There's Not More Extremists, Just More Internet

The fringes aren't more prevalent, but they are more visible
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2009 12:34 PM CST
Opponents of health care reform stage a protest.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – With all the left- and right-wing "extremism" out there, the media love pushing the narrative that "the country is coming apart at the seams! The center is dying!” But it’s not true, writes Nate Silver. A glance at long-running polls show Americans identify with the fringes about as much as they did 40 years ago, which is to say not a lot. Extremism isn’t more “prevalent;” the Internet has made it more “visible.”

That doesn’t mean something crazy isn’t going on here. “This stuff is real,” Silver writes on FiveThirtyEight. “‘Nontraditional’ viewpoints are becoming more visible and more activated.” Tea Parties would have been impossible “back in the old days—you know, like 2005 or so.” The Internet is obviously changing things, and what the outcome will be is unclear. But just because the Internet changes how fringe ideas are disseminated does not “necessarily mean that they're becoming more prevalent.”

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |