Last week I kicked the crap of The Seattle Weekly’s Knute Berger [But Knute, there’s so much crap to kick…] for whining about the public’s tendency to “kick the crap out of the news media.” [E Pluribus Stupid]
While I still stand by my original crap kicking, Knute did make the very important point that the public has a responsibility to educate itself. My experience at Folklife last weekend drives home the fact that many voters are failing to live up to this obligation, while others are finding it impossible to do so.
Why the average citizen would be willing to put his signature on a petition he hasn’t read is beyond me… but this sociological curiosity has become the basis for a very lucrative industry.
Most of the people signing initiatives had no idea what they were penning their name to. A paid signature gatherer might be carrying as many as seven different petitions, and once he cajoled a voter to sign one, it was very easy for him to flip through the others.
Unless… somebody like me was there to explain the true impact of the initiatives. Indeed, on more than one occasion, a small crowd gathered around as I conducted an informal Q&A session on one initiative or another. These were engaged citizens who asked good questions — questions that apparently have not been sufficiently answered in the news media.
My argument with Knute’s thesis (apart from the self-indulgent whining,) is its total lack of subtlety. Yes, citizens have the responsibility to educate themselves. But the news media has the responsibility to give them the tools to do so.
Following that line of reasoning I suppose I should applaud Knute for helping to educate citizens about their responsibility to educate themselves. Or deride him for failing to effectively do so.
I feel a tautology coming on. Or a paradox. (Which is, of course, a tautology.)
Whatever. I think I better just stick to crap kicking.