Liberal College Kid

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Campaign Cacophony Continue

The next day the campaigns are back on the trail. The pledges they made the night before vowing to keep the politics clean have faded into history, and all for the better. A candidate tells a group of citizens at a town hall meeting that they have more foreign policy experience than their opponent does. Across the state or country, the other fires back within minutes, redefining experience and sending thousands of emails detailing their record. The blogosphere explodes in outrage when a pivotal word is misused, because behind it lie treacherous intentions. New polls are taken.

The constant buzz of non-stop opinion, ceaseless commentary and back-and-forth campaign slights has marked this election cycle like none before it. That is not to say that there are any fundamental differences between the way these campaigns have been functioning and the way all campaigns have operated for the last few decades. But the level of noise has risen to its all time high.

Rigorous debate is one of the hallmarks of a functioning democracy. Without it, the public becomes lulled into a catatonic state of thoughtlessness, and the official, state sponsored position becomes the only position. But there is a difference between debate and overwhelming cacophony.

When you go to the symphony, dressed in your best attire and excited for the incredible music you are about to hear, you will be angered if the musicians take their seats and play imaginary instruments, filling the concert hall with silence. But you will be as equally dissatisfied if three separate orchestras crowd the stage, one plays Beethoven, another plays Bach and the third opts for Tchaikovsky, all simultaneously.

So it is with political campaigning in modern America. Insight is discouragingly rare because in order to be heard, everyone has to shout. Even the short lived moments filled with genuine vision and maybe even a touch of beauty, as many of us saw in the Obama speech, are quickly turned into sound bites. Those parts of the speech that seemed the most controversial are played in isolation, made to represent its entirety. This site posted the speech in full, with no meaningless commentary, the way it should be. Let the words speak for themselves.

Who is to blame for this mess? Is it the all day media, who, in search for ratings, have turned politics into day-time soap opera? Maybe. Is it the blogosphere and the internet in general, this humble site included, that has flooded the public consciousness with so much information, so much opinion that all facts become confused, all simple actions complicated? Possibly. Could it be the candidates themselves, who have, instead of digging deeper, made themselves comfortable with superficial attacks and subsequent retorts that play easily to a busy and sometimes fickle public? Perhaps.

More likely, it is the combination of all these factors. Advances in technology like cell phones, blackberries, RSS feeds and Wikipedia have trained us all to expect instant information, all the time, with no barriers. My generation, more so than those before it, is often uncomfortable if we are even momentarily cut off from the outside world, whether from events in the middle east or the Facebook status of our friends.

For the next few days, I am engaging myself in an experiment. Although I cannot promise to stay away from Facebook or AIM, I am not going to watch any twenty-four hour news reporting. I will stay away from the blogs I typically read a few times a week or even daily. The emails I get every single day from the three remaining candidacies shall go unopened. My only source of political information will be newspapers or their online equivalents. It will be an experiment in pre-television, pre-internet political thought. Who knows what revelations will descend unto me once the volume has been turned down, the shouting quieted? I will stifle the cacophony, and let the orchestra play as it was meant to be.