I posted this a few weeks ago on Kos-in the way of things over there, it scrolled by pretty quickly. I think it’s an important topic, though, so I thought I’d try reviving it over here.
The original diary with comments can be found here, should you be interested.
I had an illuminating conversation with a co-worker during the Gonzales hearings. My co-worker is a staunch democrat in the old school, catholic, labor-friendly style. He is a former union steward and remains active with our union. He is quite liberal, even progressive, and believes that the current administration is a gang of corrupt usurpers. He watches news, reads the paper, and forms his own opinions about what he sees. He’s a well-informed, interesting person who shares my political views on most levels. The metaphorical lightning bolt hit me between the eyes when we were talking about the Gonzales and his involvement with the infamous “torture memo.” My co-worker was not aware of Gonzales’ involvement in the memo.
So, what’s wrong with this picture? I was aghast at his ignorance of this issue. I gave him sources to check out and he was glad of the information, but it really got me thinking. People do not know. They watch the news, they read the paper, they peruse mainstream Internet sites, but they do not know many things that we consider common knowledge.
The Internet, and especially liberal and progressive blogs, are echo chambers. In the blogosphere, information passes rapidly from breaking news to old hat. Any new snippet of political knowledge is posted, parsed, discussed, diarized, front paged if it’s big enough, dissected, and digested within a couple of days. The Internet is the express aisle, and we’re all in a hurry. The speed of information dissemination is proportionate to our own political obsession and the speeds of our Internet connections. Those who are not connected, who are, incidentally, a large portion of the voting public, are not informed unless the infamous mainstream/so-called liberal/right-wing corporate media deigns to bring them the story. They never hear of it.
So where does that leave us? In 2006, in 2008, and beyond, it leaves us up a proverbial and very smelly creek with no means of propulsion. Unless…
We walk out of the echo chamber and into the wide-open spaces.
The media will not report the facts. Our friends, family, loved ones, co-workers will not read about enough relevant issues in the paper or see them on CNN or even hear them on NPR on the way to work in the morning. It’s going to be up to us.
It’s becoming clear that a large part of the future of information exchange will be blogs. In the rapid-fire world of the blogosphere, we get all the information we need, all we could want, more than we can process many times. It is our responsibility to spread the information. Talk to people. Send links to stories that miss the front page of your local newspaper. Clip articles from progressive or alternative press and mail them to friends, or post them on bulletin boards, or summarize them in your Live Journal. Whisper, shout, write, call, talk, talk, and talk. Keep talking. When something breaks on your favorite progressive blog, make your first line to everyone you talk to that day “Did you hear about….” and Tell the Story. Keep telling it. Tell everyone. Give cites. Back it up. Talking will get people talking to other people. Talking will get them thinking. Talking will get them listening, and reasoning, and it will get them the knowledge they sorely lack, the knowledge they sorely need.
Remember-one of the main things that did it for the Right was talk. Talk radio. Talk on Faux News. Talk on the street, and in the newspapers, and on their personal blogs and websites. We invented the Internet, by gum, we should be profiting from it as well.
Talk to people. Make it your personal mission to educate one person a day. Even if it’s only yourself.
I understand that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. Not everyone can engage strangers or co-workers in conversation. There are people who are socially awkward and would not be comfortable doing this. That’s OK. You can write. You can educate yourself. You can break out of the echo chamber by putting new sounds in that can be carried outside. You can research while the rest of us talk.
We spend far too much time talking to each other. In doing so, we are in this wonderful place where all we hear are voices of assent. Then, when the unthinkable happens, oh, for instance, like Inauguration Day, we are aghast. We never saw THAT coming. You know why we never saw it coming? We were in the echo chamber. Many of us weren’t talking outside of that, and perhaps more importantly, many of us were not listening.
So this, I assign to you. Go forth from the echo chamber. Take what you have learned here and spread it to the world. Stop preaching to the choir and start preaching to the uninterested, to the unconverted, to the apathetic. Spread outrage. Spread truth. Do what you can to make people care. If you get one person a week to listen, you have succeeded.
After all, we have two years to talk. Let’s get busy.