Is the internet really a blessing for democracy?

Do we live in information cocoons, and are we moving to polarized extremes, because of the internet – from a David Brooks op-ed in the New York Times.


Sunday, April 25
hey Howard,

David Brooks has an interesting question: Is the Internet really a blessing for democracy?

NYT: Riders on the Storm

The growing belief that the Internet has led to an increasingly fragmented and polarized media market may be contradicted by new research.”

New research that would “suggest that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. <snip> They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal.” And so, the polarization we see is not caused by an overly one-sided diet of news/opinion.

But a commenter says this:

The pattern is unmistakable and is pretty much as follows: in the course of conversation, any given point of contemporary political debate comes up, however spontaneously and innocently. The conservative launches into a diatribe that is one part condescension and one part rage. Judgmentalism, sarcasm, generalization, hyperbole; the taking points of Limbaugh, Beck & Co. Discourse, the exchange and competition of reasoned but differing points of view, is impossible in the face of this attitude. It is an attitude that screams insecurity in one’s opinions.

It is so severe and belligerent that I have simply elected to disengage from the offender. A conversation in which one party seeks to assess differing points of view while the other seeks to bludgeon the other into submission is not discourse. Modern conservatism is hopelessly dedicated to the tactics of a bully.

Pardon me if I choose not to drink poison in the name of discourse.”

Other comments there, as per usual, are very interesting too IMHO.

I will look at Fox, occasionally, or the London Times. I rarely find anything that is worth considering, though. The Republicans have narrowed themselves. Saying we don’t want to consider their archaiac and violent world-view is almost like saying we’ve ruled out Trotsky or Goebels as possible philosohical guides.”

What do you think: disengage from those sources of “archaic and voilent world view”, go on the online war path, or is there another way?


Monday, April 26
Saw Brooks this morning on “Meet the Press”… can you see it/live or via their website?…
Brooks is a ‘thoughtful’ conservative… note his comment in which he seeks to exchange viewpoints, and receives a bludgeoning in return… the problem with ‘being thoughtful’ and a person to whom words matter… sorry, David…

“Pardon me if I choose not to drink poison in the name of discourse. ”

Love this line!
but your last line…
What do you think: disengage from those sources of “archaic and voilent world view”, go on the online war path, or is there another way?

I’m thinking of an email I opened 10 minutes ago… NO, I will not send it to you… it is from an airport guy…. (THIS one is from a retired Marine who sings his praises of ‘going about with a loaded holstered sidearm’ so that … he can feel confident that ‘only persuasion will be used on him, not force’…because he has his gun on his hip, ready to ‘defend himself’ at a moment’s notice…)
who before has sent me various things, celebrating America’s martial past…calling on the readers to “love the flag”, ‘support the troops’… and I always dutifully reply to THAT type of message:

I love the troops, I donate my blood to the Red Cross… but I love their service to our country enough that I do NOT want to see their lives wasted in fruitless ‘chasing over the barren hills of Afghanistan’. or wherever…..getting blown up by IEDs,…
I love them enough to NOT want their lives and bodies wasted in ‘ego-driven’ acts of war… as I believe Iraq was, and Afghanistan may yet become for Obama… I continue to pray that that ‘pull out date’ which Obama announced for his surge will remain firm… “

I have never received ONE reply to any of those ‘flag-waving’ diatribes…(often with references to “Hollywood stars calling our boys ”baby-killers”… SUCH OLD “Viet Nam days” speech)…

I basically have chosen to ‘dis-engage’ from the ‘breakfast gang…many of whom are there at the cafe mornings (about 10-15 of them… no GUN wearers in there, YET, but I fear, any day now)…
No, I can only see, supporting candidates for office which speak for my views… both with work and money.
Currently, there is a ‘movement’ to ‘throw out all current officeholders as INCOMPETENTS”… which means throw out the majority Dems now in there, as I infer it, and replace them with conservative/tea party Repubs or libertarian-anarchists of the southern BibleBelt persuasion…anti-abortion, Bible reading in the schools along with teacher-led prayer…

The Chris Matthews Show, on NBC this morning… had the editor of “The Nation” Andrew Sullivan… with others in a ’roundtable’ setting. He was particularly fiery… and exactly what I agreed with…thought Obama had done a good job and is continuing to do so… to choreographing the Republicans into ‘supporting the excess of Wall Street”… making them even MORE stupid-looking/sounding than they ARE. Very full of praise for O.

then, on Face the Nation, also NBC, David Brooks spoke to those same issues… with the Repub. party NOT rebuking the media folks of the Fox news network, now clearly a propaganda arm of the Republican/royalist/corperatists/, he sees NO viable centrist leader of the repubs emerging… only loud noisemakers.

keep the faith – Howard

ps – DMC from Chico, CA (way up in norCal)… has a most well reasoned reply…
read all of the ‘highlights’ of page 1 of 2, didn’t go on to page 2… more of the same?
anyway, thank YOU for sending Brooks comments… and I think his comments on today’s TV show, the Chris Matthews show, might have been ‘influenced’ by those ‘highlights’ which he MIGHT have read… thank you for sending this along.


Monday, April 26
Yes, that’s the one I liked & quoted too… Some more:

I like an honest debate with people with whom I disagree, and I have had a few such friendships, but they are increasingly few and far between. Pardon me if I choose not to drink poison in the name of discourse. I do not view the columnists of the Times or the hosts of MSNBC’s commentary shows as voices capable of only one song, preaching to their choir. On the contrary, they readily admit mistakes and consistently demonstrate fealty to fact, whatever their opinions. The voices of the left are vastly more humble in asserting their opinions and more scrupulously honest about basing those opinions on verifiable facts. The voices of the right traffic in hyperbole and propaganda for personal financial gain, heedless of the consequences of their acts and the damage they inflict on the marketplace of ideas.

In these volatile times, these acolytes of Goebbels are flicking matches into a pool of gasoline.”

Can’t see how the Waco Willies still dare to call themselves democratic; their way of thinking is of wearing a gun as the answer to losing an election. Amazing to see Americans fall for such rhetoric… and China looking on laughing…




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