We swim in a stream of other people’s perceptions and opinions. If we don’t go to the source of information when we can, experience it directly, and make up our own mind, all we really know is what other people think.
Have you heard the President’s big campaign speech about the economy that he gave last week, or the one he gave on immigration on Friday? Or, for that matter, the ones Mitt Romney gave on the same topics? Lawrence O’Donnell doesn’t think so. He doesn’t think you take your information straight up. He thinks you take it mediated.
In the middle of Thursday afternoon June 14th, the President gave a big campaign speech about the economy. In the 54-minute speech, President Obama described how we got to this difficult place as well as, in his view, the stark choice voters needed to make in the upcoming president election about how to address it.
Lawrence O’Donnell doesn’t think you tuned in at the time or sought it out later. “Not many people heard the whole speech,” said the MSNBC host at the top of his show that night. I’m afraid he’s probably right. Who has the time or interest to listen to the whole 54-minute thing? And what difference does it make if you don’t?
The same day, Mitt Romney made a substantial statement about his view of the economy, in a speech delivered one hour before the President gave his. What a perfect opportunity for voters to size up the two presidential candidates!
Again last week, Romney made a major address about immigration and the economy to the National Alliance of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) on Thursday, followed by President Obama’s speech to the same group the following day.
But if you know anything at all about these speeches, the overwhelming majority of people got a clip or two on the mainstream evening news, or their cable political shows of choice, or whatever internet news sources they subscribe to. A few people read about them in a newspaper the next day. They might have caught a bit on The Daily Show.
So mostly what people know about the speeches is what other people said about them.
The problem is if we don’t hear the speeches themselves, the information we get has already been filtered, interpreted, selected—mediated. We may form an opinion, but it would be prudent to acknowledge that such opinions are based on someone else’s perception, not on our own. And in the age of cable punditry, that “someone else” likely has a very particular point of view and selects what to highlight accordingly.
We live in a stream of other people’s opinions. If we don’t go to the source of information, experience it directly, and make up our own mind, all we really know is what other people think.
Is that the best way to pick a president?
CRITICAL THINKING OPPORTUNITY: Here are links to the four speeches. Take a break from the mediated info-tides and plunge in to the straight stuff. Let me know what you think. And here’s a great resource, an archive of speeches and advertisements from American politics: Unedited Politics
President Obama on the economy, June 14, 2012: http://bit.ly/N2Zo6M 53.17 minutes
Mitt Romney on the economy, June 14, 2012: http://mi.tt/M710gD (Please note: this is as much of his speech as I could find anywhere. This is from his campaign website, and is only a small portion of the entire statement.) 2:24 minutes
President Obama on immigration and the economy, June 22, 2012: http://cs.pn/Mp7oPD (Please note: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis introduces the president first.) 42:29 minutes
Mitt Romney on immigration and the economy, June 21, 2012: http://cs.pn/Kwpr1V (Please note: A Mr. Vasquez introduces Mitt Romney.) 28:35 minutes