Skip to main content

The New Democracy

The New Democracy

Back in march, I talked about how the internet will change democracy, by fundamentally changing the way we get our news, and how we share it with each other.

There are indications that this election is starting to see those effects already. Previously, I suggested that, in the future, "Electoral success depends on motivating people, not donors, because people can't be swayed by an increasingly irrelevant broadcast media".

Sen. Obama is burning money at almost 2:1 over Sen. McCain, yet McCain's seen a decent enough boost since the pick of Gov. Palin to break even. Granted, a lot of this is due to the sensationalist coverage of her in the broadcast media, but that coverage comes as a result of the media scrambling (and sometimes clumsily so) for details on someone they thought was an unknown.

So why have I been hearing about Sarah Palin, potential VP pick, since before she had her 5th child? Because I keep my eye on the conservative blogs. I'm not saying that she was the expected pick, but the media reacted as though it came completely out of left-(or, maybe, "right")-field. Traditional media doesn't know what the Internet literati do. That's a powerful statement.

The Internet has the potential to produce an undesirable insulating effect when it comes to politics, however. It allows us to sift through the noise and filter content that we wish to see. It allows us to build our community and social ties around shared interests, instead of shared geography. The more we get entrenched with like-minded people, the more we end up talking to ourselves, and shutting out outside information. This is particularly dangerous for the campaigns themselves, because it distances them from the thoughts, worries, concerns, and ideas of independent voters they need to win any election.

This election cycle, I've noticed the following trends due to this:

* "Message Discipline" is way up among people who aren't on campaign staffs. The True Believers on both sides, dedicated to circulating their propaganda within their own circles, get increasingly out of touch with Independent and swing voters, and increasingly parrot their party lines.

* The campaigns themselves target those swing voters as a demographic needing coercion. While this is not something new, what is new is that these independents are busy informing themselves on the issues that matter to them.

* The media isn't helping these people find the information they want. The media is busy reporting on which demographic segments are leaning which direction, and playing the campaign smear commercials in between. Instead of illustrating the issues and policies of each candidate, they are instead following the populace, who is digging for that information on their own thanks to the Internet, blogs, RSS feeds, and links and writings by the people in their social network. The media, instead of bringing the issues from the candidates down to the people, are lagging behind the people who are using the Internet to go straight to the source.

More evidence that the people are going straight to the candidates to make their decision? The Democratic Convention was the most watched convention, ever. For one week. Then the Republican Convention was the most watched ever. I predict that the debates are seriously going to determine the outcome of this election. America is paying attention. The broadcast and print media just haven't figured out what they paying attention *to*, yet.


Popular posts from this blog

The Re-Opening Experiment

We should remind ourselves that, this Memorial Day weekend and the weeks that follow, we are subjects in a grand experiment to see how good we are at social distancing as stay-at-home orders are being slowly lifted. The state's stay-at-home order was never meant to keep you, individually, safe from infection. It was meant to keep hospital's safe from being overwhelmed by too many of us needing them at the same time. In Michigan, the daily new cases of COVID-19 are higher today than they were when we locked down in late March. We are testing whether or not we can open up (with all of our new precautions and protocols) without spiking the rate of spread, but make no mistake: it *is* an experiment, and we *are* the test subjects. Please don't get careless as things start to open up. We need to get our economies back on track, but we are still a long way (and a vaccine away) from being out of the woods. Stay vigilant, folks. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. As has always been the

COVID-19 and the Tools We Need to Re-open Wisely

There's a lot of graphs and stats that the news is throwing at people right now. So much so, that you can get information overload trying to make sense of the statistics that have meaning. To quote my old Econometrics professor, "There are three types of lies: 'Lies', 'Damned Lies', and 'Statistics' ". I should also lead with the caveat that I'm an engineer and data nerd by trade, but I'm not an epidemiologist. I welcome feedback from those who have more experience than I do. The most important question we're trying to answer (at least here in Michigan), is "How are we doing?", and "When can we reopen our economy?". With respect to those questions, here's my take on the most important data, and some caveats about what these data are telling us. The four most cited data in news stories are: Total Number of Cases Daily New Cases. Total Number of Deaths Daily New Deaths This post will talk about #1 and #2

What Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

An old friend recently reached out to me (and presumably others) and asked us what advice we'd give our younger selves, particularly at ages 20, 30 and 40. After writing my response to him, I thought it worth posting myself as well.  The substantive bulk of my response to him follows: ----- The difficult thing is that I really wouldn't change a thing about who I am, so any call for advice feels a bit like a time-traveler scenario where my advice to a younger self would affect the outcome of my present life, and I'm not sure I'd risk it. My experiences shaped me, including the glaring mistakes, and I wouldn't trade places today with anyone on Earth. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics here, and thus assume I won't mess my own (present) life up. Wibbly-Wobbly. Timey-Wimey. It is also important to note that the question is "What advice would you give your younger self?". The a