American Discourse

I read this entry by Alien Laine about how people are politically crazy in web comments. I read this did not question what he was talking about. This American Life did a show about having to turn the comments on their web page off because of the way people act. This is also something that comes up all the time when it comes to YouTube comments. I have seen lots of flame wars and people say outrageous things in comments.

I do not think this is new in American Culture. As bad as we think it is now, it has been bad in the past also. At the Dawn of the American republic Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton wrote outrageous things about each other in their news papers. Dirty is not new, it is just been refined.

I think that this kind of dialog goes up and down like a roller coaster. I think we are still going up hill. I think it is going to get worst before it gets better. I think the likes of Karl Rove makes this worse. His ability to make every bit of government a major part of politics and the idea of "Permanent Campaign mode" has change the dialog in America. It has made the roller coaster hill higher.

One of the problems is that hyperbole is the language of America. It has been that way at least since the start of the television age and maybe before that. The reason the Andy Warhol coined the term "Superstar" is because the term "Star" was not big enough anymore. Politics is no different. You cannot just say that George Bush is a bad president, you have to say George Bush is a war criminal. There is no room for subtlety or nuisance. Everything has to be loud and clear.

For a long time I have seen this as "Shout Down" politics. You have the right of freedom of speech, but I have the right to shout you down as you try to speak. I think this has the effects of giving a bigger voice to people on the extremes. It also moves people who might not be on the extremes toward them. If they only way they will be heard is to shout they will shout.

I think these things are bad for the Republic. I think that we need to think more about politics. We need to be more complex and not less complex. We need to be more careful and select politicians who will be more careful also. I just do not see this happening anytime soon.


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