October 21, 2008

Us and Them

...And after all were only ordinary men. No, this is no Pink Floyd song but life in the US these days. Homogenity and unity of thought seems to be the desired trademark of being American these days!
Extremism at McCain Rallies Comes Naturally

Republican rallies this past weekend grew heated. The headlines tell the story: "Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally"; "Panic Attack: Voters Unload at GOP Rallies"; "McCain: Obama Not an Arab, Crowd Boos"; "Supporters Jeer as McCain Calls Obama 'A Decent Person.' "

What's going on? The talk-show talk has been that John McCain and Sarah Palin incite this kind of behavior. They certainly haven't helped, but blaming the candidates misses what's happening, and why.
The post posits the argument (a social psychologist/scientist's viewpoint) that "Like-minded people in a group grow more extreme in the way they are like-minded." and that "Homogeneity creates extremity -- or, in the news of the day, a McCain rally." On the other hand: "Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain individual excesses. Homogeneous communities march toward the extremes."

But alas! Like Obama himself says (as mentioned in this excellent write-up in the NYT Magazine last Sunday on Obama's attempts to bridge the class-divide), this divisiveness is perpetuated and encouraged by media outlets like Fox News and also tacitly and often times overtly by many members of the Republican party itself.
"I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls," Obama told me. "If I were watching Fox News, I wouldn't vote for me, right? Because the way I'm portrayed 24/7 is as a freak! I am the latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant liberal. Who wants somebody like that? "I guess the point I'm making," he went on, "is that there is an entire industry now, an entire apparatus, designed to perpetuate this cultural schism, and it's powerful. People want to know that you're fighting for them, that you get them. And I actually think I do. But you know, if people are just seeing me in sound bites, they're not going to discover that. That's why I say that some of that may have to happen after the election, when they get to know you."
Oh..he said schism. He must be elitist. Who talks like that! :))

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