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JOHNSON: Speak up! When you ought to be talking, make yourself heard - Odessa American: David A Johnson

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JOHNSON: Speak up! When you ought to be talking, make yourself heard

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Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 4:08 am

I don’t know if you noticed (or remember), but the other day the OA published its weekly poll on the subject of offshore oil drilling. Something like 87 percent of our respondents were in favor of doing it while just 13 percent were against. Not a surprising result for this area, really.

When you looked to the bottom of the page, though, all three of the comments we printed were opposed to drilling.

From appearances it would seem the Odessa American, or at least whoever was responsible for that page, was so biased that they hand-picked only the comments in line with their thinking and ignored the rest.

Actually, what happened is those were the only three e-mails sent in that week that were intelligible and printable. Or at least the only three we got. Yet these were allowed to speak for a city and readership in excess of 100,000 people.

What power we have as individuals that we never realize! Or just can’t be bothered to exert. For our weekly poll, I mean, one business making a concerted effort to vote and respond could sway the results of all but the most contentious topics.

“Before you leave today, be sure to send an e-mail to the OA telling them how much you love wind power.”

And we pick up the paper and find out, “Gosh, West Texans are eco-friendly.”

How important a newspaper survey is, I don’t know. My guess is not very. But in politics it’s very much the same. Because if you think your vote doesn’t matter, you’re right, just not how you think. Your vote — and mine — are worthless because we’re incredibly ignorant on most issues an elected official will have to face (which is why we let someone else represent us in the first place; so we don’t have to deal with that boring, complicated stuff).

And really, we know little about how qualified that candidate is for what we’re electing them to. But you’re wrong if you think your vote doesn’t have an effect. In local campaigns for the petty offices, a few dozen committed people can literally elect a person on their own. Even the more important offices can have their outcomes decided by some folk running around stirring up support for someone in particular. Obviously, the more toward the national level you get, the less you matter as an individual, but then actions don’t have to splash to ripple.

For the paper, five people calling in to complain about an article or column (oh, Swan) seem like a lot, even though thousands more read the same thing and apparently don’t care much one way or the other.

And contrary to belief, politicians aren’t corrupted by large bags of money. It happens, but rarely. Lobbyists don’t get Congressmen in their pockets by the food at fancy dinners; lobbyists get them by using dinner to monopolize time and skew our representatives’ understanding of what’s important.

Perception is a wispy thing.

Idealistic or paid, a few fellows full of hot air can seem a twister, and when we’re silent, these windbags do all our deciding and representing for us.

If you’re not giving feedback where feedback ought to be given, make sure you should be giving it. Better not to vote or complain or comment than to do those stupidly; otherwise you’re just adding to the noise and the problem. But once you’ve informed yourself, by God, make a regular nuisance of yourself until you’re heard! And keep it up long past Nov. 4.

(And send some more e-mails for us to print.)

Odessa, TX

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