The role of the media (A true story)
Sunday, November 12, 2000 by Dave Winer.
I've gotten in the habit of writing a brief piece every day while this vote counting thing is going on in the US. Here's another one.
As the partisanship gets more intense it's clear that the campaign of Y2K is still underway, even though the election has already happened.
At times the story turns to the role of the media. It's kind of meta-media, media about media, you get a sense that they're balancing things, disclosing their role, but they leave out their most important conflict of interest.
The political system in the US is designed to flow huge amounts of money through the media companies. They have an interest in keeping the campaign going as long as possible. When we're all glued to the TV sets they're making more money.
Another role of the media has been to hide the real story. I've seen it reported in a single Associated Press article, it may of course have been reported elsewhere.
"An error rate of 2 percent to 5 percent, believe it or not, is considered acceptable by most election officials, if the error is evenly distributed across all of the candidates.''
So, the challenge now is to devise a way to tally the vote so that errors are distributed evenly across all the candidates. If you want to improve the error rate, that would be great, I'll work with you on it, but we won't be able to improve that for the Y2K election, it's over and done. A lot of votes won't count. There's nothing we can do about this. (If you doubt this, ask a friend who took a few math courses in college.)
If the TV networks wanted to help our country, they would repeat this over and over. Instead they repeatedly quote airheads and hypocrites saying "Every vote must count." What they really mean is that the votes we want counted should count. This is disgusting and un-American.
The networks are run by smart people, no doubt about that. But they're not using their smartness to get to the heart of the real story. Our voting system is horribly outdated. That's the basic story. And one more thing, the candidates, also smart people, are artists at saying absolutely nothing. And the networks make enormous amounts of money from all that nothing-saying.
If you want to truly change things, stop watching TV. That would be more powerful than our votes.
As long as we stay glued to TV, we can't do anything powerful. It means nothing to speak into a camera. No one is listening.
On TV they talk about the sanctity of our votes, while the candidates spend massive amounts of money to appear indistinguishable. Hello. I think my vote means nothing. What do you think?
Turn off the TV. It would be totally cool to see how they would cover that! Millions of people turning off their TVs. Who would be watching?
BTW, I'm addicted. And according to a CNN poll, 87 percent of the people in the US are also glued to their TV sets right now. Oy.
I usually put the song of the day at the top the essay, but today's song comes at the end.
It's Joni Mitchell's Morning Morgantown. She's Canadian, but she gets what the US is about.
"The only thing I have to give, to make you smile, to win you with, are all the mornings still to live."
Come on America! Let's stop fighting. Adopt the other guy's point of view, or at least understand it. Let's start living some of those commercials. Beautiful Sunday mornings with coffee and kids and walks in the park. Blankets and cats and fireplaces. Thanksgiving. We have a great life here. But we don't listen to each other.
I think that's what this michegas is all about. For a moment we're all involved in our own lives, but we're just manipulating symbols. The votes are not who we are. The President is not who we are. Either one will be OK. Let's love ourselves and give ourselves a gift.
"We'll wink at total strangers passing."
I love America, and if you're an American, I love you for that. Let's use our minds, and really do something revolutionary. Stop, listen and understand. Find out what your fellow American really has to say. People are talking a lot. That's great! Now let's see if we can do some listening.