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The Internet Is A Funny Little Medium


PoliticsThe InternetMike McCurry and I worked together for two years. In that time, I got a pretty good sense of the man. Honestly, I don’t know why he’s a Democrat. As a question of faith, he should be a Republican. As a question of politics, he is more centrist than leftist. I think the reason he has not switched parties is either a) he has strong belief that government actually can solve things or b) he’s been in the game so long that he’d lose his livelihood if he followed his beliefs to their logical conclusion.

With that sense of him, and with Richard Cohen’s article about the angry left fresh in my head, I went back and reread Mike’s post on Huffington about bloggers.

You can see in blog commentary lots of great huffing and puffing that will get you to exactly 38% of the electorate. I don’t see a lot of useful dialogue on how to get winning coalitions together that can win more than 50% in closely contested elections.

Put that together with a point that he makes in a subsequent post.

[T]he culture and discourse of the Internet is not what you would teach kids at the dinner table — unless you kept a bar of soap handy.

Then add a pinch of Cohen’s take.

[I]t marks the end of a silly pretense about interactive media: We give you our e-mail addresses and then, in theory, we have this nice chat. Forget about it. Not only is e-mail too often a kind of epistolary spitball… But the message in this case truly is the medium. The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred.

I agree with Mike’s point about bloggers who believe that the radical view will attract enough like-minded individuals to affect an outcome. It’s why I take issue with the belief that Bush won solely because he mobilized the base. As Mike said, that gets you to around 40%, where did you get the rest?

I also normally take issue with those who portray bloggers as less than serious participants in the political process. In his case, however, I believe he spoke too broadly about a minority of the online community, but one that seems louder than their numbers.

As an example, when I started this blog, I did so for two reasons. First, I am genuinely interested in the discussion. I have had a running discussion on my Navy Chaplain post with a friend who fundamentally disagrees with my contention that we are having a semantic disagreement. I enjoy that.

Second, I wanted to make my voice heard in an effort to see who on the net a) might hear it, and b) might agree. I am the raging moderate. I am a frustrated fiscal conservative who has seen what he thought were his party’s ideals sold out by the Administration and those in Congress. I am appalled that the radical left ran up a 7 trillion dollar tab during the 1980s, and then has the brazen hypocrisy to complain that the GOP added another 2 billion. I am a frustrated social moderate who believes the religious right in this country wields too much power. I am appalled by the unhinged left that makes apologies for homicide bombers and claims we are to blame for their actions. The apparent lack of a moral compass within either party is astounding to me and I wondered if anyone else agreed.

In my years in politics, I kept much of my moderation under wraps and listened to the social conservatives in control of the party tell me that there was no such thing as an impassioned moderate. There was never going to be a moderate uprising so politics would always be fought between the extremes. I spoke out in an effort to find others who would stand and be counted as the impassioned middle.

I found blogging to be a tremendous release. I also found it can be extremely destructive. Bloggers and a segment of the online community they have tapped that seethes with anger, are sometimes unable to control themselves.

I have seen that anger, and the complete lack of logic that accompanies it, firsthand. I have been savaged by the left, and had the same comments that earned their derision cost me friends at the RNC. I found myself in the depths of liberal blogs where I was called a racist for things that had nothing to do with people. The same guy that called me a racist, then took issue with me saying he was nuts and chastised me for daring to make a disparaging remark about him personally.

McCurry and Cohen will continue to be savagely attacked. It’s sad but true. They have said what they believe. Many of those who disagree will attack, because reason and argument are not what we teach these days. We saturate our television networks with television “talk” programs that celebrate yelling, not debate. Jon Stewart was right when he called Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to the mat. These programs are hurting America.

What’s more, however, is blogs, for all the good they may do by calling attention to stories the MSM ignores, are also harming our nation through the venom they allow, or in some cases produce.

Assuming blogs remain a popular medium, as my child grows up, I don’t honestly know if I would want him to read them. While some contain argument, logic, reason, and discussion, the comments on major blogs rarely reflect any of that. More often than not, they are profanity laden. In most cases, they are an avenue for people who feel small and disaffected to take out their inadequacy on others by calling them names, and trying to bring them down.

Now McCurry is a good guy. He is a man committed to his family, his faith, and his country. He makes a living by debating issues. He argues for his beliefs by arguing on behalf of those who share his beliefs. That may place him in opposition to your position, but that does nothing to change the man. To castigate him for speaking his mind, to call him names for taking a position, to attack him for doing what he believes to be right, is to encourage the narrow-minded bigotry of rigid partisan ideology.

The Internet is a funny little medium. It has the potential to foster discussion and debate, yet it seems to drag us into base behavior and spastic disagreement. For the major bloggers who attacked McCurry for his post, and for those who led the charge against Cohen, rather than acting shocked that they would question your worth, you should look at your posts, and the comments they inspired, and ask if what you’re doing is contributing to the discussion, or adding to the crass nature of modern politics.



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Written by Michael Turk