Deliberation or Disruption?

At the second Research Unplugged of the fall season, J. Michael Hogan, professor of Rhetoric and Co-Director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation at Penn State, engaged the audience in a discussion about the role of the media in portraying the political process. Regarding the recent town hall debates and "tea bag protests" about health care reform, he said that disruption and angry speech are nothing new and are "part of our legitimate democratic heritage." The speaker urged the public to become more "media literate" to avoid being unduly influenced by tactics such as fear appeals and fake grassroots campaigns, dubbed "astroturf."

Hogan posited that "the media is abdicating its responsibility in the health care reform debate." Many audience members agreed that the media as a whole focuses too much on entertainment value and not enough on substantive dialogue. Hogan suggested factcheck.org as a good source of unbiased information.

The Center for Democratic Deliberation at Penn State promotes civic education by sponsoring research on the problems and challenges of democratic citizenship in the twenty-first century. and through curriculum and outreach initiatives designed to encourage more robust public deliberation. Hogan said that he feels optimistic about the level of political engagement of today's youth, adding that while they may not read as many books as previous generations, they read more online.

For more about Michael Hogan, read on...

Last Updated October 26, 2009