Against the Buildup
By Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Friday, January 14, 2011
Although this characterization is accurate, the shifting of public focus and discussion was something undertaken by a small but vocal group of individuals (and by this I don't mean We Are Guahan alone, but they were the biggest visible part of it), it’s actually a really stupid point. You can't argue that nothing really changed or happened based on the fact that only a small group of people were engaged on this issue, since that is the nature of all public debates. Furthermore, the fact that the majority of Guam's people didn't take to the streets to oppose the buildup isn't evidence that you can use to claim that nothing happened. The fact that the media coverage changed on the buildup, and the fact that politicians also changed as well are both key points in understanding what took place and what sort of effects the DEIS comment period had on "public opinion."
Now you can argue, as one UOG student did to me the other day, that both of these shifts aren't the "whole island," and that they don't necessarily affect what the rest of the island, or in the speak of people who don't know what they are talking about say it, "real people" think. The student brought this up to complain about how the actions of We Are Guahan didn’t represent what people on Guam really felt and they were clouding the issue and clouding public discourse by appearing to have more impact than they really did.After teaching classes during the intersession I noticed how different my students were on the public issue then when I first started teaching at UOG in 2008 and 2009. That was one thing which made me want to revisit the previous post and this issue.
I was reminded of how pointless the polls for newspapers such as the PDN often are. They ask people to grade the performance of the government on a topic, and usually most people who vote have no actual knowledge about the government's performance on said topic. Instead they draw their opinions from random personal experiences, things they hear and the perceived tendencies in the discursive web. They may be inclined to follow the patterns they see or may want to assert an oppositional identity and work against the flow. But ultimately a poll such as that means little, has little substance because it cannot make that crucial connection between opinion or support for something and how much is known about it.