Bus Project hits back at John Stossel

Friday night, ABC's John Stossel produced a "report" on 20/20 arguing that some people - especially young people - shouldn't vote.

"Maybe it's their civic duty not to vote because they don't know anything!"

Fortunately, the good folks at the Bus Project produced a counter-argument over the weekend:

And don't forget to register to vote. Today.

  • Jake Oken-Berg (unverified)

    Great response from the Bus Project! And way to turn that video around in just a few days. Also, per Kari's previous post, make sure all your friends register to vote today!

  • fbear (unverified)

    Maybe Stossel will take his own advice and not vote, since he has a long history of displaying his ignorance on national television.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    "Maybe it's their civic duty not to vote because they don't know anything!"

    There is a little truth to this as many properly uninformed voters made the difference in passing that Dorothy English/Porperty measure. If they either read the measure carefully or found more good evidence that was at their disposal it would have failed like we all thought it would. The result of the Yes vote was because of those not actually knowing or not really caring to read the measure.

    If they just stayed home, we would have never had to be in such a panic to alter the measure's damaging effects in the first place and avoiding costly changes in the long run.

    That is why I am confused as to why you all are getting uptight about Stossel's arguments when it would have helped defeat a measure we all knew to be bad.

  • DB (unverified)

    I don't think there should be a poll test or anything, and I understand that our side has an interest in getting young people to vote since even in their ignorance, they vote correctly :) and undo the old person ignorant vote. But I don't understand why an ignorant vote helps democracy. It pains me greatly to say it, but Stossel is making me think. Why should we place such an emphasis on getting people to vote. Shouldn't the emphasis be more on civic education?

  • (Show?)

    Why should we place such an emphasis on getting people to vote. Shouldn't the emphasis be more on civic education?

    Well, DB, those two are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, they work best together.

    I've long believed that you should have to be able to pass a basic civics test (perhaps the citizenship test) in order to graduate high school.

    But, no, we should not have a poll test - that's an ugly part of American history that we should not revisit.

  • (Show?)

    If you consider informing yourself on issues an important part of voting, then I don't really see what is the problem with getting more people to vote.

    People who don't pay any attention at all to politics don't tend to vote, which is what makes Stossel's stupid little "test" pointless. By randomly picking people off the street who may or may not be actual voters (as opposed to merely being registered), even if he was presenting an accurate sample of the responses he got, it doesn't represent a scientific sample of the active electorate.

  • j_luthergoober (unverified)

    Ain't the "Information Age" great America? This is what happens when all forms of media are sold and consolidated to corporate interests (thanks to Bubba and Al). Stossel should have asked "Who has more bars in more places?" and who believes that "you deserve a break today?" That would totally "wreck the vote."

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    Stupid and uninformed? The funny thing about the test was the people we spoke to weren't stupid. The Leno/Stossel game is easy to play. Eventually you'll talk to some people who get some answers wrong -- partly because people get a little nervous when they're on the spot with a camera in their face. Then you just edit together the mistakes.

    Civic education. We should be emphasizing civic education. Of course, that's not what Stossel does or did.

    Votes beget more education. Indications are that people begin to pay more attention once they become voters. They start recognizing the names. They start recognizing the positions. The news makes more sense. Having more voters means having more people who are asking and talking about politics -- and it makes the whole society smarter.

    It's a process, and we should start that process as early as possible to have the most educated electorate possible. Better civic education in schools; more civic involvement in communities to increase the nodes of casual information sharing; more voting (not less).

    Send the videos to others.

  • (Show?)
    Eventually you'll talk to some people who get some answers wrong -- partly because people get a little nervous when they're on the spot with a camera in their face.

    Just the pressure of time can make people nervous. I just spent the weekend trying out for Jeopardy!, and even after they'd winnowed the 1,400 original testees down to 140 and then 19, those people who'd managed to answer the requisite percentage of 50 questions in eight seconds apiece still blew a couple things they obviously knew during the mock games they used as the final stage.

  • (Show?)

    Uninformed &/or stupid is in the eye of the beholder. Hal undoubtedly regards me as one or the other because I don't believe the lies and smears and gross exaggerations about ACORN, think knee-jerk market ideology is wrong, favor use of government to address various kinds of social needs and taxes sufficient to do that well, etc.

    People generally, especially over time, have fairly shrewd ideas about what is in their own interests, even if they don't have a good sense of geography or were alienated in school. They may tend to focus on the short to medium term & not take actions that could benefit them in the longer run, if other people did likewise, because other people aren't or don't appear reliable.

    But the "well-informed" also have particular interests and conflicts of interest and highly elaborated rationales for selfishness and greed, and leaving the general good in their hands will serve their particular interests, not the common or general or public good.

    There are issues about the capacity of rapidly circulating mass media to stampede opinion with tendentious and partial information (something of which people are aware, hence their antipathy to negative advertising, even if they can't prevent its effects). But as the "everyone knew Saddam Hussein had WMD" self-exculpations of the self-designated security and foreign affairs elites illustrates, that capacity can affect those with loads of knowledge and information as well as those with less -- and the common sense of the latter often is an important counterweight to the self-delusions of the better-informed when they get snared in details or rigid ideologies.

    The real issue is conditions that degrade the quality of our deliberations -- speed and size, chiefly.

    Disclaimer: I am massively overeducated, a privilege I value and would not willingly give up. Yet, while that sometimes helps me see questions and distinctions about which to judge that are not so apparent to less educated people, or whose consequences are not so quickly seen by them, it does absolutely nothing to the quality of my judgments on those questions and distinctions. I know plenty of people who know fewer facts than me and have lots of wrong knowledge who nonetheless have wisdom to which I should listen. Smart comes in many forms, and having one is not guarantee of having another.

  • Gary Weiss (unverified)

    I do not understand the argument that says you must vote to have a voice in the process.

    If the process is conducted as a morally bankrupt convention or, if the candidates/options leave you without a vote FOR someone or something--where's the civic virtue in voting?

    It's a more powerful exercise in Democracy to elect to not vote than to vote for the lesser of two evils. It is not an irresponsible choice--it is often the only responsible option available to those who believe in Democratic representation.

    Choosing not to vote is both a legitimate and a powerful civic duty.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Gary Weiss wrote:

    Choosing not to vote is both a legitimate and a powerful civic duty.

    Gary, do me a favor and post this message on all the conservative blog sites you can find. They seem more receptive to ideas for reducing participation.

  • Dan (unverified)

    There is a flaw within the argument that was posted. Trying to emphasize both older and younger voters would have high and low spectrum of political knowledge to show there would be some equality and balance between the age groups is indeed incorrect.

    Just because you have two stones one larger than the other doesn't mean their ripple or impulse is equal when thrown into a pond. Rationally older voters have a less hectic lifestyle with respect to time and political relevance comes into focus with time spent on its analysis.

    So the five educated younger people at the rock concert who influence the other 2000 non-educated voters have a much larger ripple than the 1:2 (educated vs non-educated)ratio of older people. Though those ratios are obviously subjective and not empirically measured they do follow logical integrity.

    Why is this the case? The mediums to which younger people are getting reached, youtube, tv, concert shows, all typically which younger people dominate in access are getting influenced by their favorite celebrities/music etc.

    Apathy, that is the underlying cause of the decline of American thought.

    Dan, CALIFORNIA Structural Engineer

  • DB (unverified)

    Kari- don't you think the emphasis has clearly been on just registering voters? You don't see Alec Baldwin and Matt Damon teaching people about Supreme Court justices.

    Jefferson- I like your point that registering to vote increases the likelihood of learning the issues. I hope you're right. My problem is with the anti-intellectualism so prevalent in our society. That people vote for someone based on whether they can relate to them and have a beer them with disgusts me.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    That's quite an analysis, but what's your point?

    • Young people are more attuned to media to which young people are attuned.
    • Old people have more time on their hands.
    • Apathy has caused "the decline of American thought."

    You might wonder what all those darn kids are up to, but I have noticed that apathy, vacuity, and lack of independent thought are not limited to any particular age group. Many older people spend hours each day parked on a couch in front of lobotomizing television programming. Many get their political views from Pat Robertson's 700 Club. It is not young people sucking up the steady stream of crap exuding from FoxNews.

    We agree about apathy. When people do not value the ability to reason, the ability to learn, and the need for wide-based knowledge, their lives are debased. That debases, in turn, the lives of their friends and families, and the lives of their countrymen.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    You lament problems of democracy that are ongoing. The emphasis of pop culture and the deemphasis of formal education in our society are serious problems, but they affect everyone, not only young people. At other times, most people did not finish high school, and public discourse was much more difficult to access.

    <h2>Building an informed electorate will always be a challenge. Disenfranchisement, whether through law or social pressure, will never be a good solution to the problem.</h2>
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