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Journal Entry - Thursday, May 2, 2024

Public Opinion

How can public opinion be shared in ways that support reason and cooperation between all members of society? Democracy requires a reasoned public opinion. When passions rule discourse, discord ensues, and Democracy is jeopardized. The Founders understood this. They believed that the “new media” of their day — newspapers — should play an instrumental role in awakening and facilitating reasoned discussion.

Our history has been one of many crises. It is surprising how many people are not aware of that historical fact. Today is no different in that respect. What is different is the root of today’s crisis. Politicized broadcast media, politicized print media, and most importantly, politicized social media. During the Founder’s era, the newspaper media of the day was no stranger to vitriolic editorializing, it was quite common. The difference today is how fast politicized thought travels. This leaves less time for reflection and calming of emotions. In the founding era, the organization of protest was slow to foment. Today is a different story.

Today’s media allows for the formation of virtualized partisan assemblies. It can occur rapidly and in an extremely coordinated fashion. It can move quickly from “virtualized” to “real.” This is dangerous, to say the least. Why does the media encourage this behavior? The answer to that is simple — monetization. Monetization of passion pays big bucks.

As the French Philosopher, Marquis de Condorcet posited, public opinion is the true governor of the people. Public opinion must be reasoned or the government will lose its capacity to lead and provide for the welfare of its citizens. Time will tell if we can adopt a more reasoned approach to our sharing of political viewpoints or if the current situation devolves into a place where Democracy becomes the victim.

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