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A Democracy of Opinions

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Here we are. It’s 2011, and when I turn on the news, I get to see a tweet from Joe Schmo in Minnesota about how awful the Obama administration is. Then I get to hear about how x% of Americans in the latest public opinion poll want a government shutdown. Why, why, why is this news?

We have a representative democracy in which we all get to vote our preferences for government, and we have a Bill of Rights that allows us to speak our opinions freely. But do democracy and freedom of speech necessarily lead to a democracy of opinion? Do our constitutional rights guarantee that everyone has something worth saying, that all opinions are equal? In reality, no. In modern day America, yes.

This widespread media practice of getting average Americans to comment on news stories is undermining our collective ability to think critically, to examine sources, to understand the difference between academic study and opinion. The idea that what the uneducated believe is just as important as what intellectuals know is killing the democracy we regard so highly. Moreover, we treat academic study and issue experts as just one theory or one opinion among many, a practice which also undermines the very meaning of the word “theory.”

So here’s a message to you, dear media: I don’t care what the latest public opinion poll says because I seriously question the educational levels and cognitive abilities of most of the people in the United States. I don’t care what someone tweets or messages on Facebook about the latest news because random people are not experts. I want to hear what intellectuals are saying. I want to hear solutions from people who study and have experience and know how to think. I want to hear real analysis of political talking heads, not just regurgitation of their expertly spun messages. And I want this because I’m a freaking patriot and I know this country deserves better than the corporate media drivel we’re being forced to swallow.

Now here’s a message to you, dear reader: It’s ok to admit you don’t know enough about something to make an informed judgment. Saying “I don’t know” is what smart people do until they do know. What we should be doing is examining our opinions to make sure they’re based in fact. We should be looking at the evidence for ourselves and making informed decisions. At the very least, we should be relying on credible sources of information, not Fox News, the e-mail your cousin forwarded to you, a website created by any member of the Tea Party, or the latest YouTube video.

Bottom line? Demonizing intellectualism while perpetuating the democratization of opinion and touting belief over fact is not going to keep this country going. It’s going to tear us apart.

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  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Holy fuck, what a load of elitist horseshit!

    Forgive my ungentle demeanor, when I see such blatant calls for marginalization based on leftist elite standards it just pisses me off to no fucking end! Have a nice day though. :-)

  • http://meggansmoustache.blogspot.com Meggan’s Moustache

    Marginalization? No. Advocating for an educated citizenry? Yes. And why is “elite” such a bad word anyway? Why shouldn’t we want the best possible democracy, an elite political system where everyone has the same educational opportunities?

    You wouldn’t ask Joe Schmo for medical advice; you’d ask a doctor, a professional, someone who has studied the issue and knows more than you do. I’m merely advocating that the same care be given to the very fabric of our society.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I disagree, Cindy. Too many people are just too dumb. The author doesn’t suggest banning this sort of ‘man on the street’ journalism [which even the NY Times frequently indulges in]. She just points out that it is mostly quite worthless.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dumb is in the eyes of the beholder. ahem…

    Actually, I have spent the last three months sleeping in a hospital next to my husband, who is a patient. And I have found that while some doctors have sound advice, and some are quite brilliant, others doctors do not, and still others ignore very important things which only Jo Shmo is in a position to notice. Being Jo Shmo in this situation, we really do need to here from the Jo Shmo’s. Our lives may depend upon it.

  • Clavos

    I’m sorry, Cindy, I know how difficult it is. Don’t hesitate to fire any who don’t meet your needs and expectations; it’s your right as a caregiver.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Thanks Clav, will do. One doctor is in bigger trouble than getting fired, at this point as is the hospital itself. Someone is going to make this man whole by providing home care until he is better, or forever, whichever comes first. His injuries have multiplied due to stupidity and neglect.

    He had no health issues what-so-ever and should have one home in Nov with his new LVAD and waited for his new heart. All his multiple problems are due to flawed equipment, neglect, and the stupidity of a system that cannot without effective communication and which is unable to prevent problems that are outside each doctor’s particular specialty.

    One example of many: They let his shoulder get dislocated (subluxated) for want of a sling. I find this out in rehab. Guess they don’t do slings (occupational therapy) at the hospital.

    I think, we are going to be changing the law about what hospitals need to provide.

  • Clavos

    I’m sure you’re already doing so, but just in case, document, document, document.

    …and which is unable to prevent problems that are outside each doctor’s particular specialty.

    This was a HUGE problem with my wife: they (the docs) each did their own thing, and once I cleared out the deadwood, did it fairly well — but they didn’t communicate with each other, except for leaving cryptic (and almost illegible) notes in her chart, so the left hand rarely coordinated with the right — often with terrible (and avoidable) consequences.

  • TYLERANDJEAN

    You’re all stupid!