mob mentality

A Context for Correcting Misinformation

Kathleen Hall Jamieson in conversation with Bill Moyers and Drew Altman on Bill Moyers Journal (8.14.09):

unSpun : Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation People who are angry and frustrated and not necessarily well informed in part driven by people who are on the other side of the reform effort. And it's driving into news evocative visuals that are leading the public, I think, to overgeneralize the extent to which there is principal, reasoned dissent from health care reform.

...But when people are shouting at each other, the answer doesn't get through. And when you're impugning the integrity of the person who's answering the questions, the member of Congress, that person's response isn't going to be believed if it is able to be articulated and isn't simply shouted down.

And so it's not creating context in which misinformation on both sides can be corrected. And that's the problem. We don't have a deliberative process here taking place in public to inform public opinion.

Instead, we're potentially distorting it.

Because We Agree On So Much

Excerpts from What 'Culture War'? by Dick Meyer, Los Angeles Times (August 27, 2008):

The idea that there is vast war over the moral and spiritual compass of the nation is a dramatic narrative, and it has dominated popular political analysis for nearly two decades. It makes for potent, inflammatory political commercials. It just doesn't have the added virtue of being true.

Poll after poll, focus group after focus group show that the vast majority of Americans — the Silent Majority, perhaps? — are pragmatic, independent and un-partisan in their basic views. They are eclectic: "liberal" on some matters, "conservative" on others.

In fact, it's because we agree on so much that our elections are so close.

Extremists, however rare, are becoming more common and, importantly, more rabid. Analyzing survey data from the National Opinion Research Center, political scientist Arthur Brooks discovered that the percentage of people who described themselves as either "extreme liberals" or "extreme conservatives" grew a stunning 35% from 1972 to 2004. Still, as a percentage of the total population, the extremist factions — right and left combined — remain a small slice, 6.6%.

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The political elite and the politically engaged are, of course, much more likely to be on the extreme wings than the majority. These also happen to be the people who not only go to conventions, but whom the cable news bookers corral to argue about politics on their shows. Increasingly, they are also the people who host television and radio talk shows, who publish blogs and who make civic noise.

But they are not us. Despite the stories we will read, hear and see this week and next, Americans are a much more pragmatic, moderate and independent crowd.

A Vast and Unsustainable Act of Taking

Cell phones, Orlando 2004

"The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits."

Photographer Chris Jordan

Cell phones #2, Atlanta 2005
Thanks Kit!