Gov’t: friend or foe?; the open data revolution, or lack thereof; and more.
Governing attitudes: The Pew Research Center is out with a new report on Americans’ attitudes toward government. While many of the findings are familiar—only one in five trust the government always or most of the time—some are startling.
27 percent of registered voters say they think of the federal government as “an enemy” vs. 36 percent who see it as “a friend,” with 35 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of independents, and 12 percent of Democrats describing it as “an enemy.”
The top rated government agencies are the U.S. Postal Service, the National Park Service, and the Centers for Disease Control. (Veterans Affairs and the IRS are the lowest rated.)
A 55 percent majority say that ordinary Americans would do a better job of solving the country’s problems than their elected representatives. (Bring back Athenian democracy and pick our reps by lottery!)
Asked to name the biggest problem with elected officials in Washington, Democrats and Republicans alike put the influence of special interest money at the top of their list. Three-quarters overall say there should be limits on campaign spending.
One-quarter of the public has an unfavorable view of both major parties, up from 12 percent in 2008.
The Economist reviews the results of the “open data” revolution and asks “why more has not been achieved.” The answers it offers: “First, the data that have been made available are often useless. Second, the data engineers and entrepreneurs who might be able to turn it all into useful, profitable products find it hard to navigate. Third, too few people are capable of mining data for insights or putting the results to good use. Finally, it has been hard to overcome anxieties about privacy.”
Internet companies have tripled their spending on lobbying in Washington, D.C. in the last five years, and while much of that comes from giants Google and Facebook, new companies reliant on freelance workers in the “on-demand” economy are accounting for a rising chunk, reports Cecilia Kang for the New York Times.
Scaremongering: Keep an eye on Trump Card LLC, a “guerilla campaign” aimed at destroying Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, being launched by Liz Mair, former online communications director for the Republican National Committee (and a friend of PDM), as reported by Beth Reinhard and Janet Hook for the Wall Street Journal.
Asked about the initiative on ABC’s “This Week” show, Trump said that if the Republican establishment knocked him out of the race by not treating him “fairly” he would be open to running as an independent, Laura Meckler reports for the Wall Street Journal. He also declared his support for bringing back waterboarding, and doubled down on his claim that thousands of Arab-Americans living in New Jersey celebrated when the World Trade Center towers fell in 2001.
Keep calm and tweet a cat: When Belgian authorities asked social media users to stop sharing details of the anti-terror lockdown underway there in the wake of the Paris attacks, people responded by flooding the #Bruxelles and #BrusselsLockdown hashtags with cute cat memes aimed at relieving the stress of the moment and mocking ISIS, Alia Dastagir reports for USA Today.
This suggests that Ethan Zuckerman’s “cute cat” theory of digital activism needs amending. If you recall, he argues that it’s good that activists rely on popular public platforms that most people use for sharing mundane media like “cute cat” photos because their very popularity makes it harder for governments to shut those platforms down. Here the government effectively shut down a popular news channel, but since that action was widely supported, people responded by sharing more cute cat photos. Ipso facto, the more something attracts cat memes, the more popular it is. Or, perhaps more simply: the opposite of terror is a cute cat.
In Sunday’s New York Times, technosociologist Zeynep Tufecki offers a sober explanation why weakening encrypted communications tools like WhatsApp won’t stop terrorists.
This is civic tech: Seamus Kraft of the OpenGov Foundation posts an update on the work they are doing with the Chicago City Council to modernize its legislative systems. He writes: “Together, we’re overhauling the internal policy-making process to include Google Docs-style collaboration with a commitment to open data formats. Citizens will be able to stay on top of (and be heard in) city council business through a user-friendly system. We’re creating a scalable software suite to support more efficient, effective and accountable legislative operations with fewer paper-based headaches and hassles. Success is a flexible open source operating system built with the Chicago City Council that is fully adaptable to the unique realities and culture of any city, state and county legislative body.”
She should run: Civic Hall member organization VoteRunLead is in the middle of a big push to recruit more women to run for elected office, and having hit their current goal of 500 women nominated nationwide, they’re shooting to double that. Pitch in and nominate someone!