Thursday, October 23, 2008

The times, they are a changin'

It's been said that this presidential campaign is historic. It is, in many ways. We have the potential to elect either the first African-American president or first female Vice President. Obama has raised more money than any other candidate in history. And the list goes on.

But I think there is something more subtle afoot that is just as historic. Once upon a time, candidates could do or say pretty much whatever they wanted. They could withhold information and not expect to be called on it. The information we got on the candidates came from their campaigns and the media. Today, that is changing.

In this age of viral emails, internet blogging, YouTube and instant fact checking, the rules are changing. No more can a candidate speak falsehoods and not expect to be called on it. Speeches made at campaign stops are videotaped and uploaded onto YouTube and reach an audience far beyond those faithful souls in attendance. TV interviews are replayed endlessly on the internet. Bloggers can check facts and let everyone know that someone's lying.

All of this is, in my opinion, great. McCain is losing in no small part because he and his campaign don't understand the new reality. Unfortunately, it also means that lies and innuendo and smear campaigns can be used as well.

McCain has never said that Obama is Muslim. But thousands of people believe he is. They've seen this falsehood spread through emails and blogs and even reported on by the main stream media.

This campaign has been ugly. In some part by the candidates themselves but also by their supporters. Polite discourse is dead and gone. The extremists on both sides feel empowered to post articles and comments on websites, make flair on Facebook and post video on YouTube to prove their point no matter how offensive or hurtful it may be.

I for one don't want to go back. But we need to agree to disagree without resorting to verbal violence. Certainly, the more moderate among us need to speak louder.

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