The New York Times recently asks, do elite thinkers matter anymore? Big commentator analyses of current events today drown in a sea of collective voices blogging and tweeting real-time thoughts, as they occur. By the time Obama’s first White House address was over, public opinion was already formed. No need for a week or so of fallout, reviews or media analysis to tell us what we should think. We already think.
The rise of social media has undeniably diluted influence, changed the way conventional wisdom is formed and freed culture from reliance upon the elite few for getting things done. That Obama won the white house by going straight to the masses online while Hilary cozied-up to the Democratic establishment to no avail is testament to the dramatic dilution and decentralization of our political system.
Our current president is the first in history not to have risen through the ranks of partisan politics over a couple of decades before even thinking about a white house bid. No, this man believed he could better influence public opinion by going straight to the public. Social media technology allowed him to do so.
Although big commentators have come down hard on Obama since the oil spill, public opinion polls say his approval ratings remain largely unchanged at around 50 percent.
But the final word is by no means in. The Times article speculates that because there was an unusual consensus among pundits both left and right that the Gulf speech was flat, American opinion will eventually sway that way. We’ll see.