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Political criticism (also referred to as political commentary or political discussion) is criticism that is specific of or relevant to politics, including policies, politicians, political parties, and types of government.
There has been controversy over the relevance and importance of political criticism in civilizations, particularly democratic societies.
Advocates argue that political discussion creates and promotes the variety of opinions necessary for a true democracy. The American constitution is often pointed to as support for the belief, ensuring for all peoples under its administration such maxims as free speech.
Critics of this philosophy argue that the general public (and, on a more individual basis, the "Average Joe") lacks the resources and capability to conceive opinions that are educated enough to be taken seriously. Thus, the abundance and fervent promotion of such opinions merely confuses and complicates political matters that, given an appropriate amount of factual education, are either easily understood or should be discussed only by those with sufficient intelligence to do the matter justice.
There are many methods used throughout history of promoting political opinions and with the development of new technologies new ways have materialized both in recent and ancient history. Some of the most common include the following:
Throughout history one of the most influential methods (arguably the most influential method) of promoting political opinions has been literary. This peculiar pattern of books influencing the thinking of the masses, reinstated with such books as the Bible, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the Qur'an, The Diary of a Young Girl, Nineteen Eighty-Four and many others, has been attributed to many of the characteristics of writing. While it has been proven that a well-written book can indeed appeal to one's intellect with reasoning and ideas sprung from common sense, the drive of literature and writing is most commonly considered to be derivative of the emotional impact of the text, guiding people to think a certain way by making them feel a certain way. This often has great political consequences, most particularly when the subject of the emotional reaction is a plea for moral justice, as can be seen (to use America as an example once more) in the aftermath of the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin concerning American views about slavery. It is from this correlation between books and politics that the phrase, "the pen is mightier than the sword", derives.
Television and films
Since their development in this past century, both television and films have often had far-reaching political effects throughout the world. Influential films and television events include Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Citizen Kane, the works of Walt Disney, and such political satire as that found in The Simpsons. Like literature (see above), a movie or television event has the capacity to have emotional impact on its viewers, making it an invaluable tool for politics. This attribute is noticed and used frequently by politicians and ordinary citizens alike; political propaganda on the screen now has an effect on everything from a nation's outlook on its economy to the smallest of elections and political decisions.
Political cartoons (also known as "editorial cartoons") are infamous for their ability to promote political views through satirical means. With cartoons the fight for the minds of the public is not a verbal but a visual one and leaving strong impressions with the use of powerful symbols or metaphors in order to communicate the artist's messages.
Since many people know only a very little about their civilization and its present state except for what is told to them by the media, the potential for influence is extremely high with the publication of newspapers, news broadcasts, etc. Any bias in these mediums alters people's impressions of current events into different understandings and opinions than those that may have been chosen with more accurate information.
With the recent invention of the Internet, political criticism has been greatly extended to anyone with a connection to the World Wide Web. In a few decades already this has revolutionized politics to the extent that the public now has a virtually unlimited education quite literally at its fingertips, allowing people to choose with less work what aspects of current politics they wish to research.
The many means of exchanging ideas, including blogs and internet forums, has extended the political debate to anyone that cares to contribute. This ability and speed that which ideas can flow has literally changed the way that political parties stay connected to constituents.