PDF: The Impact of the Internet on Politics and Journalism

The afternoon breakout session at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York is "Covering the "Click-ocracy": Tracking the Internet's Impact on Politics and Journalism". This is a fascinating view of the media's interaction with the New Media.  I'm not sure anybody really has this figured out, but it's fascinating to see reporter's perspectives on how the internet is affecting their job, their profession and our information.

One thing really stood out, though.  A reporter referred to "Media Matters...and their lesser counterparts on the Right."  Note the word "lesser".  I'd bet that this is probably not an uncommon opinion within the media. 

New as it may be, the Left's media criticism infrastructure (Media Matters, but much more than just that) is already more effective than that of the Right.  The institutions of the Right have failed to evolve, while, as they've done in so many other areas, the Left hasn't just built online infrastructure to compete with the Right....they have built equivalent infrastructure that surpasses the Right. 

I think there are a four main reasons for this:

  • The Left's media criticisms are fresher, more relevant to the current media landscape, and to structural political problems they face.
  • The Left is addressing issues of media competence, not just ideology (e.g., "that liberal media"). This makes much of their criticism harder to dismiss as pure ideological bulldozing.
  • The Left's media infrastructure is collaborative.
    • They focus on inserting themselves into the news cycle, maximizing their daily relevance to reporters, bloggers and activists.
    • They provide material specifically relevant to the Left's most prominent activists, increasing distribution of their content.
    • They tap into the work already being done by activists and bloggers, ensuring they remain aligned with, and a part of, their audience and political movement.
  • The Left's media criticism infrastructure is built for Web 2.0. They're not just trying to re-purpose battleships for guerrilla warfare - they're building for the current fights and in the current landscape.  They are very effective at using blogs, petitions, email lists, alerts and other tools that make them better at distribution and targeting online.


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Why not build a course curriculum

focused on how to do Conservative grass roots Internet activism and do two things with it:  (1) build a portal (i.e. via R-IGG?) that teaches the novice activist "how-to", i.e. how to start a blog, how to perform simple functions like linking, formatting, editing a style sheet, adding a blogroll, adding video, graphics, widgets, monitoring statistics and so on.  This portal could have the world's biggest Conservative blogroll (notice I said Conservative and not Republican - building that voting coalition is what I'm thinking of, not recruiting more Republicans per se...just yet anyway).  (2) take a dog and pony show such as a 1-2 day symposium on grassroots internet activism on the road where Conservative bloggers can go and meet others and learn more "stuff". 

Since it can take 10-20 years for young college Liberals to get married, have kids, pay off the student loans and start investing and earning enough to become Conservative, I don't think we should remotely assume that the vast population of Disaffected Conservative Youth of America is going to pick up the mantle of the technology revolution and run with it.  I think we all get the picture that we must do better, faster, smarter, sooner than later.  But now that you've told us, are you also going to teach us? 

Precisely. . .

. . .what I was thinking with regard to teaching.  I read this and thought to myself, "Exactly right!  I agree 100%!  But, what do I do now?"

I hasten to point out that this isn't a criticism of the post.  I fully understand that there are limits to what a person can do in the minutes following a conference, or one presentation at a conference.

But, there are times when I get that old "I missed class that day" feeling.  Again, I'm not complaining at all, but simply raising the point that people like myself are eager to contribute, but are limited with regard to experience in the nuts-and-bolts of grassroots organizing and activism.

My campaign experience has been, like just about every other conservative in the world, of the old style direct mail, yard sign, putting together voter and donor databases type, and my internet activism has been of the conventional conservative blogger punditry type along with some discussion forum moderating.

It would be great if Jon could put together a downloadable presentation or video to demonstrate strategies and techniques for activists to use in tackling all the areas where the conservative movement has fallen behind.

That is a good idea. Seminars

That is a good idea. Seminars or workshops could be created to help folks develop and organize better online. A compiling of knowledge to help our side would be a great thing to have for those who are motivated, but don't know where to direct that motivation.

I do like what Newt Ginghrich is doing with the Drill Now deal. He's taken a hot button issue and used conservative talk radio to drive folks to his solutions site. Now they have a traffic ranking that's up there with Moveon.

The left online has always used hot button issues to motivate their folks, fortunately for them, most of their folks are already online. Conservatives need to use the hot button issues similary and look to large mediums like talk radio to help pull in folks and build a base online.

Web Warriors list

The gang at Ft. Hard Knox has created an e-mail newsletter to pass on social media knowledge. Their target isn't uber-geeks but ordinary internet users who want to become better online activists. I encourage you to subscribe to the list. They also have a Facebook group if you want to connect that way.

Look, the Right is already behind in cyber-politics...

...and now you want to play school? What we really need is a whole new approach, where the left will have to play catch-up to us. Our party must have two new parallel structures, each complementing each other, one brick and mortar, the other completely online. And get this....the online structure must be totally transparent, it must be completely accurate and it must be the true voice of its members. Build a web structure that will not only represent the true voice of its members, but be perceived beyond question as representing the true voice of its members, and I guarantee you, people will fall all over themselves to sign up.

ex animo


I think you're giving the left too much credit.

The left's media structure IS the left. It is who they are. It's what they do.

What one might call fresh and relevant, could also be the "outrage du jour."  Addressing media competence is narrowly focused to ideology. Joe Klein is pilloried today for accepting the FISA compromise bill. Ignoring all the progress in Iraq is not an issue.

The left is proficient at maximizing communication structures because that is their corpus. Like a person walking, the left doesn't think about the mechanics involved, they just do it. Luckily, they can't fool all the people, all the time.  

Excellent Summary

And analysis. The collaborative nature of everything the Left does on the web is a key to their success.

Four things must occur in order to collaborate:

Infrastructure, People, Ideas and Motivation.  Motivation usually comes from two basic sources:  fear, and love - as in: a lot more people are beginning to love politics and fear the repercussions of a Leftista government.  And since I mentioned that, let me be clear:  I don't fear Barack Obama because he is black.  I fear Barack Obama because he is a Marxist, and because he has relocated his Democratic Party to the city of Chicago, which is the home of the first headquarters of the American Communist Party.  Conservatives have a rich and wonderful heritage of Ideas.  The Web and its existing and nascent technologies provide a fabulous Infrastructure.  Once the People become involved, then - to quote Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood - "the 21st Century is where everything changes". 

Still marketing New Coke!?


Modern day conservatism/Republican/Right is equivalent to “NewCoke”.  You remember from the eighties?  New Coke?  They took a great product and reformulated it.  It sucked, and they went back to Coca-Cola Classic.  Which everyone loved.


That’s what the Right is.  New Coke.  And no matter how you market it, no matter how much effort you spend in getting out the message, it’s just not going to sell.

Your problem is not the means of how you get your message out, the problem is the product.


Americans don’t like New Coke.  Americans don’t like the New Republicans.  They’ve had the last seven years of drinking New Republican, and it’s left a very,… very, bitter taste in their mouth.  And like it or not, John McCain is more of the New Coke.  You can try to add a little spiced rum to it, but it still sucks.


I thought the idea of The Next Right was to appeal to a new generation of conservatives.  The Next Generation.  But all I see is a concerted effort to sell New Coke.  The same recipe, the same packaging, but with a different colored wrapper.


Change your recipe back to the original one and you could easily sell it.  I would call it ConservativeClassic (trademarked, now).  Then go on your marketing blitz.

As it stands now, no seminar, no jingle, can save New Coke.


Like it or not, the best thing that can happen to conservatism is to lose this election.


Spiced rum and Coke Classic is something I can drink plenty of.



Good Analogy

I don't disagree at all.  In the marketplace of ideas, Republicans have to sell Classic Coke.  Maybe the problem I have is with the spiced rum?  Oftentimes the temptation, when things go south, is to lose our political sobriety and say the hell with it, let's just take it like men (I'm using the word loosely to include Republican women),learn a lesson we'll never forget, pick up our toys, go home, fall back, regroup, and prepare to pick up the pieces after the Big-Ass Failure

If we were talking Footy, the Republicans would be Chelsea and the Democrats would be Manchester United.  I'm just writing that rhetorically since personally I would rather see Anybody But Chelsea win at Footy, but that's really my point about how Americans have come to feel about Republicans.  Man U has developed a many-tentacled global franchise with a huge and fanatical fan base, and it was horrifying to watch John Terry weep when the Blues suffered a humiliating loss in this year's Champions League to the Red Devils.  But the big difference is, Chelsea will be back next year to try again.  And Manchester United isn't going to turn the UK into a model of Sweden between now and then (not that they'd have all that big a challenge to do so, of course).  I'm sure Chelsea learned a lesson, I'm sure they'll fall back and regroup, and no doubt they'll man-up and return to play a bigger, faster, stronger game in a few months.  In the meantime they'll probably be quite inebriated on a regular basis.

Look.  Everyone who thinks the best thing that could happen to us is suffering the world's biggest loss in this election may be right.  We cannot know that for sure unless we take that path.  But if J-Mac does win, at least he will be armed with something that will be better than absolutely nothing, and that is a Veto Pen.  And it might buy us enough time to reposition ourselves and revitalize the Classic brand, and build bigger, faster, stronger technology to get our message out in time for 2010.  We're not playing local Footy, we're playing World Cup.  And if our team takes a total loss, we don't risk just four more years of failure and disastrous policies, we risk eight - at least!  As Bill Shankly once said about football, this election isn't a matter of life or death, it's far more important than that.  I truly believe that for the next 8-16 years the Left won't be playing with Teamgeist balls, they'll be playing figuratively with our severed heads. 



I beg to differ. . .

. . .on the analogy, and I'm not just trying to be contrarian here.  I think there are several confounding factors.

First off, if you consider the Bush administration to be "New Coke", you have to consider that a huge part of the antipathy toward McCain amongst the Republican base extends from the fact that he opposed Bush, and the GOP establishment, on too many fronts.

Next, the fact is that McCain is consistently viewed more positively among voters at large than either President Bush, or the so-called "generic ballot" (Classic Coke) Republican.  Whereas "New Coke" was roundly rejected by cola buyers.

So, what it amounts to is that many Bush loyalists (New Coke fans) don't like McCain for his "maverick" ways.  And the general public (Classic Coke fans) aren't too crazy about Republicans overall, but seem not to be as opposed to McCain as they are to Bush (New Coke).

I'm not saying that McCain is Classic Coke, or Pepsi, or RC.  I'm just saying that, in blind taste tests, the analogy falls apart.

We should have a contest

to see how many dumb analogies we can come up with for this election.  Your analysis was too funny! 

When it comes to McCain, I think:  Rockstar.  That's gotta be his secret for staying awake all day at his age.  Hehehe!

Maybe Jolt?

After all, it's still cola.  And there's no denying the political symbolism.


Definitely.  Jolt.  Rockstar would no doubt speak more for the opposition.  I sit corrected.  :-)