Panel points

One more post about tonight’s panel (6p at New York University: Warren Weaver Hall, 251 Mercer St.,. Room 109): With such a lineup of luminaries (Arianna Huffington, Micah Sifry, Lisa Tozzi, Jay Rosen), I’m trying to think of ways to nudge the discussion about politics and the internet into new directions. One thought is to — McLaughlin-like, I’m afraid — start by positing some notions and get reaction. Think of it as Oxford lite or as jump balls. Here are some possibilities. I’d be eager to hear more ideas from you.

* Rudy Giuliani lost the election because of the internet (his MySpace page was closed; he never raised money online from individuals; he never started a movement) and Barack Obama will be nominated if not elected by the internet (he did start a movement using online). True or false? what made Obama’s campaign a movement and how much credit does the internet deserve? What has been the secret to his online success?

* We may be talking about racism in the campaign but we’re not talking about sexism (I’m not seeing it). True or false? If not, why not? And what impact is this ism having?

* Apart from the Hillary Clinton 1984 ad (and a few very recent and fairly click anti-Obama ads), most of the voter video we’ve seen on YouTube is crude and as lacking in skill as it is lacking in intelligence. True or false? I was among those who predicted that we’d see a flowering of voter creativity and advocacy. Why haven’t we?

* The most important online tool for campaigns this year has been — not blogs, not Facebook or MySpace, certainly not Twitter — but YouTube? True or false? Did it really manage to free the candidates from the tyranny of the 15-second soundbite and set the agenda in discussion and coverage? Or is that just web 2.0 wishfulness?

* Whoever wins will have to continue making YouTube videos and blogging or else everything they’re doing in this campaign will have been just a cynical act. True or false? This was the answer to a question I put to the head of David Cameron’s web activities in the UK. Clinton has promised to have agencies blog. Obama has promised to open up data. Will they continue their more personal and human relationship with constituents or is that act soon going to be over?

* We are nowhere nearer Joe Trippi’s dream of eliminating big money and TV from ruling campaigns. True or false? Yes, Obama raised huge money from huge numbers of people, but the amount needed only grew as well and TV is still at the center of campaigns. Is there any hope for Trippi?

* The primary system is broken and the internet is the way to fix it. True or false? The idea of state primaries is outdated when we can all see the same media and interact with campaigns in new ways online.

* The jig is up on journalistic objectivity and the internet forced the issue. True or false?

Or I won’t do this and we’ll discuss the impact of the internet on campaigns and government. As always, I’m eager for your thoughts.

Remember that the panel will be webcast by Rachel Sterne in Groundreport.TV.

P.S. If you’re doing I’m told this about the location: The entrance is blocked by construction so go to 40 West 4th Street, New York University’s Gould Plaza. The entrance to the Courant Institute is on the East side of the plaza (on your left hand side facing the plaza).

  • PXLated

    Good post, good questions!

  • Adam

    Giuliani: I disagree. It still really hasn’t been proven that the internet can elect a president. Good internet presence could put a strong campaign over the top, however. I think Giuliani was done in by his exploitation of 9/11, as well as the people’s fear of electing another Bush.

    ism’s: I have heard plenty about racism and sexism – “Should we be calling Clinton by her first name?”, breaking non-stop coverage about tears, etc. Both of these issues are just the result of the MSM looking for ratings. Nothing to pull in viewers like a good controversy. We should be talking more about the economy and the war in Iraq/foreign policy.

    Online Video: Though the quality of the videos may be lacking, I still think we are light years ahead of where we were in 2004. The fact that people are putting forth the effort to record their own vids is a very good sign. Can’t argue that more people are more involved and passionate about politics than they have been. As for the intelligence of those vids – I believe that may be your average voter. ;)

    YouTube: True. However, you are still only reaching a small subset of the general population, and not the one that matters most to the candidates (the people w/ power and $$). Internet still does not have the power to sway general public opinion, IMO. I think we still have 4/8 years to go before youtube and the web really become a factor.

    Blogging: I slightly disagree. I think it is understood that the internet is a tool for the candidates to get their campaign message out. However, I believe that transparency has become a priority, especially after Bush, and the winner must be careful not to alienate one of their most passionate voter blocks by shutting themselves out from the people once elected. The people are tired of the manipulation and secrets.

    Trippi – Unfortunately, very true. There is no doubt that big money and the MSM are influencing the election. However, they do not deserve 100% of the blame. MSM would be irrelevant without the millions of viewers with glazed-over eyes.

    Primary: Agree, very broken. I don’t think the internet is THE way to fix it. I believe a one-day, national primary based on popular vote alone is the solution.

    Journalistic objectivity: Almost. We still have way to many people who do not see the bias in the news. Exposure to BOTH sides of the coin is the only way to become objective, IMO. Most news consumers lack this.

    I hope this contributes. Looking forward to the panel.

  • Great questions to toss out there. However, cynic that I am, I will be very surprised if any of this new “openness in government” actually occurs once either candidate is in office. They have been quick to understand the power of the Internets and have effectively used it as a tool. But that’s all it is. Once in office, it will be sayanara. I don’t think we will see any of them using Twitter any time soon. Transparency sounds good to us disgruntled voters, and is being held out there like the proverbial carrot. Bottom line – they are still all just politicians. I am convinced that if the full picture of ineptitude, waste, fraud, cronyism, etc ad nauseum, were ever revealed to a concerned and enlightened general public, there would (and should) be blood in the streets. And the entrenched politicians know it and fear it. No president, not Obama, or Hillary or McCain, are stupid enough to ever let that happen. We will see and hear what they want us to see and hear, as long as it serves them well. Once in office, it’s the same old tune. Meet the new boss – same as the old boss. By the way, I would love to be proved wrong. Hope springs eternal.

  • Adam

    Oops – thought you wanted reactions from us. I want my 10 minutes back!!

  • JennyD

    I have a friend who gave money to Obama online and now she gets regular emails from him and his staff. Not personal emails, for the group. But they are in constant contact via email with contributors and supporters. Also, they use the web to organize volunteers iin ways that amaze me. It is the future now.

  • Highgamma

    On the issue of sexism, Gloria Steinem tried to compare the sexism and racism issues on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. I found her writhing logic to be quite amusing. Here are two excerpts:

    “So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe…”

    She follows that up with, “I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest.” Of course, she had just said that women had it tougher in the last paragraph. The point is that she’s not used to the “competition”.

    While I enjoy seeing Steinem twist, there is something important here. The reason why you don’t hear about the sexism aspect of the campaign is that there is not a palatable way for feminists to make the “sexism is worse than racism” argument without falling in the trap of looking like racists. And the only argument that seems to win is for the one that is “worst”. Being bad off is not good enough.

    My only hope is that this issue forces people to rise above the “-isms”, but I doubt that will occur.

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