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The Circus and The Horserace

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"The Industrial/Military/Media/Government complex is killing us." - World 5.0: Transmission 1.

One might have thought, given the clear message from the American people a few weeks ago, that the media circus might have considered it an appropriate time to consider their 'presentations' and make an effort to improve their offering and focus on the many issues that we are beset with in this country.

We might have heard hard-hitting questions to Speaker-elect Pelosi on exactly how she intends to make The Congress transparent in its actions. We might have heard about the prospects for a New American Dream based Apollo Alliance-type alternative energy and community development. We might have heard substantial discussion on whether the some legislators of the last congress potentially face investigations for illegal conduct. We might have...

Instead, we've seen the quick return to media-as-usual, which means media-that-sucks, which means we can trust them no further than we could a month ago. Oh, we'll see an occasional PBS or Sixty Minutes piece that's inspiring. The more astute will look for crumbs from Olberman or watch Dobbs dance his way between populism and corporatism. But we're not seeing any sort of refocusing that would indicate a real interest in democracy over the continued elitist agenda.

There's a clear example in the highly speculative waste of airtime on the 2008 presidential election. Of course reporters long ago learned "people don't care about issues, they want the horserace!" But that bit of info has been usurped from any potential usefulness by the brazen attempt to move attention to the 2008 election when the 2006 congress has yet to be sworn in!

Considering the horserace, forget the fact that there are four or five contenders on each side, with little change on a daily or weekly basis at two years out. There's just not much else to know from that angle. Forget just how forgettable all this banter is, and how it wastes your/our time. Forget that history shows, especially in these times, that unforeseen events will play a huge effect in the 2008 presidential election.

So what's the deal? Why the vacuum on social topics of import to us all? How do we create/restore ethics and integrity to our government? How do create sustainable jobs with living wages? How do we promote growth and protect our crumbling environment? Sorry folks, we got a horse race here, and, well, dammit it's important.

Dammit it's not. Not for another year and a half anyway. What's important now is how we set the stage for that election. Are the voting machines fixed yet? Was there a four or five point undervote that could have been crucial had Republicans proved just a little less miserable as leaders? Are the positions and intentions of our new congress already so well iterated that they need no attention or discussion?

Hardly. The lesson here is to see just how far we have yet to travel to create an equitable and just society. How far we are from a healthy culture. And how entrenched the current power structure is.

We've had our populist victory and we've had our Thanksgiving, but it's time to get back to work. As these are the New Times, we just have to figure out what that means.

For starters, more of us are finding news, analysis and opinion online. The diversity of available sources and the ever growing efforts to repost the best work are creating a virtual news and oped network, if currently a bit disorganized.

Surely the Netroots will continue to play a larger and more substantial role. Moveon and other organizations are considering which causes they should champion. Our continued support of these kinds of organizations is critical to the movement.

The folks at DailyKOS have created a new Wiki template for tracking congressional legislation. Tools like this can expand our understanding of these potential laws dramatically, not to mention creating a level of transparency never before possible.

Think globally, act locally. We can't, generally, have much impact on the national media circus. But this scene changes dramatically when we look towards local media venues. We can far more easily get a story done or an article published in our local media. Even in these times of conglomerate ownership, local resources are not immune to local pressure.

Whether it's the slant of a story that is clearly biased, or a topic being ignored or misrepresented, we can react in ways much harder to ignore, whether that be through demonstrations or letter-writing campaigns.

Never forget your power to change the channel or turn the TV off. Very empowering to shut up some crappy commentator by turning the damn box off.

A final thought: Run for office! Caring and intelligent candidates with a progressive agenda can have a huge impact on our communities through school boards, city councils and county agencies.

Of course running for office isn't for everyone, but we can all be a part of transforming The Circus into a viable communication medium.
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Jim Prues is the Founder of World 5.0 and President of Panoptic Media. He understands that 'democracy is not a spectator sport.'

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