Political Literacy: Sifting Thru The Spin
O Say Can You See...what's true and what isn't?
Show Description | Transcript | Order Videotape
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Reporters Liz and Rubin share what it was like to be on assignment for "In the Mix" at the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Liz:

Being behind the scenes at the Republican National Convention was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The political convention is really a week-long advertisement, but one that most people are no longer interested in. Having grown up in a relatively post-convention age, I did not expect to encounter a great deal of political drama, but I knew I would see something important. What was enlightening was to see the three different conventions that were happening.

First, there was the convention on the delegate floor with thousands of party faithful. These people were the real heart of the party, and there seemed to be some range in social class, yet very little in ethnic background, despite the "new direction" of the party towards inclusion. The second convention was for the donors. Having access at least to the hallways and elevators where the party elite gathered to eat good food and drink good wine reminded me of who holds the party by the strings. These people did not listen to the speakers, instead they would schmooze with them behind the scenes. The third convention is is the media. This convention doesn't really matter unless Tom Brokaw et al says it does. Watching the thousands of cameras, and the politicians playing to them was eye-opening. The convention center itself is surrounded by media tents which filter everything inside out to the world. While the tens of thousands who gathered in Philadelphia were all attending their own convention, millions around the world were being fed the mainstream media's version.

Watching the media (and participating) helps bring light to the importance of political literacy. Without around-the-clock coverage, with no editing, it is impossible for viewers to find out the truth just by watching the news. Every soundbite from a speech has context which is not always explained. Everyone needs to be aware of tricks used by smart politicians and media people (who want a juicy story to entice more viewers) so that they can make a decision that is really in their best interest. When people complain, "all politicians are liars", that is because the public allows them to be. With intelligent voters who push the media and politicians to tell the truth, the system will be forced to change.

Rubin:

If you really want to get someone into the mood for politics, or just want to try and let someone know that politics is not as boring as it seems, then take them to a Republican or Democratic party convention. I always liked politics, but the way that I liked them or always went about them was trying to fight the system. Rallies were where I wanted to be in order to get my message out, because I thought that the normal way of going about things was boring and that nothing interesting happened.

Well, let me tell you this: there is nothing more exciting then getting caught up in the swing of things at a convention. This was a new way of entering the system, as I like to call it, a new way to see how things work, and to my surprise it was not as boring as people make it out to seem. At the convention I got to meet some great people that on TV may seem very boring but are actually interesting if you give them the time to talk to you. After the convention I gained a new outlook on the way politics are run and I now plan to go a little further into the game. I plan to try to help out more in my neighborhood and other places that need help.