FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Red vs. Blue Rift Widens and Deepens

I had promised myself I wouldn't write anymore about the election and the "red vs. blue" divide, but some of the continued discussion about it in the blogosphere makes that impossible. If the Internet is any kind of a social barometer, a stormfront is approaching.

For starters, you might have seen this little gem come across the wires over the last couple of weeks:

Yes, it's a joke, but it speaks volumes about how people perceive the outcome of the election, and their lack of faith in unity.

The mainstream media long ago said of the election, "Bush won... get over it." But plenty of people aren't about to get over anything anytime soon. One rant that has made the rounds online is the subtly titled "F*** The South". A more eloquent essay along the same lines is "The Urban Archipelago". The message in both pieces is the same: liberal, urban areas that make the "blue" states blue need to stand their ground and reject the conservative policies of the rural, "red" states. And since urban America controls most of the wealth and pays most of the taxes in this country (of which "red" states are the primary beneficiaries), the "blue" states cannot be taken lightly.

For liberals who feel ashamed rather than angry, there's SorryEverybody.com, where one can post one's picture with a statement apologizing to the world for the U.S. re-electing Bush.

Such verbal temper tantrums would be easy to ignore if it weren't for two things. First, vitriolic statements are only increasing in frequency, as are stories of disillusioned Democrats considering emigrating to Canada. Secondly, no less a mainstream publication than Fortune has picked up on the vibe, running a piece that's eerily similar to the two essays mentioned above, minus the profanity.

On the flip side, there's an open letter to the Democratic Party from "A Sad American" who explains why John Kerry didn't get her vote. The letter illustrates how the divide isn't as clear-cut as many would see it, and how, in her case, the election presented an agonizing choice.

Truth is, we really do appear to be splitting into (at least) two separate countries, if not geographically, then philosophically. The Internet only appears to be exacerbating this trend. The rise of distributed media, combined with the decline of centralized "mass media," allows people to cherry-pick the information that reinforces their personal views. If you're conservative, you can ready only conservative blogs, listen to Rush Limbaugh, watch Fox News and safely ignore the "liberal media." And liberals can do the converse. Gone are the days when "everybody" watched Walter Cronkite. Today, even though the Net has brought the world to our fingertips, it's easier than ever to isolate ourselves in thought bubbles.

If George W. Bush wants to cement his legacy, his biggest accomplishment might be to re-unite the nation for his successor, whether that person be a Democrat or Republican. Yet much of what drives this ongoing controversy is whether he really can -- or even wants to -- take those steps.