Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Polarized Nebraskan

Polarization Present in the 

Daily Nebraskan

Based on the article 

"Voting is a privilege for contributing members of society"

     Throughout this class, we have been exposed to multiple works from experts on polarization in the United States and in specific communities. One piece of writing I stumbled across is not by an expert, but certainly someone with a strong opinion. Zach Nold in the Daily Nebraskan gives a unique and provoking idea set, which caused pandemonium in the online and traditional readers. 


The Article

     In this article, Nold proclaims that only members of society who contribute more than they receive may vote in elections. Therefore, people who get 50% or more government financial assistance would not be able to vote based on a new law he would like created. There would, of course, be exceptions for people who are disabled, have already worked for 40+ years, and are receiving VA benefits. Now, logically, this opinion is very skewed to the republican side. However, I would like to focus on the polarizing effect it had after citizens read the article rather than the ideas in it. 

The After Effects

     The comments left on the online edition of the article proved to me how articles like this work to push people further into polarization while not allowing themselves  to listen to other opinions. When I stumbled upon this article there were already 62 comments posted after just ten days of publication. The comments range from strong agreement to angered disagreement, but one thing is evident throughout: there is no midpoint in the comments. There aren't him-hawing people commenting on articles that are so pointed as this. People who comment on this are only driven farther into their own polarized opinion and want their own voice heard and agreed with as well. 


      Why do people respond so violently to extreme articles? In my opinion, for the same reason Nold wrote the article. They believe that if they state extreme views they can change other peoples' points of view to agree with them. However, I believe this isn't possible. I don't believe that people will be converted based on someone else's strong opposing position. I believe a person, or someone close to them, needs to have an experience which will change their mind. Political rhetoric such as this is a good jumping off point for discussions of new ideas in communities, however, the polarized comments left by the readers are only becoming more and more extreme from it. 

     Some examples of an already polarized audience being driven back into their opinions more drastically appeared in the comment area of this article. 

·         Rory Larson posted at 6:59 pm on Tue, Oct 30, 2012.
Zach, thank you for your thoughtful article. I think the metaphor that is your premise is that of the 19th century frontier, in which population is scarce and land and resources are free for the taking, and in which a man's only limits are his own hard work and ingenuity. In this situation, success is the measure of one's virtue, and dependency is one's own fault. We might want to balance this image with a different metaphor, however, that may be more in line with present reality. Picture instead a world in which population is high and resources are already owned by someone else who doesn't really need your labor. In this case, you can't live off the land because the owners don't allow you to trespass, and you can't get a job no matter how hard you are willing to work because nobody needs anything you have to offer. Your options are to starve, steal, or take a handout from a government that is taxing the landowners at the same time it guarantees their right to property they couldn't possibly defend on their own against hordes of starving people like you. By taxing them enough to feed you, the government protects the owners by giving everyone else a stake in the system. In this case, who is really reaping the greatest benefits from the government? Best, Rory

·      scoutrichters posted at 1:35 pm on Tue, Oct 30, 2012.
This editorial is idiotic and not fit for publication. Yes, the Bill of Rights did not include an explicit right to vote. However, the Supreme Court has long held that there are certain rights that are guaranteed that can be found in the penumbra of the constitution. As early as 1966, the Court has held that U.S. citizens have a fundamental right to vote that cannot be infringed upon using a wealth classification (Harper v. Virginia State Board of Education). You have no idea what many people who depend on public assistance have endured to put them in that position and very few people enjoy getting these "handouts." The publishing of this editorial seriously calls into question the very credibility of the DN. I am all for editorials, but the opinions expressed in them must be back by evidence and logic, not merely conservative propaganda.

       As well as being pulled to their one side or another, some people actually did come out of their norms to disagree with the article or agree with a different point of view.

o    legalese posted at 9:17 am on Wed, Oct 31, 2012.
So "ONLY" people on welfare will vote for the candidate that will benefit them? Please. Do you really think people who are in the "1%" or make over $250,000 a year don't vote for the candidate who will directly benefits them as well? It is insanely naive to think ONLY those receiving government subsidies vote for the candidate who will benefit them. I'm very conservative, but not afraid to call you out on your double-standard BS. Voting altruistically is prevalent across party lines. Fact.

     These were just three examples of the multitudes to pick from many of the scathing posts to the somewhat contemplative. As a whole, it was shocking to see some of the demeaning things the commentators wrote about Nold personally before they began to analyze his arguments. 

What Do We Do?
       Overall, the experience of reading an article such as this then looking at the effect was eye-opening. It was clear to see that moderation had no place in either side of the debate and none would be found after the comments, either. The internet is a good resource to get your ideas out to the public to be heard; but what is the point if nothing is done because of them? 
     If nothing less, I credit Nold for taking a bold stance and signing his name to it to give people concrete reasons to agree or disagree with him. Just calling the author of a blog/article stupid, uneducated, or a spoiled brat only satisfies your personal vendetta towards them. 
     One way to find moderation is to take the face off of the argument and only look at the facts. It might be easier to agree if it is your friend you are being persuaded by, but a random student on the internet doesn't get a lot of compassion for people and becomes a target. This problem with polarized reactions will not cease because of the internet, but might be made less prominent if people train themselves to not get emotional over something that is only someone else's opinion.      

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