partisans with great passion, "moderate" politicians willing to bend with the wind and either compromise or fan the flames of passion to suit the needs of the moment, and vast majorities of voters who are relatively indifferent as to which "side" wins even if they do have a personal preference. Has the underlying human reality changed even if the superficial technologies have changed? I suspect not.

In truth, even moderate or centrist politicians passionately love partisan polarization since polarization is the root of most political power. Even politicians who call for "unity" are playing off of a polarizing divide between unity and non-unity polar partisan positions.

I do agree with a lot of the specific punts Evan makes, including the need for a "vital center", but my overall reading is that he is mostly summarizing business as usual for the business of politics in America. If American minds are closed, it is mostly because they have a lot more to do in their lives than focus on politics. Besides, some of us actually do believe in the concept of a representative democracy.

Maybe what Evan is really decrying is that people are no longer so dependent on old mainstream media to spoon feed political chatter to them.

OTOH, I still think old mainstream media, including Evan's piece itself, has a lot of life left in it no matter how strong the Internet and New Media may appear.

Maybe he is simply trying to stake out a polar position for his own partisan benefit -- and objects to the fact that my mind is closed to the urgency of such a prospect.

-- Jack Krupansky


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home