Saturday, August 30, 2008

What Did Digby Say?

The great Digby speaks and I find this part interesting:

"I did find one thing quite interesting, which is that Alter insists that nobody listens to the gasbags and pundits so we shouldn't worry about them. I asked him how he thought people got their information about politics and he said from their talkative coworker or politically engaged relative and things like chain emails."

If people base their opinions on those of politically active co-workers or from well-informed relatives then, well, where do those people get their opinions from?

Could it be the gasbags and pundits that no one is listening to? Could they be the ones to whom those looking to be well-informed first turn in order to crystallize their own wisdom?

Even following Alter's line of reasoning, then those pundits are still important because they're the starting point for a web of information and elucidation that flows out from the elite and to the common person (A formulation that I find as repugnant as I do misguided, by the way.). Those who move in the rarefied cricles and weigh in on the issues of the day - those matters too complex and arcane for the common person - and be completely ignored by the vast majority of the population. But that doesn't mean they escape the responsibility for where their thoughts and writings can lead. They're influence-makers not because everyone pays attention to their opinions but because their opinions are the ones that shape that web. Their formulations, their preconceptions, their schema are the ones that are propigated outwards, taken up by those few who pay attention. Then passed on to the ones who pay attention to them. And then on to the ones who pay attention to them.

That's, you know, how influence works. You don't tell people what to think but because you have that platform and because you can make those compelling arguments you can convince people to go out and make your arguments for you. That members of our influential elite either don't understand this or don't care about it is precisely why they're so dangerously negligent. In their removed circles it's all an intellectual game but in the outside world, there are real people that they're really affecting. And it's about time they recognized it.

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