American Elephants

Online News Consumers Outnumber Newspaper Readers. by The Elephant's Child

For the first time, according to the Pew Research Center, a larger percentage of Americans (46%) get their news online than get their news from newspapers (40%).  Only local television news (50%) still surpasses online  as a source of news for Americans, and its advantage is shrinking.

This change has major implications for American politics, how it operates and how it is consumed.  For decades, political and communications strategists have designed and scheduled their events and the contents of campaigns around how they look and sound on television. Everything is scheduled around the days’ main message in key sound bites near the beginning of the event, staged by 2 p.m. to allow enough time for editing to make the evening newscast.

The goal has been to design the campaign to fit their best moments into an 8-12 second capsule comment to deliver to the folks at home.  Yet the political world has changed with ever-present cell phone cameras ready to capture unintended moments uploaded to YouTube instantly.  Casual comments are quoted on Twitter.  Neither politicians nor their handlers are prepared to have their every waking moment recorded in permanent form.  An unfortunate moment,  an unguarded comment can and will be recorded to appear in an opponent’s campaign advertising.

The changes are not well understood.  People shop online for the news that fits their preconceptions, or news that is comfortable for them.  How many deliberately search for the uncomfortable, the news from political opponents?  Too, people bring to their search their own education and knowledge.  Are they looking to increase their knowledge or are they online in a search for funny things, porn or recipes?  In theory, reading many commenters’ views of an event would help to sort out what is real and what is not.

Many of the country’s leading economists have blogs.  Top scientists have blogs.  Every governmental agency has a website where statistics are posted.  Many top lawyers, historians, and experts in every field are available online.  There a number of websites that feature lectures by prominent professors on an array of subjects.  Even the photos from the Hubble telescope are available.  But human nature being what it is, probably more people search for entertainment than knowledge. Is there a natural advantage for the straightforward and honest person over the carefully packaged candidate?

Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times explores the phenomenon  here.  But no one can really predict just where the online world is going. When television was first introduced, the claims were extravagant. People would be watching symphonies, opera, the best of theater, learning about history,society would improve. That didn’t work out too well.

Our founders, with their knowledge of the best of philosophers and thought from few, but more precious, books did an amazing job of writing a Constitution and Bill of Rights that have served us well for 230 years—the world’s oldest.

Human nature being what it is, our Constitution is seldom imitated—that bit about “We the People” allowing a few basic duties to a subservient government and retaining the rest of the rights and duties for the people—has just been way too scary for constitution writing bureaucrats anywhere. Human nature being what it is, the freedom our Constitution gave us requires constant defense from a people who look to the sources of information for entertainment, and recipes, and funny stuff.


What’s So Scary? It’s Mommy Blowing Her Nose! by The Elephant's Child

Something new and startling for five-and-a-half -month-old Emerson, turns out to be—his mother blowing her nose.  He was so cute, she can’t resist doing it over and over.

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