Does the internet hold an inherent political worldview? Does this medium have a message? I wondered that after I read BBC correspondent Justin Webb arguing that the American left had lost its way and its means.
“The worlds of entertainment and news (which used to pipe a vaguely leftwing message into the nation’s homes) have been blown to bits by technological changes which render them powerless,” he wrote. “The Democrats need a message and a new way of communicating that message to a mass audience. They have neither.” That made sense: mass media were perfect for the old, populist left, but they are mass no more. And the next media phenoms – cable news and talk radio – turned out to be the right vehicles for US conservatives. They used these niche channels to hammer home their angry arguments and fight back at what they saw as the liberal hegemony of mass media (and Hollywood).
So what, I wondered then, is the political nature of the latest medium, the internet? When I started blogging in 2001, I was puzzled by the apparently disproportionate number of libertarians around me, until I came to see that perhaps they had found a home in a medium that enables and celebrates individual liberty.
But perhaps it’s not that simple.
Then I argue that the internet is none of the above.