We’ll elect a new president on Tuesday. Yet, if pollsters are right, more than half of the registered public won’t vote. Why? Who knows. Certainly there are as many reasons for voter apathy as there are lost votes — alienation, distrust and even abject laziness among them.
But if you’ve got Web access, don’t let a lack of information stop you from casting a ballot that counts. Apathy’s worst enemy is cold, hard facts. And there’s plenty of the factual good stuff online.
Of course, to avoid the fanciful stuff, as I noted in a previous Netropolis (“Campaign buttons,” Sept. 6-12), you’re better off avoiding the major-party candidates’ home pages. Instead, try a do-it-yourself approach. There’s still time. Here’s a crash course on how to get started.
Need proof that the mainstream media is skewing the truth — and maybe screwing you in the process? Begin your quest for political enlightenment by watching Spin, a low-tech exposé of the 1992 presidential election.
Using a home satellite dish, filmmaker Brian Springer has assembled a shocking collection of intercepted network television signals mixed with biting commentary that may just change how you vote.
Spin showcases “backhaul” news feeds, officially considered “off air” by the networks. Such feeds are used by stations to shuttle unedited live video from one location to another. Often, they include footage of candidates getting their makeup done and other fly-on-the-wall moments.
Highlights captured in Spin include George Bush (Senior) discussing his thyroid troubles and Al Gore rehearsing “impromptu” chitchat with CNN’s Larry King.
My favorite segment? Larry King telling a pre-election Bill Clinton that cable impresario Ted Turner would “serve” him well (“I’ll call him after you’re elected,” says King. “Think about it.”) Watch the free, uncut, streaming video version of Spin at www.phdepot.com and you’ll start thinking too.
Despite appearances, not every media outlet is spin doctoring its election coverage. Alternative newsweeklies (such as Metro Times) are often excellent sources of under-the-radar information.
Visit Alternet.org, a Web log of up-to-the-minute story links from alternative publications nationwide. I’m especially fond of the “On the Road with Ralph!” section, which features daily updates on the Green Party’s presidential bid.
Of course, a national perspective is just that ... national. For a fully informed view, find out what the rest of the world thinks. Point your browser to the aptly titled Ultimate Collection of News Sites (pppp.net/links/news) and follow the links. You’ll discover sites for thousands of newspapers worldwide.
What’s the overseas perspective on our upcoming election in Norway (www.norwaypost.no) or Nepal (www.nepalnews.com)? Find out. Or check back with Mother England, where the London-based Independent (www.independent.co.uk) recently offered a British take on “Why Americans would rather have a rookie than a bore for president.”
Other recommendations: The Texas Observer’s home state compendium of Bush-related shockers (www.bushfiles.com/bushfiles/ bush_toc.html). Or dig deeper with Web-only publications such as Buzzflash.org (the self-described “undrudge report”).
Then, try out equal opportunity exposer, www.realchange.org, which has a veritable dossier on Al Gore’s bumbles — yet also calls Ralph Nader “an anti-democratic authoritarian.”
Finally, don’t forget the venerable salon.com, a longtime MT staff favorite for its consistently balanced coverage of election issues.
If all else fails, take the test. The fantastic Project Vote Smart site at www.vote-smart.org (“A voter’s self-defense system”) has added an online survey that instantly matches you up with an appropriate presidential candidate based on your positions on various issues. It’s easy. It’s educational. And kind of fun too.
Actually, the Vote Smart test is really several surveys. Start by clicking on the issue category that’s most important to you — abortion, budget spending, campaign finance reform, etc. Next, a list of position statements appears; click on the ones you agree with. Then — presto — a list of candidates that agree with you appears. How very cool, indeed.
Online surveys aren’t new, but it’s the first time I’ve seen them used for an election in such a useful way. Just imagine if they had this technology at the polls. But until Project Vote Smart (or — who are we kidding? — Microsoft) starts sponsoring voting booths, you’ll have to try this at home first.
Lighten up. Laugh a little. This is not just a directive for humorless politicians; it’s advice for you. A whole subgenre of hilarious political parody sites awaits your clickage online — and many are, in their own perverse way, informative too.
Some faves: gwbush.com, a nasty look-alike version of George Dubyah’s real home page that includes links to the governor’s infamous drunken wedding video; allgore.com, featuring the addictive “Air War Over Kosovo” video game; and the name-says-it-all bushlite.net.
What rates highest on the laugh-o-meter? The George W. Bush Dance (www.george-w-dance.homepage.com) page, where you can witness a display of animated two-steps and sidesteps that would make a Washington insider proud.Adam Druckman runs for president of the Web every Wednesday at www.metrotimes.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org