Using the internet to learn about politics, with three months to go before a presidential election, is a lot like using the internet to learn how to treat your friend’s sucking chest wound as he lies dying on the floor. It’s even worse in some ways, since I doubt anyone anyone is going to interrupt their first aid instructions with a seventeen-paragraph endorsement of laissez-faire economics.
After three days of reading and research, I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who actually knows what the hell goes on in Washington isn’t willing to tell you about it unless they’re being paid or pushing an agenda.
Three days. I’m pretty sure I can build a log cabin in less time than it took me to learn nothing about the United States government.
First Hour: I found many sites willing to tell me the United States has three branches of government, what those branches do, and what checks they provide to each other. The same broad strokes everyone learns in ninth-grade social studies. You can learn more by watching The West Wing.
Second Hour: I learned why there are two houses of Congress, and more or less what they do. Also, Nancy Pelosi is the Whore of Babylon. Wait, what? Well now, that certainly came out of nowhere.
Fifth Hour: I was deep in primary and caucus land, running up to an assault on the national conventions of the two major political parties. On the way, I met a fellow who wanted me to know that Ralph Nader can go fuck himself for costing us the election in 2000. Um…
Tenth Hour: What the fuck is an uncommitted delegate and why do we have them? And why did McCain choose Sarah Palin over Mitt Romney in 2008? Was it because Romney’s tax records show him investing in everything from booze to Christian-themed sex toys?
Twentieth Hour: I found myself reading the Federalist Papers while trying to ignore the legions of people banging on my door to tell me the Federal Reserve is the single greatest horror ever visited upon a free people, and that a chicken-based economy would make more sense.
Thirtieth Hour: I started hallucinating. Tell my mother I love her.
After thirty-six hours I realized there’s no upside for the Powers That Be, should I learn what’s actually going on. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, and conservatives–there’s no reason for them to educate the people when 30 second appeals to emotion get us to vote the way they want. And the ones who do bother to educate are really just sermonizing.
If you set aside the high-school-level summaries, I wasn’t able to find a single site willing to teach me about politics without putting their own views front and center. That’s not education, it’s propaganda, and the libertarian crowd came out looking the worst.
I believe people who beat the drum of informed consent as much as free-market advocates must be held to a higher standard when expressing their views. Anyone who claims to value a system based on the rational self-interest of an informed people should have nothing to fear by presenting a detailed description of how things work, and allowing readers to come to their own conclusions.
Anyway, if you were ever seriously worried the internet would make books obsolete, you can rest easy tonight.