Whether we like it or not, we live in a marketplace of ideas. The right to free speech allows individuals, groups and organizations to communicate their messages to the public. The public, as consumers of information, can evaluate each message and decide which messages to believe and which messages do not have credibility.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are two things that make this country great. Americans have the ability to step up to the communications buffet and select which ideas we want to believe, which ideas we flat out reject, and which ideas require additional discovery. The sources available for discovery are vast and deep. Information exists in different mediums and in various levels of detail.
There are more resources available to the average consumer today than were available to scientists and researchers just 15 years ago. These resources are not free. They carry the price tag of responsibility. Just as most of us would not purchase a car without conducting some research, we should make an attempt to look at all sides of an issue before we settle on a point of view. In the age of abundant information, Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) should apply to information as well as products and services.
PR Machine raised this issue earlier this week. They believe that the marketplace evaluates ideas and that the fittest ideas survive. This is a Darwinistic approach to communications. I agree with that premise. However the fact remains that if the majority of the public disagrees with a message (or a messaging tactic) the communication may still be successful. The debate over the message (or the communications tactic) will enable the idea to reach a more sizable population – which includes potential constituents who took notice of the idea only because of its controversial nature. The fact that a message has its day in the court of public opinion indicates that it has succeeded at some level.