Tyranny of the Minority: A Lesson in Uninformed Apathy

One of the great worries of a democracy is the notion of a “tyranny of the majority”. If a majority of people decide to enslave a minority, in theory, this is in line with democratic ideals. It is simply the will of the majority. But what if the majority never speaks, never rules, or never understands? Could we have a tyranny of the minority?

A voter should be aware of the issues, understand them, and cast their vote. Thus, the greatest threat to the American democracy is an uninformed, uneducated, and disaffected citizenry. So how bad is it?

Less than 10% of Americans read the paper every day for more than sports or cartoons. Education by all measurements is slipping. We are now 16th in the world in Math scores and 18th in Science. It is doubtful that Americans really understand the issues and they are extremely susceptible to marketing messages.

Was Kerry anti-environment because he voted against amendment 2446 regarding ethanol fuels? Bush certainly promoted that idea. Who cares that his objections were about foreign refineries and an increase in NASA spending? Since you don’t get to vote on a line item basis for any bill, you can distort anyone’s voting record. With a little research, I am sure I can prove Hilary is anti-women and Bush is anti-religion. But a voter with a 10 second attention span won’t ever get to that level of detail. Voters are uninformed. Period.

At the same time, voter turnout is mediocre at best. While voter turnout was at the highest rate since 1968 in the recent presidential election, it represented only 55.3% of eligible voters. Being such a highly controversial election, let’s look at off year elections. In 2002 elections, 37% of voters turned out and in 1998 only 36.4%. Only about a third of voters vote for the people who are passing and vetoing the bills!

Conversely, America has a fervent faith in democracy. These numbers expose this faith as naiveté. Quickly, name your senators and your congressman. What are their positions on economic or educational policies? It’s all pretty sad.

The result is that our democracy is especially susceptible to the will of a minority. And we see this everywhere, because our democracy is not a single vote every 2 or 4 years, but the culmination of the daily actions and influence of the citizenry.

So what is the biggest media outlet and information source for Americans? TV, of course. Would it surprise you that complaints to the FCC rose from 350 in 2001 & 2002 to 14,000 in 2003 to a staggering 240,000 in 2004? That’s a 68,500% in 2 years!!! Wow, TV and radio content must have really become much more objectionable right?

Wrong. 99.8% of complaints were filed by the Parents Television Council. Just by banding together a bunch of individuals and organizing them, a small group can have a huge effect on the policies of a nation. The result: Bush signs the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 increasing the maximum fine by 10X. Which study did he cite? The “Blue Tube” study from the PTC.

Not only are a surprisingly few number of collectively organized individuals exerting a tremendous amount of influence, but they are also influencing the very media from which Americans get their information. They are dominating the conversation and corrupting the information you get.

Damn the liberal media! Or is it the conservative Fox news? Either way, it’s time to accept it. Your source of information is biased. They are changing the context around you. You get a completely different view of the world based upon whether you read the Washington Post or Star. It’s time to get informed, America. The democracy you’re standing on is being yanked from beneath you, and it is your own damn fault.

If our democracy is affected by the people with the loudest megaphones, why aren’t you even speaking up? In the Information Age, it is easier than ever to send an email, file a complaint, and exert your influence. Are you uninformed or do you just not care?