Thursday, March 26, 2009

Smash the Collective!

It's one thing for Daniel Hannan to have done it.

It's another thing for him to realize that he had done it.

It's yet another thing for him to realize what it means that he had done it.

And it is icing on the cake that he did it with an assault on state-controlled economies.

He managed hurl a single well placed stone, and put a crack in collectivist notions of media, politics, and economy with just one shot. A British libertarian hurling well-pointed words at the Prime Minister may not be common, but it's not earth-shattering either. What's amazing is that it ginned up enough interest on the Internet that I've seen it on just about every news program tonight all the way over here on the other side of the Atlantic. Left to their own devices, the European press would never have covered it, let alone the American press. But, as Hannan writes in his blog today:
When I woke up this morning, my phone was clogged with texts, my email inbox with messages. Overnight, the YouTube clip of my remarks had attracted over 36,000 hits. By today, it was the most watched video in Britain.

How did it happen, in the absence of any media coverage? The answer is that political reporters no longer get to decide what's news. The days when a minister gave briefings to a dozen lobby correspondents, and thereby dictated the next day's headlines, are over. Now, a thousand bloggers decide for themselves what is interesting.
As I said in one of my first posts to this blog, almost a year ago:
When someone talks about the sweeping changes that the Internet is going to bring to politics, they are usually talking about recent or near-term trends like Online voting, scandal scoops from the Blogosphere, or tapping into internet-based campaign contributions. These symptoms are certainly novel, but they are just that... symptoms. The real sea change is occurring in the populace now. We expect to have a voice, not just in the "strongly agree/somewhat disagree" opinion polls, but in shaping and driving opinion and dialogue, and in oversight of a truly transparent government.
I'm getting pretty tired of hearing of this phenomenon as being "viral". With the professional opining class becoming ever more irrelevant, and traditional media lagging behind instead of leading the public discourse, I think we can start calling the old model "stagnant" media, and stop attaching the foul connotations of the epithet "viral" to the emerging media reality. Now that our natural desire to share, produce, comment, and converse has an avenue on the Internet, the time is coming soon when social media waves like this one are no longer the exception, but the norm.

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