In the '60s, the media pushed the country against the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive bled onto living room TV sets, Walter Cronkite came out against the war, citizens were outraged and convinced.
The same with Watergate: Central and somewhat trusted media outlets pushed and probed and exposed and again, citizens were outraged and convinced.
Now, the lament (in liberal circles) is that, no matter what crimes the Bush administration commits, nothing sticks. Approval ratings plummet but still: no big trials, no major special prosecutors, no impeachment hearings, no outrage, no one convinced.
The problem is that The Information Age is exactly the opposite. There's no longer anything even close to a consensus of where we gather truth. This isn't the information age, it's the blather-ation age. All we have is a trillion sources from which to choose truths we want to believe.
In the national newspaper of record, Maureen Dowd slams away at the Bush administration with what seem like irrefutable facts and irrepressibly funny venom... to no real effect. Even 20 years ago, it would have been outrageous/disrespectful -- impactful -- for a columnist for the New York Times to be so vehement. Now, conservatives slough her off and liberals read her partially for ammunition and partially for entertainment.
And if Maureen isn't entertaining enough, we turn to Bill Maher. He makes a grudging effort to have a dissenting viewpoint on his show and a gallant attempt to maintain civility. Usually he out-debates his conservative guest with a combination of his impeccable logic, his emcee bully-pulpit, his stand-up skills and his home crowd advantage. It should be somewhat satisfying and yet, and the end of every show, he looks more exasperated with the impossibility of having any tangible impact.
Preaching to the choir is a deadening experience.
Then again, preaching to the heathens isn't much better. On the right, a respected conservative columnist like David Brooks in the New York Times sounds more and more desperate in his attempts to gently get liberals to think another way. Ask a Maureen Dowd fan if he or she read David Brooks today and you get this put upon reaction of, "I started reading but by the third paragraph, I just couldn't stand it anymore."
Instead, we spend our lives preparing for an argument we'll never have with a person we'll never meet whose opinions we could never change.
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