Can Social Media Fix Mistrust of Government? Majority Feels Government Threatens Rights

by admin on February 4, 2013 · 2 comments


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Headline: “For the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.”

I work for government:

I work for government and have done so (except for time in college) since the age of 18. I find most government workers reasonably dedicated to their jobs. Most of us have a conviction that we serve people and make their lives better.

I don’t believe that we pose a threat to anyone (short of being a terrorist or violent criminal or massive tax cheat) and the mere suggestion that we have the capacity to be a risk to seems a bit silly.

Most of us have an abiding belief in the Constitution and the rights it conveys.  We understand that movies and television shows present a completely overblown, high-tech and somewhat sinister view of government that powers misconceptions as to who we are.

We see ourselves as work-a-day schumcks with vast limitations as to law and budget. Most of us believe that we neither have the capacity or the inclination to substantially or systematically violate the rights of average citizens.

Admittedly that’s a rose-colored view considering the country’s history and immense power but the self perception is accurate never-the-less.

But there it is; a headline from a very reputable source (Pew) declaring, “Majority Says the Federal Government Threatens Their Personal Rights.”

The Pew report:

“As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

….Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.

In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms.”

I’ve encountered people who have expressed a profound mistrust of government and I always thought them to be naive and a little wacky. They seem, however, to be in good company.

Is there room for an honest conversation?

Either I’m in complete denial or I accurately see what government really is and what we really are capable of doing or not doing. I could be somewhat psychotic or I really understand the basic persona of civil servants  Yep, some are jerks and some are strange about power but for the most part, we just go to work and earn a paycheck like any other American.

So what’s wrong?

Government’s problem is perception aided by an entertainment industry that lives in fairyland. As to violating your privacy, there’s a hundred times more danger with Facebook than with the “system.”

But the heart of the matter is the way that some (many?) in government communicate. We are not the only bureaucracy that rolls in the dog-pile of the obscure and purposely vague (insert endless examples of contracts, labels, instructions, remote control devices, computers and tech toys) but we are the only bureaucracy paid through tax dollars. That gives people a right to complain.

An honest conversation through social media?

Can government have an honest conversation with the American people through social media?

We are just beginning to try to put an honest face on government through social media and if we can get by the lawyers and jargon-laden bureaucrats we just may have a shot at hundreds of thousands of fireside chats.

Could you imagine endless thousands of peed-off people getting honest answers from subject-level experts as to what’s bothering them? It may be an answer through a video or audio or a fact sheet but it’s created to give straight answers to straight questions in plain-English. It could be a one-on-one conversation but that’s expensive (but necessary at times).

According to the people I talk to throughout government, if everyone got out of our way and if we prided ourselves on our honesty and if we fully used the technology available we could do it using social.

Is honesty the best policy?

Government has severe limitations; just look at any federal response to major disasters or our ability to control the economy or fix infrastructure.  

Is the average citizen really ready to be told that it’s impossible to be fully ready for hurricanes of biblical proportions or any other reality of civic life?

Yes, we believe they are and we believe that we owe them honest answers to honest questions. We believe that social media and extremely creative content creation can be government’s hot knife through the butter of citizen mistrust.

An honest conversation through social media is worth a shot. It may get a bit ugly at times and we may not get the support of the media who seem intent on demanding what we can’t deliver within the confines of budget and person-power. But we just may end up with conversations and understandings worth having.

Best, Len.

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{ 1 comment }

Lakeisha February 8, 2013 at 12:56 am

My company profitability moved up no end because
soon as we established listening to my customers. Providing
them with whatever they desired instead of what I
thought they sought.

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