I'm writing in response to Paul Rogat Loeb's recent article at OpEdNews, "Foley's Meltdown-The Seductions of Clicking," and to Rob Kall's comment at the end. I believe this was an extremely critical topic that deserves a bit more attention. Also, I have another take on the matter, which may well effect the rest of your life-literally.
The point of Paul's article I came away with was that it's important to stop clicking that mouse, get off our duffs and go do some phone calling, as advocated for example by MoveOn.org, or get out in our neighborhoods spreading the word or helping to monitor at the polls. If we sit around gloating at the GOP's implosion, we're wasting our time in this ever-so critical election.
I have nothing against what Paul advocates, and I say, "Go for it!" if you're so inclined. I tell you I've done my share of those things and I surely don't want to discourage anyone from making a bunch of phone calls if that's what they're good at.
But please DO NOT stop clicking that mouse! I want you to click it like you've never done before, and I'm going to tell you why.
A hundred years or so ago, I heard there was a group running around the campus of the University of Utah trying to collect signatures to get biologist Barry Commoner on the ballot for presidential candidate. Having read some of Barry's work, I wanted to help by writing an article for The Daily Chronicle, the school's student newspaper. So I ran around the campus myself trying to find the head honcho behind all this, to get more information.
I found him somewhere and told him what I planned to do and could he give me more information, such as where people could sign that petition? This elderly gentleman promptly chewed my ass out, and condemned me for not running around the campus like he and his cadres were doing, then stormed off, petitions in hand.
I wrote the article anyway, and the Chronicle published it.
Two weeks later there was a knock on my door. I opened it and there was that guy who'd chewed me out, who had somehow found out where I lived. I invited him in. "I came to apologize," he said. "After your article was printed, people were coming to our booth in droves. It accomplished far more than I ever thought possible, and spared us a whole lot of walking."
As I said, do go walk and talk if you're so inclined. But before you do, and especially if you don't, consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, encouraging folks to get out and vote if they're unhappy with how things are going. If you live near a college, get a letter into that student newspaper, asap. Letters to the editor reach huge amounts of people, and many people read those things before anything else.
That said, I very well understand if you're still disinclined. Not everyone feels comfortable knocking on doors, calling strangers, or writing letters to the editor. I hate knocking on doors and calling strangers myself, and I've done enough to know. But I now bring some excellent news for the mouse clickers amongst us!
Recent research in presidential elections came up with a truckload of facts, which I've cut and pasted and tried to squish in a nutshell:
- After controlling for personal attitudes and demographic membership, researchers found social networks that voters are embedded in, which exert powerful influences on their voting behavior.
- We do not merely act on information we receive directly from the media. We get new information, interpretation, re-interpretation and influence via our social networks.
- Often, those eligible to vote, do not register, or are registered and choose not to vote. A common excuse given is that a single vote does not count for much. We saw in the 2000 presidential election how the tipping point of the whole national outcome was determined by a few hundred local votes. The power of a single vote has never been so obvious.
- Voter turnout is highly correlated among family, friends, and co-workers. If those in your social network vote, and make that known, then there is a much higher probability that you will vote also. We are all influenced by those who we view as similar to us.
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