These visualizations represent the frequency of the top 75 significant words from tonight’s State of the Union Address, as reported in the Washington Post. The visualization was prepared using the Wordle web service.
This data visualization showed the linking between conservative (red) and liberal (blue) blogs in 2004. Particularly interesting is the relatively fewer links between the two ideologies, and comparatively few blogs in the center.
This rather old study seems all the more relevant given the frequency we hear about “deep divides” between liberals and conservatives on every major issue. More troubling to me is the seeming replacement of fact-based reporting with “he said / she said” commentary alternates, where news has been replaced with merely letting opponents spew talking points without any critical review or fact checking.
Selective Exposure Debate
As we read news and opinion on the web, do we exclusively stick to sources that we agree with, or do we spend time “on the other side of the street?” Is it normal and natural for us to stick with people that think as we do, and if so how do we challenge our thinking and grow over time? Do a Google search on selective exposure debate and I think you’ll see that there is general agreement that selective exposure does happen, i.e. that people do choose viewpoints and world views that align with their own. There may be less agreement on whether people actively reject opposite viewpoints, or simply don’t give those viewpoints time during their on-line sessions. This dry, somewhat academic-sounding “debate” is vitally important to us today as we consider the deep divide between liberal and conservative viewpoints, or if we seek to understand underlying causes for religious and ethnic intolerance.
Article Credit, Visualization Information
“The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog”, March 4, 2005 by Lada Adamic, HP Labs, Palo Alto, CA and Natalie Glance, Natalie Glance, Intelliseek Applied Research Center, Pittsburgh, PA.
Figure 1: Community structure of political blogs (expanded set), shown using utilizing a GEM layout  in the GUESS visualization and analysis tool. The colors reflect political orientation, red for conservative, and blue for liberal. Orange links go from liberal to conservative, and purple ones from conservative to liberal. The size of each blog reflects the number of other blogs that link to it. (Click the image for a larger version.)
In case you missed it, there’s a freaky internet political ad that’s gone viral that features a DEMON SHEEP. It was done for (to?) the Carly Fiorina Senate campaign, and attacked her republican primary rival, Tom Campbell. The other candidate in the three-way GOP primary race, Chuck DeVore, has been making hay with the brouhaha.
What’s freaky about it? Well at the 2:26 point in the video, the fellow in the picture associated with this post makes his appearance. Yes, it’s that weird. (So the video is on the long side, but it’s worth it for the juxtaposition of happy sheep, scary red-eyed rug wearing guys, and clip-art people.)
I laughed when I first saw it and decided to forget it, but then today Andrew Sullivan in the The Pink Floyd Remix linked to this mash up, where the sound track had been brilliantly replaced with Pink Floyd’s Sheep:
(I’m terrible at understanding lyrics, so I copied the lyrics to Sheep at the end of this post.)
The longish Web ad depicts fiscal conservatives as sheep — now there’s an interesting choice for the ad’s story line — and paints Campbell as a bad sheep menacing the good fiscal-conservative sheep as they munch away in a meadow.
Here’s the original ad:
Chuck DeVore unleashed a funny “let’s make the campaign be about the issues” repsonse at the newly created demonsheep.org web site. Demonsheep.org is the home of the “Society for the Eradication of Demon Sheep from our Political Discourse” (S.F.T.E.O.D.S.F.O.P.D.). Pretty predictable, I thought, until I saw the website’s mascot:
(A play on the classic meme All your base are belong to us, Wikipedia.)
Sheep, Pink Floyd:
Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out,
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.
What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real.
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal shock in your eyes.
Now things are really what they seem.
No, this is no bad dream.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green He leadeth me the silent waters by.
With bright knives He releaseth my soul.
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places.
He converteth me to lamb cutlets,
For lo, He hath great power, and great hunger.
When cometh the day we lowly ones,
Through quiet reflection, and great dedication
Master the art of karate,
Lo, we shall rise up,
And then we’ll make the bugger’s eyes water.
Bleating and babbling I fell on his neck with a scream.
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream.
Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home
And do as you’re told.
Get out of the road if you want to grow old.
We live in a world that increasingly demands more dialogue than monologue. President Obama’s January 29th question-and-answer session with Republican leaders gave the public a remarkable window into the state of our union and governing process. It was riveting and educational. The exchanges were substantive, civil and candid. And in a rare break from our modern politics, sharp differences between elected leaders were on full public display without rancor or ridicule.
Here’s a cause I think everyone concerned about the state of politics an policy in our country can get behind. Read the excerpt below, visit the site, watch the movie. Decide for yourself and if you agree that we need civil debate and “sunlight”, join me and Sign the Petition! (“Sunlight is the best disinfectant” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, referring to the benefits of openness and transparency.)
See Demand Question Time for more details and a list of the petition’s backers…. from both political parties.
The President takes questions from Republican members of the House of Representatives at the GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore, MD. January 29, 2010: