Still Waiting For The Internet's Major Impact On Politics

from the false-alarm dept

For quite some time, people have been predicting that the internet would have a profound effect on the American political system, but these statements have always sounded more like wishful thinking than anything else. This week, the internet inserted itself twice into the race for President. The first was when a commercial slamming Hillary Clinton, a takeoff on the famous Apple 1984 ad, was released on YouTube, garnering millions of views. Part of the intrigue was that nobody knew who had produced the very slick ad, although it later emerged that it was someone tangentially related to the Barack Obama campaign. This prompted a lot of discussion at places like the Columbia Journalism Review about the role of user-generated viral ads and whether or not they were good for the political process. The second incident was yesterday, when the political news site Politico mistakenly broke the story that John Edwards was dropping out of the race for President. Many sites, including MSNBC, ran with it as news, but it turned out to be a false story. The accident ignited the old (and very tired) debate among media pundits about the standards blogs use to break news. But again, for all the hype about these events and the role of the internet in precipitating them, neither will turn out to have been a very big deal. The Hillary Clinton “1984” ad was only interesting as a testament to the fact that an individual can make a really cool looking ad; as a political ad, it’s hard to imagine it having any impact at all. The Edwards event briefly showed how quickly the internet can propagate a false story, but that’s not really news at all, and again, the actual political impact of a brief period when people had the wrong idea about John Edwards’ political future will be virtually nil. Of course, that won’t stop the inevitable flood of articles proclaiming the enormous impact the internet is having on the campaign, citing these two incidents as examples.

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Comments on “Still Waiting For The Internet's Major Impact On Politics”

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Beefcake says:


I’m less concerned with the standards blogs use to break the news than with the major media outlets who are obviously skipping the confirmation process in pursuit of the scoop. Blogs report from more of a grass-roots perspective, so are liable to get it wrong now and then. I accept that, and read accordingly.

But when NBC decides (again) to run with shaky info to get just to be first, I hope somewhere there’s a news director standing in the unemployment line.

Oh, and “First!”

Beefcake says:

Re: Standards

As if to prove my point, msnbc is currently running an Access Hollywood story regarding Anna Nicole Smith autopsy results– it states that while the results won’t be released until Monday, “Star Magazine and the National Enquirer claimed Smith died from an overdose of the sedative chloral hydrate.”

So now an Access Hollywood story citing tabloids is passing for printable news? Sure, it might be true, but considering the sources I’d certainly give it a pass.

Seriously, has the website news director even driven by a journalism school?

Daniel (profile) says:

Reviving the Free Speech Debate

It’s not the political impact on the candidates we should worry about – it’s the chance that our politicians will use this as an excuse to limit the free speech of bloggers again. Wired News is already playing that angle.
From the article:

The video’s success has fired up a new round of debate about the impact of federal regulators’ decision a year ago to exclude unpaid online political activity from the detailed disclosure requirements that apply to political advertising in traditional media.

“The hot issue is whether the (Federal Election Commission) made the right call when it exempted from the disclaimer rules all internet activity except for paid internet ads,” says Scott Thomas, a former chairman of the FEC who is now an attorney at the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro in Washington, D.C.

Nathania Johnson (profile) says:

I think the internet has impact when you’re talking about an issue or a party or something more long-lasting than a campaign. Or that requires less effort.

It’s easy for people to forward an email, add a MySpace friend, or Digg an article. But voting is VERY DIFFERENT from the Social Media experience. Voting requires people to register, wait on the government to snail mail them a card, remember to go to a physical location on a specific day during specific times, oftentimes waiting in line.

Then there’s the whole issue of demographics. The older you are the more likely you are to vote. All this political online marketing is gobbled up mostly by younger people who are not as likely to vote – until THEY become middle age and retired, and then we’ll have to see.

The good thing about the internet for campaigns is their access to information, such as voting data posted by the Board of Elections or financial data about donors. Also, reputation management by monitoring the media online. It makes for a quicker response to issues that pop up.

Tom Betz (profile) says:


For example, without the work of Talking Points Memo and its readers, the scandal surrounding the “Pearl Harbor Day 8” US Attorney firings would have disappeared quickly. Because of Paul Kiel’s lead investigative work, it promises to open windows on the Bush administration’s campaign to corrupt and politicize the Department of Justice that could blow open doors to the rest of the administration’s corruption.

And without the efforts of the Daily Kos and other group blogs, there would not be a Democratic majority in the House (and especially the Senate) and all of Paul Kiel’s work would have been for naught, because there would be nobody empowered to take this important investigation into the White House.

And this is just the beginning.

Sarojin says:

Internet v. Web sites

Hard to argue that the connectivity and immediate communication enabled by the internet didn’t fundmanetally impact the 04 Dem primaries.

It’s also hard to argue that all the communication that gets transmitted over the internet (faxes, email, podcasts, streaming media) hasn’t fundamentally changed how people interact and obtain and share knowledge. It allows people to stay informed and work together with others one would otherwise never even know about.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I’d like to believe that the level of access and ability to immediately communicate with elected representatives has allowed for a wider range of voices to be heard and a broader set of positions considered than ever before. Of course that assumes an elected official is actually listening.

And as many other pointed out, without the internet even the most dedicated activist would have difficulty getting any facts or information since the MSM doesn’t seem to provide any actual news anymore.

What would our opinions be of the folks currently seeking to be president if we only had the MSM. We’d all think (other than New Yorkers) Rudy’s a hero, McCain’s a straight talking centrist, Obama went to a Madrasa, Hillary’s a pant wearing lesbian, and John Edwards is gay. Hmm, bit of a right-leaning slant there.

Think about it. We’d all be brain-dead zombie sheep cheering for the war on terra and hating Muslims like the foks that watch Faux News. Perhaps not that dramatic, but it’s the internet that separates the informed from the sheep, no?

Sure seems like a major impact on politics to me.

The direct impact blogs and videos etc. have on current affairs probably isn’t major since they seem to mostly be visited by already like-minded folks. I doubt the Hillary video made anyone change their mind about her.

But when the internet has fundamentally changed out daily lives how can one say it hasn’t had a major impact on politics?

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