The Book Event, Redux

As I mentioned before, I went to a book event where Glenn Greenwald was beginning his tour for Great American Hypocrites. (Wow, did I seriously just link Amazon?) If you want to know more, here’s an account written by a blogger I met at the event.

There was one thing I wanted to note in particular. A question was asked about “what can we do?” This question is important, but not unique. When people hear someone pointing out injustice or danger, they always ask what can the “little” person do. I’ve heard various answers, some more effective than others.

Greenwald’s answer was an anecdote about how a deluge of e-mails pressured Lee Hamilton to comment on something Michael Mukasey said. (Long story short: Mukasey made up a story about how 9/11 could’ve been prevented if only we’d eavesdropped on a certain phone call, and Hamilton at first refused to comment, and then after the e-mails commented that Mukasey said something the 9/11 Commission had never heard of.) We can also pressure thin-skinned journalist through blogging.

Here’s my addition:

Our political culture is not just sick from the top-down, but from the bottom-up. It’s not just the media’s fault for parroting hoary right-wing caricatures of leftists, but our fault for paying attention.

That is to say, every time you forward an e-mail saying Obama hates America, you make a difference.

But every time you combat such myths, you also make a difference.

After reading a blog post about Obama’s accomplishments in the Senate, I told my friend about how Obama was involved in reforming government and unsexy issues like nuclear non-proliferation. The very same night, when we were engaged in a political debate, he used those same talking points that I had told him.

Even if you make just one person aware, you have influenced the national debate in a powerful manner. What you say will spread.

(Caveat: It will only do so if it’s worth repeating and if it’s easy to repeat.)

The take-home message is, you don’t have to influence powerful people in order to influence the debate.

This kind of one-on-one work is just as important as the other stuff. However, don’t say, “Oh, I’ve convinced one person McCain isn’t as much of a maverick as he seems,” and then rest.

Change needs to be made both from the top-down and the bottom-up.

Keep up the discussion. Talk to your friends; e-mail the pundits and journalists. You’ll make a difference.