A friend sent this link:
Forget Red vs. Blue -- It's the Educated vs. People Easily Fooled by Propaganda | Media and Technology | AlterNet
It's American but not difficult to understand in a Canadian context. IMHO, both sides (every side?) used money and propaganda for manipulation, in both recent Canadian and American federal elections.
I don't want my government decided by the rich alone, whether I agree with them or not. While it isn't always illegal or immoral, I believe trading money for political influence is undemocratic. And I'm not writing about bribes, just advertising, promotion and other marketing.
What can be done?
1. Word-of-mouth. Point out abuse of sensationalism and propaganda when you see it. In fact, the repetition of the abuse will reinforce repetition of its own exposure.
2. Volunteer to teach literacy. Help someone to learn to read for themselves. It could have a bigger impact than you imagine, if those you help set an example to their friends, family and their children that literacy is useful and empowering. Read to your own children; I do this almost every night.
3. Don't argue against obvious fallacies. Doing so helps validate the fallacies (as in, "That's what I'd expect you to say.") and fuels the fire. Don't play their game and increase the ratings and influence of sensationalists.
4. Read, don't watch. I recent read Al Gore's book The Assault on Reason, and I recommend it. It gets quite technical at times and assumes some knowledge of American politics, but it's not hard to get the gist of it. At one point he writes about the difference in how the human brain processes textual vs. visual information. Different parts of the brain are stimulated. In particular, when reading the brain must make up a mental model while parsing the text symbols into thoughts. To me that means you can't help but think a bit more about what you're reading compared to being shown on TV.
5. Understand how propaganda works. Read the entries for propaganda and inoculation theory in wikipedia. I found the description of black, white and grey propaganda quite relevant.
6. Resist creating more sensationalism. Using sensationalism to decry sensationalism doesn't work; it just reinforces that sensationalism actually does work. In this case you can't fight fire with fire.
7. Build bridges of common agreement and understanding. For example, I'm concerned that Conservatives may not be managing the economy the way I would. But I can agree that they didn't create the mess, although recent budgets might make recovery more difficult. Continuing the example, I'd be more sensationalist if I said "Harper's laissez faire attitude and policies created this mess." which is clearly not the case.
8. Tolerate other opinions. Opinions aren't facts or truth, and in a free and democratic society we should permit disagreement. But I will not tolerate incorrect facts supported by evidence, or follow my emotions before my intellect.
9. Ask for evidence (calmly). During the recent Canadian federal election I argued some points with an opponent. He made some wild, emotional claims. Rather than get angry, I asked for references and evidence. He never did come back with any. This is a simple way to expose sensationalism and at the same time tolerate other opinions (by defining them as opinions rather than misrepresented facts) and perhaps finding points of agreement.