Public Opinion or Popular Opinion: Which Voice is Louder?

As the political elections draw near with televised coverage of the political parties’ conventions, many newsworthy pieces are emerging regarding the November races. An interesting article appeared in several publications this week over an outfit worn by Megyn Kelly of Fox News at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The article which appeared on Huffington Post online chronicled many of the comments that were published on Facebook and Twitter regarding Kelly’s appearance on the televised portion of the convention.  Ms. Kelly was dressed in a spaghetti-strapped dress to combat the hot and humid weather that night. Apparently many viewers felt that the outfit and the backlash that followed violated the “sacred space”. It important to note that Arnett, et. al, (2009), defines that it is a “space that is to be protected, honored and valued” (p. 108). The Republican National Convention and public television are of course part of the public arena and therefore an unspoken and decades-held dress code in a sense was something that was not be changed or modified and therefore it may have seemed that the outfit worn by the correspondent was a deliberate “thumbing the nose” at regality and tradition of the event. Historically, people often begin to feel threatened if something that seems familiar and comfortable is changed, but it is often forgotten that the “public arena” is “not our home” and it is not wise to “feel totally comfortable in such a place. It is interesting to note that in this case, the “voice”, representing the appropriate and inappropriate was fully present in the forum comments and editorial opinions as well.

However, there were some elements lacking that diminished the seriousness of the events going on in American politics. It is “just a dress” or is it? Did Ms. Kelly harm the “public good” in any way considering she was in the public arena. Many of the “voices” emphasized their “opinion” regarding her choice of wardrobe as right or wrong.  The public arena is viewed as the place that protects and promotes the discernment among diverse ideas and lives and prospers when public space for conversation, not one’s own opinion (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103). This is where undue confidence and unsubstantiated opinion comes in and simply put, there is no room in a “vibrant” public arena is for communicative action based on “ideological certainty that seeks no new knowledge, just the opportunity to tell, and an unwillingness or inability to make temporal decisions” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103). Therefore, that is where a lot of “she should have or she shouldn’t have” is based on, which shows generational shifts of what is deemed as acceptable or not acceptable. Most importantly, the public arena does not possess the final answer, it simply provides the “place for a grounded stance, engages other’s grounded stances’ and makes a decision and with that are short-term and long-term circumstances” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103).

In reflection, it seems that the ability of “free thought” on social media is approaching the excessive mark. Each time I read a news post or a Facebook post, I glean the comments to see how many differences of opinion exist regarding the topic discussed. Although moderation is important in the conduction of rational thought and discussion, it is important to note that moderation could pose the possibility of censorship of unpopular opinions and especially those that expose the truth behind the often alleged “media fabrication”. As a child growing up in the eighties and nineties, the term politically correct always came up on the news and talk shows and in the “politically correct” context we live in today, I see how free speech could definitely be endangered. Therefore, no guarantee exists that informed moderation could ensure that the public dialogue be that of rational and sensible thought without imposing some form of  censorship. Arnett, et. al (2009) stated it well: “in a changing world, public discourse is the communicative ethics protector of difference among persons and ideas: the task of individuals is to keep the public domain safe for the difference” (p.108). However, it seems as with each passing day that is being threatened.

References:

Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and

       difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

Hatch, J. (2015, July 22). Megyn Kelly wore spaghetti straps and people lost it. The

      Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/megyn-kelly-

      wore-spagehetti-straps-and-people-lost-it_us_57923502e4b0fc06ec5cbe9a.

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