Chapter 6 (The Convergence Culture of Campaigning)

redvsblue. (n.d.) Source: http://www.miller-mccune.com. Retrieved on July 17, 2008

redvsblue. (n.d.) Source: http://www.miller-mccune.com. Retrieved on July 17, 2008

Henry Jenkins is very hopeful that the convergence culture will make politics more accessible to all of us, thereby “democratizing” it so that it is part of our everyday lives. The new trend indicates that our politicians haven’t turned their noses up to the notion either. Jenkins rightfully points out Howard Dean’s success at mobilizing his supporters via the internet (specifically meetup.com). He also points out to specific examples of this “democratizing” taking place, citing Dan Rather’s erogenous report that Bush had used family privilege to avoid serving in Vietnam (which we all know he did, as all of the rich do, but anyway. . .). Unfortunately, the Dan (as he is referred to in Bernard Goldberg’s Bias which is a great read by the way) relied on forged documents to build his case, which was immediately exposed by the conservative blogosphere. Curiously, Jenkins never uses Dan Rather’s name, instead opting to blame “CBS” for the problem. Anyone who has indeed read Bias knows that Dan Rather basically ran CBS at that time, so I find the omission curious. Anyway . . .

The “Old Media” was forced to cooperate under the new set of rules introduced by the convergence culture. The new set of rules was basically this: If you lie, we will expose you. And we can assume that in return the old guard will feel obliged to do the same. Which begs the question: What if they both lie? Jenkins warns against assuming that the internet is the great truth detector in the sea of “Old Media” lies. He also warns against believing that everyone now has the ability to access all human knowledge right at their fingertips, the main problem being that human knowledge is just that. Human.

That is to say “not Divine”, which is to say, flawed. Humans operate with filters in their brains, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. If a human wrote it, I can assure you that there is a spin behind it. Yes that applies to all of my posts. I would claim to be un-human to say that I can write anything without a spin. No one can. This is why Jenkins can easily make the observation that the new media immediately takes the opportunity to spin things as soon as it gets posted. The refreshing thing is that most in this arena unabashedly admit it, but not everybody. I don’t really consume media that isn’t honest about it’s angle whether old or new. Let me know where you stand, and then I’ll listen to what you have to say.

Unfortunately, the new media is often times no better at discerning the truth than Dan Rather was. While the “conservative” new media heartily criticized the Dan for his obvious bias against Bush, they pushed different biases on the rest of us. I’m sure you witnessed all of the ruckus about how Sadaam was going to bomb all of us if we didn’t act immediatley. If you missed that, then check the home page of the Drudge Report when you get done reading this post. You can see all of it unfold again in textbook fashion with Iran.

Jenkins is right. When online, most only associate with and move in the circles of those who think just like themselves. It’s an incestuous relationship that is bad for all of us, no matter what our political ideologies are. I post on your blog and you post on mine because we agree with each other. They all tell the same lies because they want to believe them and so does everybody else they know. If they are so-called conservatives, they rabidly defend Bush because he claims to be against abortion, and supposedly loves God. I’ve never seen so much damage done to a nation by somebody who was both a conservative and God-lover. In reality we can say for certain that Bush was not conservative. I won’t dare to judge a man’s belief in God but I will this: Even Satan believes in God and I don’t think it is doing him much good. The real tragedy in all of this is that “conservative Christians” kept Bush in office for eight years. Solus Deus Judicabit

On the other side of the coin we have the left-leaning side of the new media who constantly kept their audience in a state of angst because Bush was . . . well, Bush. It didn’t seem to matter that he appointed pro affirmative action, pro-abortion, anti-gun attorney general. It didn’t matter that Bush approved a bill that allowed minors to have abortions without consent from parents. It didn’t matter that Bush gave the UN unfettered access to our military. They just hated Bush. Here is a president that literally vetoed five bills. Five. The man let Teddy Kennedy write the education bill. I could go on about this for pages. I mean, what more does the left want? It’s just mind-boggling.

The point is, the internet offers little promise in rectifying political ignorance, as Jenkins seems to hope it will. People are willingly ignorant. There’s nothing we can do to change it. On a more optimistic note, the internet is allowing those who truly want to find the truth the opportunity to seek it out, and the convergence culture can go a long way in helping us all determine what is indeed truth and what isn’t. We can pool our knowledge collectively and arrive at it.

Sources:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.