Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trenches Too Deep (Part Two)

Like many of you, I have taken much pride in being a progressive submerged in conservative surroundings. After all, when I started Lefty's Last Cry, the title description was "Treading Water in The Pool of Crosses and Credit Cards."

With this in mind, I realized how important the tough fight is for the political soul. Whether you attend a conservative university, or you do something like start a discussion group in your dorm called "Big Issues and WhatKnott" to hash out the major topics with conservative neighbors, or live in a state that people have told you your whole life is a "red state" (not anymore :), you are really only as progressive as your battlefield has demanded. We should never ascribe virtue to cocooning ourselves politically.

The good thing is, the internet isn't cocooning us at all. It isn't digging deeper trenches. It's making it easier to cross the line and visit our opponents. I guarantee it's much more difficult to talk to the gun rights militias in person than it is to read and understand their motives through the internet. I guarantee I spend much more time visiting conservative websites like FoxNews.com to see what they're discussing than I do actually watching Fox News on television. It's much easier to probe into the other side through internet than it is with older forms of media. The internet offers a sense of agency and control that is less invasive and threatening than older forms of communication.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. David Brooks wrote a column today in the New York Times that inspired my post about how the internet community is more likely to cross the fence to take a peek.
"People who spend a lot of time on Glenn Beck’s Web site are more likely to visit The New York Times’s Web site than average Internet users. People who spend time on the most liberal sites are more likely to go to foxnews.com than average Internet users."
Brooks cites a study conducted by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro of the University of Chicago School of Business that examined idealogical segregation on the internet. The study is very thorough and I encourage all of you to read it here. For a snippet, check out this beautiful data below:
While older generations might be quick to blame the internet for polarization, this study suggests otherwise. The great thing is, blogs like Lefty's Last Cry can become forums of discussion without having large barriers to entry for the commenting types. As long as they can back up claims, they are free to make them, even anonymously. If they feel intimidated by our Troll Patrol, then they can disappear without making a scene.

In the end, I want to encourage you to examine your own political trench. For most of my life, I have been out on the battlefield, exposing myself to all kinds of conservative views. Recently, I've noticed that my trench has gotten a little too deep, which is why I intend to pull myself out a little more. I hope I have inspired you to do the same.

Good Day,

Henry Vasquez

PS: Please vote in the poll (about your political trench) and invite your conservative friends to visit Lefty's too!


ChrisBabcock said...

Great post Henry, I've always wondered about the effects of the internet on ideological segregation. This post has inspired me to do some introspection as to how deep my own political trench is.

Rabi Abonour said...

Great post.
Getting stuck in your trench prevents you from being able to make independent, properly-informed decisions.

Andrea Watts said...

inspiring 100th post Henry :)