Tasha Tasha Tasha. What in earth are you thinking?
I quote the lovely lady’s column this morning in the National Post:
As more of us embrace the luxury of choice in our television viewing, we should make the conscious effort to tune in to political news. Like vitamins, we need a daily dose of that reality, to keep our politicians accountable and our democracy strong.
This smacks of an “eat-your-broccoli” regime. Watch political news because it is good for you, good for politicians, and good for for our institutions.
I disagree. A very few people should concern themselves with politics most of the time, a few people should concern themselves some of the time, and all people should concern themselves with politics very rarely.
In a well-run democracy, most of us should have the ability (whether it is a right or a privilege I do not know) NOT to concern themselves with politics.
Referenda – on constitutional changes particularly – are examples of what happens when political issues are not being managed properly. Take as an example what happened to Canada when the public was asked to be more interested in politics than it had any appetite for. The Mulroney regime engaged the nation in a scramble to appease Quebec by constitutional change, and in so doing Mulroney managed to arouse every interest group desiring a larger role in the public’s attention: women, Quebecois, natives, and seekers of public funds. His reward was the obloquy of the country, the defeat of the Conservative Party, and ten years of Jean Chrétien.
I am not against referenda; I am against being forced to pay attention to politics when the cause is the elite’s desire to change things that do not need changing – the Constitution, Quebec’s status, the role of the Queen, euthanasia, and so forth.
The point of Tasha Kheiriddin’s concern is the decline of conventional political media: newspapers and cable news channels, and the assumption that the ability of politicians to connect with the public is declining alongside the media.
Far too many people are involved with politics in a most superficial way. If they face greater costs to participate – which is to say, having to exercise effort to inform themselves and vote – this is not necessarily wrong. Yet schemes that force the unqualified to pay attention and care – compulsory voting comes to mind – are just more broccoli, more attention-grabbing by the elites. It ought to be our right to ignore them lest they be incited to do more of the same.
All the information any one can want about political issues is freely available as never before. What has changed is the way we receive it or engage with it. The Internet has disrupted 20th century business models of paying for information through a combination of advertizing and subscriptions. It has disrupted the channels for receiving information, whether newspaper or television. In the case of broadcasting, channels involve government licensing, which is not necessary for Internet-based communications.
We are witnessing a disappearance of “channels” and the emergence of new forms of information, such as Buzzfeed. I fail to see how Buzzfeed is all that worse than the ever popular Daily Mail. As the “channel” disappears as a recognizable form, we do not lack for information or opinion. We lack the recognized aggregators of the 20th century.
The decline of “traditional” -over 30 years old – news media is not the justification for watching it as a civic duty.