March 6, 2011
Three lessons learned
By Bill Kraus
1. There is no pleasing the macho true believers. It is their way or no way. Overheard at a Lincoln Day dinner in Wisconsin Rapids: “If Walker gives in on anything, I’ll never vote for him again.”
The Floating Fourteen are undoubtedly getting the same message from their radical adherents as well.
If we take talk, compromise, and respect out of governance, what’s left? Totalitarianism? A caller to a radio call-in show not too long ago accused me of compromising and went on to denigrate that very idea. I asked him how his marriage was going. He hung up.
Hanging up ranks right up there with walking out of the room.
2. The internet is a gold mine of information, but it ain’t journalism. The internet is a miracle, but when used as an information source (excepting, of course, the websites by reputable newspapers which are electronic versions of what they are printing) it is user activated and single sourced. The people who rely on internet sources for their information are a.) likely to go to sites produced by the like-minded and, b.) don’t know or care that what the like-minded are saying has not had to suffer the indignity of validation by the tiresome process of listening to more than one source. The danger of single sourcing is that it susceptible to bias and to dispensing opinions disguised as facts.
A recent example of the internet’s shortcoming and the desperate need for journalists and the rules of journalism concerned a controversial proposal by Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The plaintiff’s case arguing that what Fitzgerald proposed was unconstitutional got widespread distribution on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet to the great pleasure of those on one side of the argument. The next day a newspaper asked if there might be two sides to this argument. There were. The newspaper published both opinions.
At about the same time a story was being merchandised on the internet about the damage being done to the revered state Capitol by its protesting temporary inhabitants. That story too fell from its partisan pleasing pedestal when a newspaper challenged its accuracy and reported that it was wildly overblown at best and mostly just plain wrong.
Internetism is not built to do what journalism does routinely and, one hopes, responsibly.
3. Most voters want a government that works. It follows, then, that it is in the best long-term interests of those who have been elected to govern to do just that, to govern. Flirting with inaction for any reason is dangerously distracting and could be bad for one’s electoral health.
When the Fitzgerald brothers spoke at a recent WisPolitics forum, they agreed that they had two years to live, that they were not given their amazing majorities to do nothing.
They are, of course, proposing to do something. Actually, they are proposing to do many things. None of them easy or pleasant. Where they may go astray is if the things that they are trying to do or the way they do things end in a prolonged stalemate.
They will then have not done what they proposed to do, and they will have tested the limited patience of a very significant part of the population that quickly tires of the rhetoric and wants them to get on with it, for better or worse.
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I am guilty for reading only like-minded reports on the Wisconsin thing. My thoughts tend to align with yours. What rational sources of opposing viewpoints do you suggest? I cannot and will not listen to talk radio. Thanks.
-Mary | Torrance, CA | March 6, 2011
Bill as usual is very thoughtful and articulate. However, he misses the boat on the question of damage to the Capitol. The totally wrong $7.5 million estimate was not just a wild internet rumor. It was sworn testimony by Scott Walker's chief aide, DOA Secty Huebsch, in the court case about opening the Capitol.
Re: flexibility and working out a solution, the Senate Democrats have repeatedly indicated their desire to negotiate. It is Scott Walker who has repeatedly and publicly said that he will not negotiate or compromise and indicated, on the phone call with "David Koch" that any offer negotiate he might make would just a ruse.
-Spencer Black | Madison, WI | March 7, 2011
Mr. Kraus is certainly correct that the internet lends itself to the creation of echo chambers where every one yells the same thing at roughly the same time. The problem - so is electronic and, increasingly, print media. See yesterday's WSJ opinion piece on the "Budget Repair Bill" (BRB) silent on the fact that BRB is about exterminating public sector unions and, thus, single party rule in the state. To keep up with current events, I read history.
-Peter Lewis | Madison, Wisconsin | March 7, 2011
You made so many straw men in this piece, I think your column is a fire hazard.
Strident Ideologues vs. Rational Thoughtful Compromisers. Of course the old middle ground is best, that is why Mason and Dixon are worshiped worldwide. And when the extremists elected Lincoln, that turned into a big war that wasn't really necessary. Slavery? Let's compromise. Abortion? Let's compromise- I'll light this strawman on fire while you hold it.
The Internet vs. Professional Journalism ethics. The internet is a medium, the internet is to communication as newsprint & ink is to communication. My opinion is that the only place where you will in fact find "Professional Journalism" is on the internet. Go check out al jezeera English. Compare to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post. Then light this strawman on fire. Media conglomeration through corporatization cannot co-exist with professional journalism ethics. Which is why people look to communication on the internet. Are there liars communicating on the internet? Sure. See Wisconsin State Journal for liars on newsprint.
"Voters who don't want government that works" vs. "Voters who want government that works". You assert "What Most Voters Want is a government that works". In other words, what most voters want is a government that does what they want the government to do. There is no such thing as a "government that works" outside the context of what that "work" should be. And there is vast disagreement on exactly what "work" they should be "working on". So the truth is, there is no agreement. Which explains why 16 State Senators are in the process of recall. Light this strawman up, when one Boss tells us to dig and the other Boss tells us to fill in, don't expect much "work" to get done.
"Three lessons learned". Let's see, creating strawmen is easy. Creating strawmen lets you sound all "reasonable". Creating strawmen should not be part of professional journalism ethics.
-Tim | Barron, WI | March 7, 2011
Hey Tim from Barron, Kraus is one of those flaming moderates who have led us to this impass. Ideology is always bad for them, especially when it proves them wrong. As for creating strawmen he is a past master. How do you think old "Flannel Mouth" Dreyfus got elected? By platitudes that knocked down straw men!
-Griebnotz Doerkpfester | Happily No Longer Living In Walkerville, WI. | March 8, 2011