Extreme Internet

In Al Gore’s latest book, “The Assault On Reason”, he suggests that the national dialog, formerly the province of print, has been supplanted by a one way dialog which is broadcast to televisions around the nation. He further suggests that the internet may allow the people to find their voice again:

The Internet is a formidable new medium of communication and a source of great hope for the future vitality of democracy. Eventually – maybe sooner rather than later – television as we know know it may be looked back on as a transition between the age of print and the age of the Internet.

You know, at first this seemed reasonable. There has certainly been an impact by high profile bloggers and political web sites such as Daily Kos, Instapundit, and others on the mainstream media and political process. But is there any similarity to the dialog that was available when your only source of discussion was one or two local newspapers?

While the internet no doubt presents a huge diversity of opinion, each category of opinion lives in its own community. And, for the most part, woe unto those that try suggest opinions that are divergent from that communities denizens. Conversation takes place at the extremes of the political spectrum. Republicans paint Democrats as a bunch of tree hugging sissies that believe the government should take care of everyone from cradle to grave. Democrats paint Republicans as a bunch of greedy warmongers concerned with all people, so long as they’re rich, and determined to make sure we all have as many assault rifles as we like. (Isn’t it awesome how I complain about stereotyping by stereotyping people. Obviously not every Democrat/Republican feels this way, but you get the idea) There is no middle ground, no real dialog, no reasoned, civil conversations where all opinions are welcome in the attempt to define and solve the myriad problems faced by society today. Are today’s popular political sites really any better at educating and informing than the “debate shows” that Jon Stewart famously slammed on Crossfire?

Perhaps there are few lonely outposts where this sort of dialog takes place, but I imagine any that reach the critical mass necessary to engage a national audience, and therefore influence policy, tend to gravitate towards a particular political philosophy. As far as I can tell, the current state of political discourse on the internet is only serving to further polarize politics in America. Feel free to enlighten me if I just haven’t yet visited the right sites.