We might have debated who invented the Internet, but there’s no debate over which candidate brought the Internet into political campaigns. In 2003 and 2004, Democrat Presidential candidate Howard Dean made fundraising go digital.
The brains – if not the functionality, design, and execution – behind that operation belonged to Nicco Mele, a 20-something year old webmaster who had worked for various advocacy groups.
Since that online revolution, Mele has launched his own firm – EchoDitto – which helps organizations gain greater impact through technology. He also is a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of “The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath,” where he warns against – of all things – the disruptive and perhaps dangerous power of the Internet. Among the areas he worries about: Digital’s potential destruction through polarization of politics and government.
Remember the medfly? All bugs are pesky, of course, but the Mediterrean Fruit Fly might have been the peskiest. And a little bit scary. The threat was imminent: A tiny creature was going to ruin California’s agricultural industry.
But the battle of the Medfly soon became a battle over pesticides – mainly, one called Malathion – and the widespread spraying of California’s towns and cities – even Los Angeles.
What happened to the medfly? More importantly perhaps, with widespread spraying of pesticides to fight the pest, why did our public officials, news media and even the public get so concerned about this crisis? Which side of the science was right?
Few stories were more disturbing. Systematic child molestation in our nation’s preschools.
It started, of course, with the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, CA in the early 80s. The allegations were offensive and shocking. Child abuse. Even Satanism. And as the allegations grew, more stories from more preschools across the nation. We had, it seemed, an epidemic.
But after years of trials and front page news, nothing. No convictions – lives ruined – both for the people who ran the McMartin preschool and for many of the children who were allegedly abused.
What have we learned from the McMartin Preschool case? Could therapists, investigators, journalists – even we the pubic – get something so wrong again?
Often the only positive to come out of a disaster is the promise that it won’t happen again.
That certainly was the case in 2007, when the I-35w bridge in Minneapolis collapsed with hundreds of cars on it, most falling into the Mississippi River 10 stories below.
Thirteen died; 145 were injured. Following the horrific accident and aftermath, promises – from the states, from the federal government – that a review of American bridges would occur. Our infrastructure, long ignored, surely now would get the attention it needed and we deserved.
But nearly seven years later, what has occurred? Were promises kept? Are our bridges safe?
Drew Magratten is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “When a Bridge Falls.”
Given all the arguing that dominates television, radio and the web -- the he said/she said, the all-or-nothing verbal warfare, the relentless search for scandal or quick quip -- the most simple element that drives important, human communication is often missing: Smart conversation.
Yes, there is a space that exists between the screaming -- between the one-sided agendas, the caustic commentary and irrational judgement that defines audiences down and drives much of today's content.
There is space between the noise. That's where "Conversations with Thinkers" sits.
At its best, smart conversation informs, excites and prods. It reveals, intrigues and explains. Always, it must entertain.
Here you'll find conversation on politics, business, foreign affairs, culture, economics, sports, public policy and more.
"Conversations with Thinkers" is for someone who wants to explore ideas in a rational way. Someone who wants to connect.