I am a media junkie. With my job and my commute, I spend a substantial portion of my day in my car. My radio is almost always set to either all news or news talk radio programing. I make a point to listen to programing from sources that I have come to expect to challenge my beliefs, as well as those I expect to support my beliefs. I have been doing this for years in the hopes that this will make me a more responsible citizen in our democracy.
My concern is this. Our broadcast media and print media is being purchased and controlled by bigger and fewer extremely large and powerful corporations. As the privatively held wealth of our society concentrates progressively more and more into the extreme upper percentiles of our population, I believe the ability of a few very wealthy individuals to shape the beliefs of the American people also grows. Not only through their ownership of the media, but through their sponsorship of its programming as well.
If we include in this picture the ability of these same wealthy individuals and the industries they hold controlling interest in, to donate huge amounts of money into political campaigns, I believe the reality of the democracy in this country has come increasingly into question.
Then came the 2008 presidential elections. I saw candidates who were out spent in some regions by unusually large multiples, win by substantial margins. I saw a not well known candidate rise up against a nationally recognized prohibitive favorite and out fund raise that candidate, not with money from the wealthiest individuals and most profitable industries, but from the American people directly. This has happened largely, I believe, due to the Internet and the abundant access of the American people to computers.
Am I seeing what I believe that I am seeing? This technology that I believe once served as a diversion of our attention from the process by which the powerful few caused the creation and enforcement of laws and polices that profited themselves at the expense of the rest of us, now seems to have become an ally in the democratization of our election process, instead. Are the American people rising from their slumber to claim the power that our forefathers have made available to them?
I have a dream. In the near future, Americans will find forums for public debate, where individuals can site their sources and respectfully invite others to share those sources so that we may all begin educating each other, instead of merely mocking and dismissing each other with no meaningful exchange of information or perspective. I dream of forums where such sited sources are challenged in terms of who is funding their research and who stands politically or financially to gain from it. If this can start to replace the angry name calling that currently passes for public debate, America may yet become that democracy that the free world has been praying that it would become.
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