10 million people paid to vote for the 2010 X Factor final, 14.5 million people watched Britain’s Got Talent final in 2012 and the 2010 elections drew only three times as many as the latter at 45.5 million people.
A lot of people enjoy interacting when it comes to entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with being entertained, amused, numbed, distracted, unoccupied with thinking about power relations and disadvantage in the world but there’s no part of me which believes that those people are promoting democracy by voting for Pudsey the dog.
To bring this a little closer to home, because that’s where I’m heading, the Bristol mayoral election had a voting turnout of 24% with 41,032 people voting in favour of a mayor, and 35,880 voting against.
All this flashed through my mind when I read on Bristol Democracy that “the Bristol Democracy Project as a whole isn’t going to be about discussion and debate, as it looks like every organisation and their dog wants to host a debate with the candidates for Mayor on their own area of interest. These debates only ever tend to attract people already interested in the subject, whilst this project is about connecting with the people who aren’t interested in decision making in Bristol at the moment.”
This is followed up on another blog post about blogs: “So, what does any of this mean for democracy and public involvement? Well, first of all, I think it’s important that as many people as want to be encouraged to blog about Bristol. The more we talk to each other about the things we see, the better informed we will all be.”
“A healthy local media is a sign of a healthy local democracy, and blogs are an important part of local media in any area.” Bristol Democracy Project
Blog 1: Lady in Bristol – latest post is on the Travis song Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
Blog 2: What to do if you post to the wrong account on Twitter.
Blog 3: blah blah
Blog 4: a politician’s blog
There are a few more social blogs, cultural, comedy, food, and one or two by politicians. Few question our political process. Few question what will we do about power relations. Many are the equivalent of voting for Pudsey, including a lot of posts on this here blog as well.
The media is an important part of a democracy, which is why it’s sometimes called the fourth estate (alongside the judiciary, executive and legislature) because questioning our rulers is a huge part of ruling our world.
Talking about who wore what, who ate where and who listened to something or other is not part of democracy. Even freedom of speech is not an inherent part of democracy.
Questioning people who are about to gain powers over a city about what they plan to do with them is part of a democracy. It is the very thing which defines the media. So while I laud the Bristol Democracy Project for its intentions, I can’t help but think that they are very wrong with criticising the first hustings which have been organised and promoting any and all types of blogs as a sign of democracy.
And if you ever wonder whether any type of talking and sharing is part of democracy just go search for Pudsey or wait for his memoir. You won’t have to wait long.