A Note of Caution

3

Despite the setbacks to Howard Dean’s first-of-a-kind Internet operation, the current discussion around the Blogosphere seems to be centered on when and where the next major impact point will be, and not whether the Internet will be an important player from this point on in the American political panorama. We take this as a good thing, and a recognition of the inevitability of the impact of technological change on something as information intensive as a national political campaign and election.

The few faint suggestions that the Dean campaign marked a high-water mark for internet influence or that their recent change of tack marked the “defeat” of the internet were laughed off as patently absurd back where we come from. Which is not to say that the good guys have a monopoly of the power of this new technology. The internet can be used by ANYONE, the current administration and its media machine included. At best, the powers of light and liberation have a one-election cycle head start in its application. But to deny the growing importance of cyber-politics is denial on a level with hoping your Enron stock will come back.

However, the growing sense of euphoria and smug self-confidence we perceive in those flush with their first invigorating experience in participating in the political process and interacting with the electorate gives us pause. Personally, we believe it is terminally naive to think that the embedded power structure, fruit of generations of ruthless and deadly Darwinian winnowing, are just going to dry up and wither away.

We wouldn’t bet the farm on it. As the Dowbrigade noted in an earlier posting “The resources and cunning desperation to retain the reins of power of the “old politics” are not to be underestimated.”

It is true, there is a sea change in the air, and some of the bulwarks of conventional control of the information stream are crumbling under the relatively free-form innovations from the digital frontier. But it is here we feel a healthy dose of Paranoia may be in order. The powers-that-be have gotten where they are by co-opting, appropriating, defanging and remarketing the innovative works of others. And they make no bones about leaving a few buried bodies and busted careers in the wake of “progress”, as they define it.

This struggle is far from over. In fact, it is just beginning. The more they feel their media monopoly is threatened, the more the media moguls will turn on the independent journalists and bloggers. Look at what they did to the Dean campaign in two quick weeks!

Frontal attacks, slanted coverage and thinly disguised slander are the least of what they can do. They will corrupt and intimidate, plant false stories, threaten and deliver spurious lawsuits through quasi-front organizations like the (you-know-who but we won’t mention their name since they’ve been pinging us). They will try to co-opt bloggers, offering cushy “Pundit Positions” to the best and brightest among us, as a way of getting us on the golf course and out of their way. Who can resist the combination of the iron glove and the velvet fist?

They will buy out who they can, making Bloggers fashionable by creating lucrative corporate positions in the field. Every big company, network, and organization will have a blog, staffed by smart and snappy Blog-whores who think they are part of “the next big thing”.

Those authentic voices they can’t buy out they will force to the fringe of the Blogosphere to bleat in ineffectual isolation, with the other weirdoes and social misanthropes.

And never forget that in a very real way THEY control OUR infrastructure. They own the grids, both copper and fiber-optic, over which our liberation cyberology is powered and disseminated. They control the licensing organizations, the regulatory agencies, and the court systems that enforce their edicts. They control the police, the FBI, the Office of Homeland Security and the IRS. (Better hold on here, now we are really sounding paranoid). The degree to which they will be willing to utilize these resources will be directly related to the degree to which they feel threatened by the changes in the information infrastructure.

As alarming as that sounds, the Dowbrigade believes that this change is inevitable, it is natural, and it is part of a historic progression that goes at least as far back as Gutenberg. As such, we don’t need so much to work to make it happen as work to make it happen in a way which advances the development of human consciousness on our planet. But there is no stopping the advancement of these new communication tools in the political process in an open society like the United States still is, despite the best efforts of some in the current administration.

Next year, Joe Trippi will write a book about the Cyber-Campaign, and it will be a New York Times bestseller, closely studied by all of the camps preparing for the ’08 showdown. All of the veterans of that campaign, however it winds up, will become prophetic sages in hot demand on the campaign circuit (get ready, guys). It’s the wave of the future.

We would be willing to bet money that at this very moment both the Bush and the Clinton family brain trusts (as we look ahead to an increasingly likely Jeb vs. Hillary family feud showdown in 2008) have anointed workgroups to study and report on what the Dean Internet Force is doing.

The people threatened by these changes have real power in our society, which they have struggled their entire lives to acquire and they are not going to let it go without a fight. It’s going to be bloody. There are going to be casualties. Be prepared.

3 Comments

  1. Mike Walsh

    February 1, 2004 @ 8:56 am

    1

    Michael

    I strongly agree and disagree with some of the stuff you have said here… but I have to run to a pre-superbowl party.

    Where will you be during the game? Will you be watching it with your class?

  2. Michael Feldman

    February 1, 2004 @ 10:52 am

    2

    Mike,

    Very rarely do I socialize with my students, much as I love the little bastards, on the general priciple of separation of professional and personal spheres. I do make an exception when I teach my class of foreign lawyers each summer at BU Law School, on the general principle that you never know when you’re going to need a lawyer, somewhere around the world.

    I will be watching the game at home in Malden, with Dr. T.J.. Mecurio, a chiropractor from Syracuse, NY. If I can find your “private” email address I will send you contact info.

    mf

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    3

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