the big sort, politics & public media

turns out that when counties tip one way politically, they become more and more concentrated and homogenous, so says bill bishop, the progenitor of an important new trend dubbed the big sort.

we tend to live near people we want to be like, or who we think we’re like, or who we wouldn’t mind our kids marrying, or whose cars we secretly covet. next all the coffee klatsches and backfence discussions simply reinforce what we already believe, instead of challenging our conceptions and forcing us at the very least to defend our beliefs instead of leaving them to potter about in sweats and slippers, flabby and untested.

which is where public media should come in, right? without fear or favor, report the truth, and do so in a way that is designed to appeal to everyone, regardless of class, income or political affiliation? challenge assumptions? debunk myths? speak truth to power? uncover lies and expose them?

but, wait a sec, what if people are choosing their media just like they’re choosing their neighborhoods? that station feels liberal, this one conservative, etc.

then what if the leaders of those media, in an attempt to “superserve” their audience, simply amp up the signal and generally fashion their stations in the image of their core listeners? doesn’t that also feed the whole cycle of sorting and homogenization?

i’ll leave that for you to decide. but you can guess what i think.


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