Everyone summarizes information. We do it so we can move forward with our lives without digging deeper into a subject. We do it because we reach comfortable conclusions and don't feel the need to linger. Out of these summaries are born all sorts of stereotypes, urban legends, myths, religious sects, biases, AND BLOGS! I began thinking about this as I talk to partisans at work regarding the election. It stood out to me because I feel like I don't have a dog in the fight. I will list some of my favorite summary conclusions I've heard in the last few years.
- My daddy said that all of them (Asians) are basically Korean so I just call them all Korean.
- All Republicans seem to care about is expanding their own wealth.
- All Democrats seem to care about is taking wealth from people who earn it.
- There were three wisemen at the nativity.
- All the media cares about is controlling what we think.
- Why do all men seem to just drool over skinny bitches?
- All religions are basically the same.
- Most people on welfare are just working the system.
There are tons more but some of these are my favorites. There is an element of truth in these statements and you can rationally understand why someone would draw these conclusions but any thinking person knows the story doesn't end there.
The more I look at the way political campaigns organize their message, they are counting on you to summarize the information. They are not interested in you understanding any particular policy or devising an opinion about it. They want you to summarize your beliefs and distill them down to a simple matter of trust. Is Obama a terrorist or is he Muslim? Is McCain too old or is he a warmonger?
If you refuse to summarize at that level then they still have a strategy for you. It's called the wedge issue. It's for you that won't summarize at the personal level but still will summarize based upon an issue you care about deeply, but still really won't impact the nation. Same sex marriage? Abortion? Energy independence? Healthcare? These issues are only talked about in terms of fear. Because you care deeply a candidate will never run behind these issues but will instead warn you that the opponent will take a position that will make you fearful about it. In this realm Democrats are after your guns and Republicans will starve old people and school children.
Still not you? Won't summarize at the personal level and don't care about wedge issues? Then you're probably still undecided or unenthusiastic about voting. You probably also only vote in general elections and couldn't name many of your local politicians.
Is this still not you?
Well, let me just summarize it this way for you:
You're probably much like me. Let's be friends.