One crowd tells Obama what they want to hear
It’s too early to lock down the potential (or failures) of crowd-sourcing. Where Wikipedia, the 4th most visited resource on the Internet, logs incredible, meteoric success, and where the politicization inherent to mob rule has dragged down the populist ideals of Digg.com and others, the collaborative spirit continues to be tested and modified.
In America, as on the Internet.
The latest crowd-wisdom experiment produced an inaugural address representing the collective desires and ideals of the (Slate.com reading) populace, and the result is: it's not bad. That’s a tepid review, but not a damning one, only because the result is exceedingly progressive (not that there's anything wrong with that), progressive a word used in diplomatic lieu of the often pejorative “liberal” or “leftist.”
While reformed neocons might tolerate, even forgive rhetoric regarding environmental concerns, interrogation, and affordable health care, they still may balk at fundamental philosophies allowing the people to “change and adapt our covenants.” A covenant, a solemn promise, a strict Constitutional constructionist might argue, is never changeable and is not supposed to be.
Regardless, Slate’s collaborative inauguration speech is heavy with a sense of unity and the free market of ideas, and even, in certain places, it carries that moving rising rhythmic cadence the great speeches of history carry.
The speech resulted from two readers known simply as Honu and Nick utilizing MixedInk, an online platform allowing collaborative creations of op-eds, letters, petitions, mission statements, articles, speeches, et cetera. Honu and Nick didn’t stand alone. They could pull from 450 participants, who created 384 speeches in total, and could borrow from inauguration speeches from the previous 43 presidents. Honu and Nick’s speech was voted the best of the bunch.
The speech appropriately builds on Obama’s historic “Yes we can” mantra:
Future generations of Americans will look back at this moment of crisis and opportunity and they will judge us—but not by our words. They will measure us—but not by the promises we make. For language has the power to move us to action, but it is never a substitute for it.
Our children's children will ask only this: What did they do back then? Did they rise to the challenges providence had set before them? Did they unite as one people, with a common destiny? Did they set aside the old partisan rancor in order to protect our great nation, to strengthen democracy and human rights at home and abroad and to safeguard the blessings of the natural world for all time? Did they live up to the great promise cradled in that name: America? What will these future generations say?
They will say, "Yes, they did."
And such is the beauty of a more digitized democracy, the naïve, idyllic devotion to collaborative unity and “common destiny,” played out more efficiently and with sudden simplicity. It carries with it the pitfalls democracy always carried, blemishes on an ideal most are content to tolerate: runaway mobs, the hard, stubborn thumb of a supposed moral majority, covenant cornerstones balanced precariously on the sands of the current Zeitgeist.But we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we?