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Just informing the voters….

McCain campaign complained that media is not covering him before they complained that media is covering him. Another example of a debate between John McCain and John McCain? Well, when you have a bad product, it is best not to have it reviewed. There is a reason why crappy movies are not shown to critics before they are released in theaters. McCain can win if he never ever shows up on TV between now and November. That way, many will be duped into thinking he was still the charming maverick he was back in….when was it, 19th century?

Not that media is actually slamming McCain like they always do with Democrats (remember how gleefully they went along with Dean Scream, Swift Boats, Edwards’ Haircut, Cackling Laughter of HIllary Clinton?) – they are just gently reporting on what he’s doing and saying. Or what his campaign is doing. And that is damning enough. As nobody really knows if McCain knows what his advisors are saying but says something different anyway (in which case someone is lying and deceiving), or he has no idea what they are doing in his name (in which case he is a horrible manager and cannot be trusted to run a chess club, or just senile).

Taunting McCain, like this and like this…:

… is a way to drive McCain crazy and show to everyone how unhinged the guy is. And what a great sense of humor he has. And how attuned he is to modern social norms, like gender equality.

Perhaps people who adore celebrities should vote for McCain?. Or maybe not. Except for Paris Hilton.

Which brings me to voters, especially those usually called low-information voters. Especially as the campaign this year will be exceptionally nasty, as the GOP has no product to offer (unlike last two times, LOL), so they act in desparation and will be hitting really hard, with all sorts of idiotic stories and outright lies about Obama (and about dangerous potential supporters or VP hopefuls). Which are getting harder and harder to swallow even by Corporate Media, but may still be persuasive to some of the voters McCain desparately needs.

How would they react to a clip like this on CNN in which Obama reminds people that McCain is a Washington insider who did nothing good (about energy independence) in 26 years there, and Mitt Romney (a GOP veep hopeful) pretty much agreeing with it and adding a linkage between Bush and McCain(?!):

Is this good or bad for McCain? Who knows?

Do not forget that half of the country are non-voters, i.e., people who do not vote although they are eligible and capable of doing so: they are US citizens (here or abroad), they are over 18 years old, and are not completely incapacitated by physical/mental/health problems at the time of election. Oh, and not in prison (due to laws craftily and presciently written by Republican lawmakers who wanted to make sure some of those Black guys are not free to go to the polls).

When asked ‘Why?’, the non-voters usually say they missed voting for being too busy (or “was it today, really?”). But when prodded further, their stock response is “they are all the same”. This dangerous meme, about politicians of both major parties being “all the same” is there for a reason. It has been carefully planted into the minds of the general population. It is in the same taxonomic category with Broderism aka Compulsive Centrist Disorder (preventing the move leftwards of the Overton Window by anchoring the middle, thus keeping the Far Right within the realm of polite conversation). It is designed to give GOP credibility, i.e., that their ideas are not batshit crazy, or if they are, so are the Democratic ideas. It is designed to appeal to basic human laziness – the Republicans know that people who know nothing don’t vote Democratic (or don’t vote at all). It also appeals to the “can’t we all get along” sentiment, which many people have, as the political debate is poisonous because Republicans purposefully make it so. Nastier they get in public, more people will, they know, retreat from politics and not vote, which is good for GOP (they squeak by miniscule margins every four years, as you may have noticed, and large rise in voting numbers works against them).

How to get the non-voters to vote? The “pull” (as opposed to “push”) media environment is not just bad for science communication, it is also bad for politics. No matter how much we may appeal to them, they will not see those appeals – they skip the politics/election news and go straight to Entertainment/Fashion/Sports. The only time they start thinking about politics is when they personally start to hurt. And they are now. They are starting to pay attention. They may turn into zero-information voters or low-information voters (becoming a high-information news-junky takes some years and some background to attain, so very few will be able to get to that stage fast enough) and WILL VOTE. For whom? Probably against the party that hurt them over the past eight years.

Over the past couple of years, more people are registering to vote (i.e., switching from being non-voters to voters) than usual and most of them are registering as Independents and Democrats including in North Carolina (where some of those Independents may vote for Libertarian Bob Barr and mess up McCain that way).

Zero-information voters are people who vote although they do not pay any attention to the campaigns at all. How can they do that? They know exactly which party they are voting for and it does not matter one bit who the candidates are, or policy proposals, or any of that stuff. They have decided decades ago (either inherited from parents, or decided when young) which party they belong to and every four years they vote straight party ticket (that party can be either one – unfortunately, Democrats have such voters as well). They will vote based on stereotypes and slogans about the two parties that may have not touched reality since the 1950s, but that does not deter them at all. And they vote. Perhaps this time around, some of these will actually start paying attention. And if they make an effort to get seriously informed, some may change affiliations, and of those, most will switch their vote to Democratic.

Low-information voters occasionally catch a glimpse of political news, usually from Corporate Media or radio talk-shows. They are not just low-information voters but usually also mis-information voters as they naively believe what they read/hear/see in the media (bait, hook and sinker). And they tend to follow the media narrative inasmuch it fits with their preconceptions, i.e., their party affiliation and ideology. They pay some attention, but to the wrong sources. Getting them educated is probably the hardest – they are not blank slates that one can inform and educate. They are full of misinformation that first has to be debunked, before they are capable of absorbing new information that is more reliable. And even then, they tend to vote by emotion rather than knowledge.

The transformation of non-, zero-, and low-information voters into high-information voters is not something that GOP wants to see happen. Why? Because once you start looking, you see that there is no ideological Left in the USA (it is miniscule and powerless). Republicans are ideologically driven, nasty, greedy, nutcases. Democrats are mostly non-ideological technocrats who want to get the job done, are far too likely to make compromises (“better something than nothing” crap) even if those are horrible (middle ground between good and bad is bad, not semi-bad), get surprised when the Republicans play them, and generally make a mistake of giving Republicans a benefit of the doubt for being human, including adhering to the norms of human decency.

Those who pay attention and get informed recoil in horror when they see what GOP is all about. Lies and deception in the name of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, greed, and general male (and female) insecurity. How do we get more people informed? And how do we prevent the GOP from preventing us from getting more people informed?

Comments

  1. #1 Alan Kellogg
    August 6, 2008

    Bora, I don’t give a fuck why you hate John McCain. Why do you like Barack Obama? Why do you support him? Why do you agree with his aims and policies. How does Barack Obama speak to you?

    What makes Barack Hussein Obama your choice for President of the United States?

    Fuck what McCain’s done. Fuck what McCain’s said. Fuck McCain and the horse he rode in on. What has Obama done, what has Obama said that has convinced you to support him? Has Barack Obama offered anything of substance that you can agree with, or is it just a virulent animosty to McCain that guides your course. Are you for Barack Obama, or is he only a magic negro you can enlist in your jeremiad against the Republican candidate?

    I know hate. I’ve been the object of hate, and I have seen what hate does when it inflames a nation. I would think that you, of all people, would understand this. Hasn’t the land of your birth, Serbia suffered because of hate. Suffered because of the hate she has shown others? Suffered because of the hate others have shown her?

    Once I thought of you as a friend. Now that friend is gone, swept away despair and anger and, yes, hate. You have sounded the brass of spite and let the call for wisdom fade away in the clamor of rancor and complaint. You have become complaint, destroyer of hope.

    I shan’t be back, for you have ended any reason to read your blog. Nor will I be taking advantage of the PLoS webzines, for you have made me fear that your antagonism against one man has poisoned your relationship with those publications, and made your influence upon them harmful at the least. Having disagreements with John McCain is one thing, declaring him the blasphemous by-blow of Satan and Kent Hovind is quite another. You’ve lost me as a reader and a friend because you lost your good sense, and I doubt you’ll ever get me back.

    You were a good writer and a good scientist once, I hope you can make it back someday.

  2. #2 Coturnix
    August 6, 2008

    I let Obama speak for himself.

    This is a liberal blog. It is important to inform low-information voter as to how dangerous McCain is. Letting McCain speak for himself (as you can find if you watch the videos and follow the links) is the best advertising against him.

    If you say something along the lines “can’t we all just go along”, you are aiding and abetting Republicans.

    If you say something along the lines “they are all the same”, you are aiding and abetting Republicans.

    If you defend Republicans (or attack Obama and Democrats) you are either woefully uninformed, or lying, or one of them. And deserve to be despised for it.

    If you do not like being called all these names (racist, sexist….), then disassociate yourself from the GOP brand. Switch on the brain. Become informed, you may as well start voting Democratic. At least until there is a true multi-party system in this country in which it is reasonable to vote for a better party.

  3. #3 Mr. Gunn
    August 6, 2008

    This has now become THE reference post to point to when people ask about McCain. You’ve said just about everything that needed to be said, and eloquently.

    One could almost believe Alan’s response to your post was genuine, too, except that he slipped and wrote Barack Hussein, as the right-wing has instructed all their bloggers to do. The “I’ll never read any PLoS journals because of your blog” bit was a little over the top, too.

  4. #4 Coturnix
    August 6, 2008

    The use of the term “negro” is also very telling. It is not usually heard in polite company.

    And lamenting against hate in defense of the party (and the particular individual who is its candidate right now) which built its power on hate, is so funny.

  5. #5 bill
    August 6, 2008

    I shan’t be back

    I would raise a cheer, but that’s bullshit too.

  6. #6 Jennifer Ouellette
    August 7, 2008

    Oh Bora, why, why do you hate? :)

  7. #7 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    August 7, 2008

    Wow – bit of an overreaction by Alan, eh?

    Well, I appreciate the post, Bora. But then, I am a liberal and prone to enjoy this sort of thing.

  8. #8 Joel
    August 7, 2008

    Audits by the media themselves show Obama getting much more coverage than McCain.

  9. #9 Andrew
    August 7, 2008

    #1 “…magic negro…”

    Uhuh. Does he have a wizards hat? Besides I doubt Obama is actually magical, sorry to break that to you. I believe there is an amusing picture floating around of George Walker Bush, alcoholic, and Vladimir Putin, KGB man, communing in “wizards robes” if that helps though.

  10. #10 Ian
    August 7, 2008

    Alan – don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Buh-bye now.

  11. #11 Zeno
    August 11, 2008

    Joel: Audits by the media themselves show Obama getting much more coverage than McCain.

    That’s probably because Obama makes news (trip to Kuwait and Iraq to meet soldiers and military leaders, visits to European capitals to meet U.S. allies, speech in Berlin to hundreds of thousands of people). McCain goes to lunch in a sausage house.

    Unless the definition of newsworthy has dramatically changed, McCain gets less air time than Obama. If he doesn’t like it, he should do something.

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