Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Information Cocoon of U.S. Politics

In a new opinion piece, the German newspaper Der Spiegel eviscerates the current Presidential crop, and U.S. political culture more generally. A translated excerpt and summery can be found here. What is striking to me about this sharp critique isn't exactly the fact that it comes from Europe, although that is mildly terrifying (it means word is spreading about our Republican Party). Rather, it is the fact that I find Der Speigel's appraisal of our campaign so novel at all. Political coverage in the U.S. has chugged along this cycle quite oblivious to the unprecedented changes that have occurred over the last two years. The Republican Party is radically more conservative, it's presidential contenders are plumbing new depths of  puerility, and huge swathes of the population are openly disdainful of science and rigorous thought--notably on climate change risk assessment.

Maybe it's the media's craven policy on ideological balance, or perhaps it's the entanglement of media and government by way of money and manpower. Surely journalists' desire for their work to go viral plays into politicians' calculation that any publicity is good publicity, especially for amateurs with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Whatever the cause, it seems clear that the craziness of our politics scales with the looseness of our media, creating some quite noxious incentives. It's heartening that the rest of the world does not share our political rot, and yet horrifying that our news media knows it not.

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