Division? Hell, no. It’s called democracy

Division? Hell, no. It’s called democracy

: In today’s Times, Andrew Kohut of Pew starts to recyle the well-worn meme about more partisan media yielding a more partisan nation. But at the end of his op-ed, he takes a 180 (if not a U-turn) and acknowledges that, no, Mr. Little, the sky may not be falling after all:

Still, perhaps all is not lost.

In his new book, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki argues eloquently that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, often smarter than the smartest people in them.” That’s because a diversity of experience, opinion and knowledge can render the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Whether a more partisan news environment undermines or enhances the cognitive diversity of American culture – or diminishes the “gut rationality” of the public – remains to be seen.

“The public’s judgment has been pretty good over the past 75 years, when we pretended that we didn’t have a partisan media,” said Maxine Isaacs, a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “Everyone knew that we did. It’s now just more overt.”

Yup. When we care about issues — which aren’t necessarily the issues media think we should care about — we manage to get our smarts together and do pretty damned well, through eras of press of greater and lesser yellow hues. The Internet and cable choices and weblogs and all these new sources of — uh-oh — partisan media will, I believe, only help the process of democracy as we air more opinions and more diverse viewpoints. It’s called democracy.