Thanks to the Internet, societal change is faster.

2012-05-09 20:04

Back in 2011, Rick Perry was whining about how there is “something wrong in this country when gays can openly serve in the military”. Ten years ago, that might have been a selling point, politically. But then, ten years ago, you didn’t find out, in real time, how people felt about things.

And this means that, politically, the gay rights issue is now heavily weighted towards the opinions of people who are not afraid of computers, because they’re the ones who are getting heard. So now, it’s not all down to the old retired folks who have the time to write letters; public opinion leaders are writing from coffeeshops with wireless.

Yes, Colorado’s speaker of the house sat on a civil unions bill until the session ran out. But the governor is calling a special session to force a vote, because people are sick of politicians avoiding the issue.

Speaking of politicians not avoiding the issue, when the President comes out and says he supports gay marriage, it’s not days or weeks before people hear. It’s hours. And then they get to see feedback, and it’s not just the most scared or outraged who are getting heard, it’s everybody. And people are seeing, more and more quickly, that more and more people have changed sides. Thing about social animals is, their societies can change really rapidly when the time comes… for better or worse.

When Obama made his statement, Fox News went with the headline “OBAMA FLIP FLOPS, DECLARES WAR ON MARRIAGE”. Within an hour or two, they’d edited it. But, thanks to the modern world, they can’t pretend they didn’t do it. And thanks to the cultural shifts in our society, they don’t feel comfortable leaving a blatant lie like that up.

This isn’t over, in that it’ll be many years before we stop seeing attempts to legislate discrimination against gays. However, for the US as a whole, I think we have reached the point where such legislation is going to be a liability to the legislators, rather than an asset. And that, in turn, probably means that we’re going to see fewer and fewer politicians supporting it, because the fact is, a lot of people don’t actually feel that strongly that gay marriage is the End Of All Things; they just thought their voters did.

Got news for you, folks: Lots of people who have historically voted Republican have decided that, if we are going to make the government smaller and more efficient, one way would be by ceasing this pointless and totally failed attempt to legislate reality. There are people who think Obama is a horrible president, but who will vote for him over Romney simply because Obama doesn’t try to deny the essential humanity and dignity of their friends and families.

I have to say: I did not expect our politically-savvy President to come out and say anything strong on this topic, certainly not befeore the election. I guess the poll results on DADT were better than expected.

Peter Seebach

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Comment

  1. Wow. News travels so much faster these days than back when we had to wait half a day between the evening Star and the morning Tribune. Then they invented… RADIO!

    Societal change hasn’t gotten faster, just the news cycle. Acceptance of gay marriage still rests on people getting to know gay couples in their community and realizing they’re not pedophiles. The biggest technological change is that television is now part of the community. Like when Lucy and Ricky had a baby on national TV. Or later, when Kirk and Uhuru shared a multi-racial kiss— under duress, admittedly, but it was still a huge deal.

    Dave Leppik · 2012-05-10 11:02 · #

  2. Even then, rate of information shift was noticably different. There was a noticeable delay from events to events being in the paper to the paper reaching people. Radio was faster for the people listening to it, but…

    I’d guess it was maybe half an hour from Obama’s announcement to everyone I know having heard of it.

    And I think the feedback and ease of publication matters hugely; it’s not just that we see the news, but we see the responses of hundreds to thousands of other people almost immediately.

    seebs · 2012-05-10 11:32 · #

  3. The big difference really is that the internet is the first medium to allow people to express their minds and thoughts w/o any kind of proxy.
    With any classic media you were at the mercy of the people working for it weather your voice was heard or not.
    The Internet allowed the creation of communication channels (news groups, mailing lists, forums, blogs, comments, twitter, social networks) that allowed people to express their own opinion.
    I think this can’t be emphasized enough, because we probably haven’t even discovered all of the consequences yet. Something like “Israel loves Iran” wouldn’t be possible w/o the internet, for example.

    Christian · 2012-05-11 04:47 · #

 
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