internet and politics

From: David Preiss (
Date: Wed Jan 21 2004 - 21:15:26 PST

Hi XMCArs,

I found the following post in one of Dean's sites. I would love to get a political/cultural psychology reading of this and about the claims it makes concerning the use of Internet in politics and organizing. May the internet create, from the point of view of the organizer, a biased view of reality? Which may be the contexts that favor an intensive use of internet and those that do not? Why? I am interested on the issue beyond the current political issues. What interest me more is the way the Internet as a tool competes with other tools such as TV and everyday interaction in shaping political opinion. My guess is that Internet may help to organize those that have a willingness to support X cause but it does not reach those that do not have such inclination (not necessary to say about the economic and time costs involved with internet use), which would shape their opinions based on the most "casual" or passive influence of TV shows or their immediate environment, family, friends. What may make the issue interesting is the affinity between certain tools and the inclinations of those that make use or are affected by the use of them and that Internet may not be such a revolutionary agent in politics. Just a thought.

The post said:

As some of you might know, I have been following the Dean campaign very closely for sometime. And, I must confess, that I have been involved in traditional political campaigning for the last 25 years.

My friends this is not a question of Us v. Them -- post broadcast v. broadcast -- Internet v. traditional. We are in the early stages of a new synergy that is going to create a moment in American politics that is certain to surpass the parts that created it.

Over the last few weeks I have been following Iowa through the eyes and ears of a friend (and his friends) who have been involved in Iowa politics for the last three decades. It might surprise you to know that there was no resentment or suspicion on the part of many Iowans for the Dean campaign. The words I heard from my friends were: admiration, respect, amazement for the work the Dean people were doing and they way they were doing it (i.e. the Internet technology).

But here is the kicker, they also told me that the Dean folks were so busy executing their programs they forgot to sit down and really get to know the people of Iowa in the time consuming, old fashioned way many people involved in midwestern politics are used to. One quote I remember is, "they were so excited and polite and nice, but they were so busy with their campaign -- somehow they missed who we were."

What the Internet has brought to political campaigning is just as remarkable a metamorphosis as was broadcast television in the early 60s -- probably more so because it is so conversational.

The problem is that it is so easy to become consumed in the magic and wizardry of the Internet that one forgets that politics done right is the personal exchange of people's stories. Listening to the concerns and ambitions of the people whose support you are seeking to win.

In my opinion, as astounding a tool as the Internet is, it lacks the truly personal quality one picks up sitting in a diner or walking in a field listening. Blogs are a wonderful way to exchange information at all hours of the day and night, but they just do not replace personal contact, and old fashioned political organizing.

What we are beginning to see is the consolidation of the old and the new. Trust me traditional political organizers recognize the astonishing possibilities the Dean campaign and its spinoffs have brought to the field. They just want their art respected as well. Many of the folks who organized for Kerry and Edwards used post broadcast tools in concert with beautifully executed traditional political organizing.

When John Kerry was asked by the Wall Street Journal how he used the Internet and how often? he said, " When not running for President, every day - for shopping, email, finding directions. When running for President, I should've used it much more."

When the anger and frustration, that many Dean people must surely be feeling after Iowa -- subsides -- I hope they will look for ways to incorporate their tools and their vision into a political system that needs their innovation and their energy.

Please remember, however, that both sides must learn from each other.

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