I find it very difficult

by francine Hardaway on August 25, 2004

I find it very difficult to go through this election season, especially since I have a first-time
voter living with me, and I can’t for the life of me justify the kinds of messages we are
hearing on TV. How should I tell her to vote? And why? What are the major issues? Who
even knows anymore. Even the economy (stupid) and the war have taken a back seat to
pure misanthropy.

We have gone well beyond “going negative;” I think we’re going crazy. It doesn’t matter
which “side” you are on, the main undercurrent is disrespect for anyone else’s opinions
and thoughts.

If I really believed these ads represented the views of my countrymen and colleagues, I’d
probably get a bottle of Scotch and a bottle of sleeping pills, check into the Ritz and pull a
Marilyn Monroe. If, as a society, we are merely vituperative and finger-pointing — without
even being especially creative about it — why was our country founded?

Think back a couple of hundred years, those of you with long memories or good
educations. Our country was founded on principles of freedom. Especially freedom of
speech and religion.

Recently, Stealthmode acquired a client, PublicOpinion.com. (http://
www.publicoopinion.com), that was founded by free speech advocates to provide a forum
for anyone to post an opinion, have it found by a search engine, and find others of like (or
opposite) mind.

PublicOpinion.com takes web publishing to its logical extreme to provide the simplest
option for people to post what they want to say. It costs no time or money to use or learn
– people can simply type and post and their opinions become available to the world. It is
almost too simple.

PublicOpinion.com was founded by advocates of free speech to allow everyone to be
heard. Until recently, it has had no marketing. Topics include anything people might have
an opinion about – politics, products, personalities, companies, celebrities, controversies,
movies, music, movements,sports, shows, scandals, web sites, and even weather.

Each opinion posted becomes its own web page, which is then made available to search
engine sites such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL so other people searching for
information about a topic can
find and read those opinions. The PublicOpinion.com motto is: “You post it here. We make
available for the whole world to see.” I actually expected most of the postings to be the
frustrated ramblings of extremists, carrying the assaults from the mainstream media
further right or left.

However, what’s most revealing about the people who have somehow found the site (and
why I have hope) is that the political comments posted are amazingly positive. Ordinary
people sign on and say something proactive. Left to their “safest” freedom of expression,
most of these people are not nasty or negative (however, I will say that the site currently
skews heavily Democratic). What does this say about the population as a whole? Perhaps
the campaign doesn’t reflect its mood.

I guess this restores my faith in the Internet as a medium that transcends the filters
blocking our freedom of speech: the spin doctors and handlers, the media, the special
interest groups. Over 77% of the opinions posted to the site as of now are Democratic, but
I hope that will change . Even Libertarian-oriented opinions are well represented (15%).
Pro-Republican opinions constitute the bulk of the remaining 8%. This may mean
Democrats are more Internet-savvy, or that Republicans will comment after the
Convention. Since the site isn’t really for market research or politics per se, it probably
won’t be subjected to over-analysis.

The site does, however, have the power to make me feel better about my fellow man. He’s
a pretty good guy (or girl) after all. As you would think, there are many opinions
expressing dissatisfaction with all
sides and with the political process in general. One opinion <http://publicopinion.com/
opinion/507050.html> puts
a unique spin on the choices in the upcoming election by saying:”Save the Country, Vote
Democrat. Save the World, Vote Republican. Does anyone remember when it used to be
the exact opposite?”

In an age of increasingly polarized debates and negative campaigning, I’m somewhat
cheered by the fact that some people can still find a way to express their opinions
positively, in support of a candidate or cause, instead of just taking an “anti-” or negative
position toward the other side.

But PublicOpinion.com is just a small ripple on a sea of propaganda. Surfing those waves
has made me seasick, by and large. Hold on to your lunch for the next 60 days.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: