Rachel Maddow used her platform at SxSW to advance the argument she made in her bestselling book Drift. She categorized the public’s increasing exclusion from the decision to go to war, the point of the book, as innovation.
Ronald Reagan “innovat[ed] in the particular field of going to war without Congress knowing about it,” Maddow said.
“We’ve changed our way of going to war, essentially so it’s not so much of a hassle anymore,” she said.
Specifically, using private contractors and the C.I.A. as part of the military force shields wars from public scrutiny, Maddow said. Paying for wars as emergency budgetary add-ons also diminishes the public’s oversight.
“We’re like a goldfish going around in a tank going, look, a castle! Look, a castle! Look, a castle!” she joked.
“I could talk about this topic for about seven more hours, and then I would become the leader of a communist country,” she concluded.
In the question-and-answer period, Maddow was asked what she thought of social media as a vehicle for change and news of change.
“I think social media can make things go faster,” she said, indicating that speed in itself is neither good nor bad.
“People can communicate immediately their reaction to something, but also people can just make themselves known in a way that’s outside the way we used to do it, and that’s good, but we can also do things in a less deliberate way,” she said.
The news media relies too unquestioningly on social media, Maddow also noted.
“In news reporting on breaking events, you’ll see a lot of news organizations make mistakes when they assume that what’s being said on social media is what’s happening. We end up spreading that disinformation very quickly. At the intersection of the news business and social media, what we need is really good journalistic standards and great editors,” she said.
She said SxSW was “like a cross between a political convention and Lalapalooza.”