04 January 2008

Mock the Vote (Don't Mock the Vote, baby)

Watching primary season from abroad gives you a decidedly different perspective.

In 03/04 I was working for Comcast (don't hate the player, hate the game) and experienced some of the candidates campaigning firsthand in New Hampshire where our regional headquarters was located. Being in the cable industry also meant that in the office the television was always on and the rolling stock of CNN, FOX, MSNBC and others was unavoidable. You could see how a single comment in the morning would be picked up by a network and broadcast over and over again, taking on a life of its own. It was my first real appreciation for how the mainstream media creates news, rather than reporting it. The destruction of the Dean campaign over the now infamous scream was testament to the power of media ridicule.

Normally the vitriolic neoconservative mockery from the mainstream news outlets is balanced by the likes of Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Al Franken and others on the late night circuit who, while certainly on the liberal side of the US political spectrum, are a bit more 'fair and balanced' in the distribution of their scorn. However the immediate lead-up to the primaries has also coincided with the Writer's strike in Hollywood, meaning that most of these shows are off the air, and the candidates are thus essentially getting a free ride from what passes for a liberal mainstream press.

As an oversees voter I am spared the pain of the two year long build-up to the election, choosing where and how I get my news. The onus is on me to inform myself on the candidates, their policies, their history etc. YouTube has been very interesting, though lacking in true debate it gives the opportunity for more than mere soundbites from each candidate, many of whom have uploaded full town-hall meetings. However I do miss my nightly Daily Show on More4, if only for the warm feeling of collective smugness it engenders in me.

While this election, being the first in the Web 2.0 age, affords me the opportunity to make my most informed political choice ever, it is of course all a moot point, for as an oversees voter my vote is almost certainly never going to be counted. Greg Palast has written on the subject online and in his books, all of which are worth checking out. Between the numerous scams used to remove absentee voters from the register, to the simple fact that most election results are called before a single overseas vote is counted makes it difficult for me to see my participation in the election process as anything other than an exercise in painful futility. In comparison Big Brother votes seem infinitely more democratic. The results are also almost certainly less likely to destroy the world.



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