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Young People: Don't Vote… No, really… don't

My friend, Emily, who is working with a bunch of different youth vote groups who are doing work around the election in Washington D.C., recently alerted me to a segment on the youth vote from ABC’s 20/20.

Although I feel that 20/20 has gone down hill in recent years, I do have fond memories of staying up on Friday nights as a kid to watch their specials on eating disorders and street violence and felt that they were very informative and helped shaped my thinking. I was even featured on the show as a newborn baby for a segment they did on families. So I have a special place in my heart for this (somewhat crappy) show.

I didn’t think the networks could go any lower, but they have. In this segment, entitled 20/20 in Touch: Should Some People Not Vote? [www.youtube.com] which takes on the argument that people should think twice about casting their ballots. As you will see, “people” in this case is code for “young people.” It’s a pretty audacious premise for the news, and an even more audacious report, as they make no effort to conceal their own bias that no, in fact, young people (a.k.a., the uninformed) should not vote.

The reasoning behind the suggestions is that those who are uninformed and vote are a more dangerous to democracy than those who do not vote. Translation: the only people who should have a say in the country are political junkies and those who know certain—albeit relevant, but not altogether imperative—trivia. One of the “man on the street” questions the reporter asks is how many senators there are per state. In the segment, a girl answers “four” although rumor has it that she had originally answered “two,” but the reporter “corrected” her and gave her the chance to answer again. No people, coersing and putting words into the mouths of interviewees is not an art confined to The Daily Show [www.thedailyshow.com]. It’s prevalent, even in the real news.

Perhaps the 20/20 producers had watched the celebrity “Don’t Vote” campaign [www.youtube.com] and the irony was lost on them.

–Jamie Wong