The GOP’s big internet mistake

The Republicans are, I believe, making a gigantic mistake in running away, scared, from the internet. They’re running away from voters — and their money.

The latest indication of their fear of the internet is their attempt to fink out on the YouTube/CNN Republican debate. The party line — as we see from Rush and others — is that YouTube is somehow biased. That’s absurd. That would be like the Democrats saying that mail is biased because the Republicans made the first, best use of it. If internet video is biased it is a damned bad sign for the right and mighty strange considering the leading work done in the medium by the conservatives in the UK, France, and Germany. Hugh Hewitt frets that listening to YouTube will open up Republicans to cheap shots. That’s merely convenient paranoia. They’re looking for excuses to stay away from this dance.

The Republicans are scared of the internet. They are scared of us.

Giuliani has, as this blog as pointed out frequently, run away from the internet and interacting with voters there at every opportunity: It shows in his pathetic internet fundraising. Patrick Ruffini, former Giuliani internet guy (we can see why that’s former) frets that the Republicans will be outraised by $100 million because of this attitude. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is sniffing snottily at the quality of the questions on YouTube… from citizens. John McCain has been stiff and scared in his videos. Sam Brownback has hardly made any videos and the ones he has made are as stiff as a Kansas silo. The entire party has left the internet to Ron Paul. And he has taken it and run.

In the end, this is not only short-sighted tactically but also essentially insulting to the American people. We are on the internt. Come talk with us. What, you’re too scared to? Big, tough terrorists don’t scare you but we do? Come on, boys, we don’t bite. But we do vote.

(Crossposted from PrezVid)

  • http://www.thepomoblog.com Terry Heaton

    Which is why Ron Paul has appeal beyond the normal GOP base.

    We must always remember that conservatism, whether political or religious, demands the control demonstrated in any top/down paradigm. God, the Father, is supreme! Others, however, are more comfortable with God, the Holy Spirit, and therein lies the rub.

    Rush and his cronies are very happy with the command and control of institutional America, because it is what gives them their power (and, by proxy, their wealth).

    If “power to the people” is the purview of Democrats alone, then, of course, conservatives would see anything about the web as “liberal” and, therefore, threatening.

    It’s fine with me, except when it enters the halls of congress where the status quo has considerable power.

    For more, read Perer Lurie’s brilliant essay Why the Web Will Win the Culture Wars for the Left.

  • R Rainey

    They are not running scared from the Internet or us. They are running from CNN’s gatekeeping of the questions that come in. Assuming that the selected video questions is somehow representative of questions that the population at large would choose, is a mistake. CNN receives a massive number of them, allowing them to essentially set the agenda. Virtually any loaded question CNN might want to ask can be found in the loads of videos that come in. Besides, the Dems’ YouTube debate was crappy, with no real debate and endless talking points. What am I missing here?

  • Seth Eagelfeld

    I think Mr.Hewitt has all to clear memories of an unshaved sweaty-faced Nixon. Perhaps, though, the lesson he(they) should learn from this is not that all media is inherently left-wing and ‘agin us– something Nixon went to his grave believing–but that to ignore the power of emerging mediums can be a blunder of historical proportions.

  • http://chadwilliams.blogspot.com chad

    Seems to me the GOP has been running away from voters for some time now; this is just the latest example of it!

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    For R Rainey:

    What you’re missing is the fact that the entire Republican facade is built on a house of cards, R — a president who’s a chronic liar and stonewaller and a largely corrupt republican pack of lobbyist-hoes. SURE they’re scared of US – they have a chronic gun-shyness for the truth. After Abramoff, after being Bush’s butt-monkeys… I think the only Republican left who wouldn’t care about being on YouTube would be Arlen Specter…

    Y’know, Jeff….you sound as if this is some kind of a bad thing… After what Bush and his Senate Cronies have done to this country’s international reputation, it won’t bother me one bit to see the whole pack of ‘em going to ground over YouTube exposure. Besides…it’s so true to form for them…

    Let ‘em run away. Let’s pit the Web against the Networks and may the best venue WIN….

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    Psychologist Robert Altemeyer has studied what he calls the “right wing authoritarian” personality type. This is someone who believes in a hierarchical social structure and a strong leader. He has found a strong correlation with this type of personality and a conservative social viewpoint.

    His work was the basis of John Dean’s recent book “Conservatives without Conscience”. Altemeyer has now written his own book which summarizes his 40+ years of research and put it online for free. You can read the results of his investigations here:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/%7Ealtemey/

    I think those who are trying to describe the behavior seen in the GOP candidate’s approach to open debate will find it germane.

  • chico haas

    Didn’t the Democrats refuse to debate on Fox?

  • http://trevorcarpenter.com Trevor Carpenter

    I’m a right-wing-nut-job, and I agree Jeff. I don’t agree that it would be a completely safe environment when CNN is filtering it, however.

    But on the larger issue of the Republicans running from the internet, I agree.

    @Terry, That too is true. Ron Paul is being murmured about in more than one of my circles. I’m supporting him.

    @Terry, BTW, power is only attained and maintained when you have the blind votes of a large ignorant people group, dependent upon your passing measures that keep them from having to do very much. (ie, poor, uneducated urban communities voting left because they keep them hooked on the welfare-state.)

    @chico, too true. Good point.

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  • Don

    Pssst Terry. Rush & MSM enjoy a profitable symbiotic relationship. A Hillary presidency arguably ranks as the most profitable thing that could happen to talk radio.

    Regarding trying to paint of conservatives with “father knows best” trope – true conservatives want to limit government by losing the Democratic Socialists of America.

    Ditto to posts about CNN trying to restore its gatekeeping authoritarianism while pygmy RINOs run away from the Inet faster than a bunch of Democrats running away from Fox.

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  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    It’s official: Romney Will SkipYouTube Forum

    Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Friday that he will not participate in a debate on Sept. 17 co-sponsored by CNN and YouTube, calling the debate not “respectful” enough to be part of the process of selecting a presidential nominee.

    I think the story here is that the “two-way right,” such as it is, the people who think it’s imperative for the Republican party to be organizing and fighting for itself online, are losing the battle internally to old-fashioned one-way move-the-message politicians.

    On a more hilarious note, Hugh Hewitt says CNN is the problem

    “The YouTube debate was a silly, and at times absurd exercise in giving air time to many idiots separated by an occasional responsible speaker, and the question selection by CNN demonstrated a huge left-wing bias which will inevitably appear in any subsequent YouTube debate.”

    Where did Romney make his announcement that he will be skipping the YouTube debate? On “left-wing” CNN.

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  • jon

    Looks to me (D, here) like running scared of the Internet is bipartisan.

  • Gordon Lane

    I’m sorry to bring this up for the second time in just a few days, but you keep referring to this place as if it is a fully representative cross-section of the American people, but there is a significant, I repeat significant number of people, particularly of often marginalized demographics, that are not here on the Web. I agree with you on most points, but by repeatedly ignoring this fact you are discrediting much of what you say, and many of your points sound like simple cheerleading. YouTube is biased. Not necessarily in a right/left sort of way, but in a middle to upper class, leave the poor out except when the rich feel guilty sort of way.

  • Cooler Heads

    Having seen the You Tube Dem debate, I would skip it too. The videos were stupid, the questions stupid. CNN clearly filters them for maximum sensationalism rather than for good debate.

    There are better ways to listen to voters, and talk to them, using the internet.

  • http://johnreu.wordpress.com/ Patrick

    have you seen any videos on Youtube? You have to be blind to not see the overwhelming presence of liberal opinion. Youtube is the place where, if you feel like making a crazy conspiracy video that claims President Bush is really a squid and not a human at all you will find a large audience of ignorant twelve year olds who agree. Target youtube sure, but there’s no way it’s of any use to Republicans in the long run, just like on myspace and other liberal soaked sites the activists are already convinced and the others can’t even vote.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    techPresident: “According to comScore, YouTube actually attracts more Republicans than Democrats. Specifically, there are 3.3 million self-identified Republicans on the user-generated video site versus 3.1 million Democrats. (An addition 5 million consider themselves independent.)”

    Patrick Ruffini in a new post:

    Why am I so worked up about the YouTube debate?

    Because I want to win.

    This is not an emotional issue for me. It is rather a business decision about whether or not the Republican Party will be able to compete effectively over the next twenty years or so.

    New York Times Caucus blog:

    “The Republican CNN-YouTube debate, scheduled for Sept. 17 in Florida, may move to another date, given reservations that some of the presidential candidates have expressed about both the date and the format.”

  • http://www.racket-free.blogspot.com Frieda

    The “you tube” questions were not that much greater in depth than the pervious debate questions.

    The only difference we had, was the snowman and some geeky dudes…I think “you tube” debate was actually making fun of people. Majority of people ( me included) don’t know how to use Utube, so I don’t agree “utube” debates represented average citizens at all.

    This is not a Republican issue at all. Didn’t Democrats refuse to debate on FOX, as if FOX audience are not “average American” citizen!

  • eric norlin

    just as an fyi: some conservative folks are calling for the GOP to be in the YouTube debates — folks like Michelle Malkin, for example:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2007/07/27/youtube-and-republicans-get-in-the-game/

  • http://shelbinator.com Shelby

    Great job on Reliable Sources this morning! I liked the way you kept smacking Blanquita down on the GOP fraidy-cats; and you’re right, it was CNN’s decision, not YouTubers’, to use some unnecessarily ridiculous videos.

  • Aaron D

    Most of what’s been said above in this thread sounds amusingly like the same noises we were hearing in late 2003, when Howard Dean was pre-anointed the next President of the United States by both the MSM and most of the blogosphere because he was “the only candidate who truly gets the ‘Net.”

    And, of course, the moment the actual primaries began, he imploded into nothing.

    (As we’ve also seen above, Ron Paul is getting similar praise for the similar reasons this time around; the only difference is that his actual chances of winning are, and always will be, zero. Dean at least had the theoretical potential of making it through.)

    The YouTube debate is a gimmick, and one that will quickly be forgotten whether it’s held or not. There may be a larger question as to how much of an effect the Internet is destined to have on future political campaigns in general, but the YouTube debate itself is close to irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Right, Aaron. Because no one else learned from the Dean episode–in fact we all forgot about it–except you. Thanks for the reminder. I had overlooked the fact that Howard Dean is not my president. But now that you mention it….damn going to have to re-evaluate.

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  • Don

    A poster to Peach Pundit notes Jarvis is 100% right about conservatives overseas just owning the social media playing field.

    Harvard Conservative seems an oxymoron best suited to describe a stuffy liberal IMHO.

  • http://www.yahoo.com DDA

    Hit the nail on the head they can’t afford a confrontation with the voters because the voters will hold them accountable. I t is NOT a rehearshed answer, and it can’t be time delayed nor party affiliated, this is the truth and the rePUKulans can not handle the truth.

  • R Rainey

    Some observations:

    1. Why does it seem that lefties can’t debate something without calling people all sorts of names – “loobbyist-hoes”, “butt monkeys”, “pygmy RINOs”, “rePUKulans “, etc. What are the nasty names righties on this thread have called Democrats?

    2. I think Internet progressives sometimes fail to be at all critical in their support for this fantastic medium. There are great innovations being fostered on the internet, including in the political arena. However, the YouTube debate clearly was not one of them. The questions were not new, they were selected by CNN which set the agenda, they did not foster followup and the debate pursued entertainment at the expense of information (I know, I know, information can be transmitted effectively when it is entertaining, but here the priorities were wrong). Knee jerk criticism of the Republicans for rejecting the format is knee-jerk support for a medium that has not proven effective. Perhaps more analysis than “they are afraid” is appropriate.

  • Guy Love

    Let’s see …

    Dems bail on FOX, no problem, YAWN, traditional media barely issues any concern that Dems are not all inclusive.

    Repubs bail on CNN, big problem, OH MY GOD, traditional media goes into overdrive spouting how Repubs are not all inclusive.

    Somethings never seem to change …

    And oh, by the way, YouTube appears to be 50/50 politically, just like the nation. The problem is CNN, not YouTube.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    I also said it was a mistake for the Dems to snub Fox. They were snubbing voters there, too. What are they afraid of, any of these pols. Us?

  • Don

    R Rainey – FWIW Newt Gingrich’s usage of pygmies to describe our current crop of Republican candidates inspired me to append the acronym RINO (Republican In Name Only). FYI RINOs such as Dick Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, mostly value property rights while fancying themselves as far above the supposed unchecked anger of right wing rabble.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    For R Rainey:

    You’re right, R – I’ve neglected the fact that the Dems are barely distinguishable, in many instances, from the Republicans, as far as political hypocrisy goes.

    There’s been as much bribery and corruption in the Democratic Camp as there has been in the Republican camp, as much accessibility to lobbyists and their vested interests, and as much playing fast’n'loose with the facts…

    A few recent events, though, have REALLY brought the Republicans down in most people’s opinions…like this blatantly ILLEGAL and IMMORAL WAR in which we find ourselves embroiled in Iraq – I NEVER, in my LIFETIME, thought I would witness AMERICA acting as a HOSTILE INVADER…for NO GOOD REASON…under FALSE PRETENSES…launching a PREMPTIVE STRIKE against a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY…

    All because a pipsqueak who’s never served a decent day’s military service in his LIFE thinks it would be a good idea to try to tie a good oil-resource country run by a petty dictator WE helped back, to an international terrorist organization by utilizing a web of faulty data spun into a tangle of lies…said pipsqueak having been APPOINTED, thanks to a likely jerrymandering of an election (engineered by Rove, Jeb & Co., Ltd.), by a Supreme Court heavily influenced by right-wing conservatives backed by the Religious Right…and a second election once again likely tampered with utilizing mail-culling…

    And so, in answer to Bush’s follies, in our last election the Democrats served up John Kerry, a.k.a. ‘Just Another Bonesman,’ a man who was and remains utterly clueless as to just what it takes to survive on an income of $25K per year or less in this country. Truly inspirational.

    This year’s lineup is a beauty pageant, once again – on both sides of the aisle. The only difference between the parties is which vested interest is backing WHOM, and with HOW MUCH.

    I’m an independent, R – I’d've voted for McCain in 2000, if he’d had the guts to CALL Bush on his BS for smearing his military record. Instead, he must’ve had his SPINE removed. Politics in this country is like that: you seem to have to have a vertebrectomy before you can get elected.

    And if you’re wondering where all the nasty names are that right-wingers have called left-wingers, well, they’re not on this thread because right wingers generally avoid this whole BLOG, except when they’re playing TROLL, with a few exceptions like Trevor Carpenter, here. The names are out there, though – just read or watch the news whenever a Republican is speaking about the Democrats – let’s see…’Traitors,’ ‘Soft on Terror,’ ‘Unpatriotic,’ ‘Against our Troops,’ etc. etc. ad nauseum.

    It’s possible to be a conservative, OR a liberal, without being a LIAR, R….the problem is, so many of them ARE liars, these days.

    And right now, the bulk of the liars appear to be occupying the RIGHT side of the AISLE.

    That can easily change, of course. As it has many times in the past. And it’s OUR job to keep an eye on them and make sure we’re getting the truth. And that may be the biggest benefit of the internet – the fact that there are so many voices out here, that sooner or later ONE of them, at least, is bound to be telling the truth. And THAT … SCARES … LIARS.

    “…You see these dictators upon their pedastels, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers, and the truncheons of their police. But in their hearts…they are AFRAID…of WORDS, stirring abroad…of THOUGHTS, brewing at home. A little MOUSE…a little MOUSE of DOUBT, enters the room…and even the mightist POTENTATES are thrown into PANIC…” —Winston Churchill

  • http://inrethinking.blogspot.com ashok

    Who is “us,” exactly?

    Mr. Jarvis, you yourself have said that a campaign is about the candidate getting his message across more than having a discussion. I can’t find the post, it’s from eons ago – oh wait.

    I think the Republicans should be scared. If “us” are those on the internet/media junkies, we tend to favor fringe candidates, like John Edwards (if a Lefty) or Fred Thompson. We’re out of touch in our ranting and perpetual absorption of media with the special interests that really matter and dominate each party. Some of those special interests are represented on the Internet, but a lot of us are here because we’re reacting to media more than wanting to get involved in politics. Granted, this argument is working off of old numbers, I’m thinking mainly of the Pew Internet Research Report in Jan. 2005 where only 9% of internet users surveyed said they regularly read political blogs. I doubt the number is that small anymore, but I don’t see this place getting any less radical. Huff Po and Juan Cole and Michelle Malkin and LGF represent majority opinion? Really?

    Let the Dems and Republicans pick their venues however they like. If they fail, then you can go “I told you so.” But loading how they should approach elections tactically with a populist/futurist vision could backfire. Don’t online polls differ significantly in results from other sorts of polling (I’m not sure, I’m asking)?

  • Don

    Careful there. America’s anchorman Rush Limbaugh (with an audience larger than all three network news shows combined) aired a Jarvis sound bite yesterday’s show.

    Congratulations Jeff! Unfortunately Rush linked to the Austin American-Statesman instead of Jeff’s BuzzMachine. Audience growth due to Rush touting a given website to his 20 million webcast viewers and radio listeners intrigues me. How many of Rush’s 20 million visit a touted site and how many end up staying?

  • http://trevorcarpenter.com Trevor Carpenter

    @Tansley, coward. No URL.

    Also, what branch of the US Armed Services did you serve in?

    Me, Army.

  • Don

    Thomas Bates. The first party to use the net aggresivly will win the next election.
    The first party to exploit the Inet could potentially dominate American politics for decades. But first a pol must figure out how to effectively exploit the Inet as FDR exploited radio and JFK exploited television. IMHO a conversation can dramatically increase the intimacy of the US Presidency. The exact paradigm which enables a pol to carry on a conversation with tens of millions remains an enigma. Although in the decades that follow it will seem intuitively obvious.

  • http://deleted Tansley – addendum

    Trevor, don’t get me wrong.

    I cited you as the EXCEPTION to the usual run of conservative gadflies and trolls that frequent this blog.

    YOU, at least, have something of substance to say.

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  • http://www.medlawplus.com jjray

    IMHO, the Republicans are scared of that which they cannot control and manipulate, therefore, they fear the internet.