Thursday, January 25

:: When Democracy Sucks

We all love democracy, but there are some issues that demand a certain amount of expertise and/or deal with fundamental principles. Such issues should not be decided by the average voter, nor by the average office-holder elected by the average voter. Case in point, from WaPo – “Gore Film Sparks Parents’ Anger”:

"No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming," Hardiman wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.

His angry e-mail (along with complaints from a few other parents) stopped the film from being shown to Hardiman's daughter.

The teacher in that science class, Kay Walls, says that after Hardiman's e-mail she was told by her principal that she would receive a disciplinary letter for not following school board rules that require her to seek written permission to present "controversial" materials in class.

The e-mail also pressured the school board to impose a ban on screenings of the film for the district's 22,500 students.
This situation is a sterling example of successful pressure politics. First, find a target who is ambivalent / not focused on your issue and is sensitive to public opinion or conflict averse. Next, start shouting to high heaven that there is something wrong or something has offended you. Make clear in your shouting that your target has the power to make the problem go away. Then, watch target blanch at the unwanted attention. Look closely and you can see the target twitching like a kangaroo in an elevator. Finally, watch target give you what you want if you’ll just promise to park your circus in someone else’s gazebo.

It works for toddlers in the supermarket, it works for picketers, and it works for wackaloons. File it under “effective tactics.”

This story also reinforces a separate but related principle:
In the end, though, the board opted for an abundance of balance. That means that "An Inconvenient Truth" may be shown only with the written permission of a principal -- and only when it is balanced by alternative views that are approved by both a principal and the superintendent of schools.

His daughter's science teacher, meanwhile, said she is struggling to find authoritative articles to counter the information in the Gore documentary.

"The only thing I have found so far is an article in Newsweek called 'The Cooling World,'" Walls said. It was written 37 years ago.
What principle does this story reinforce? Why, its “sh-t always rolls downhill,” of course.

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