Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Can reflexive oppositional politics survive the internet age?

A friend of ours sometimes points out that a lot of what we see in politics is simply Mad Magazine's "Spy vs. Spy" brought to life. I understand our friend to mean that some (he would say most) of the positions taken by the two major political parties are adopted simply because they are the opposite of what the other side wanted. For example, if one party wants to take aggressive action to curb global warming, the other party will be against such action. George Orwell may have also written about this phenomena.

Slate.com writer Matthew Yglesias points to a perfect example of this type of mindless opposition. The link is here. As Mr. Yglesias notes Republicans, and Fox News, are chastising President Obama for not doing enough to curb gasoline prices. Democrats are pointing out that the President can't do much to control gas prices. Compare this to 2008 when Democrats were chastising President Bush over high gas prices. At that time Fox News was, correctly, explaining that a president can't do much to control gas prices. The folks at Media Matters have compiled a nice video compilation of these explanations.

I'd like to think that the fact that the fact that groups like Media Matters can find all these clips means that the Internet Age will spell the end of this sort of mindless oppositional politics because it is so easy now to juxtapose the same speaker taking contrary positions on the same topics. However, one has to acknowledge that P.T. Barnum's maxim that "there's a sucker born every minute." Those are words that many people in politics and the media seem to take to heart.

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