Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Democrats turn out to be good at "doing" the Internet

Jose Antonio Vargas, in yesterday's (May 21) Washington Post, gave an insightful commentary on politics and new media, pointing out that "the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world" than Republican culture.

The Republican party's greatest strength in decades past has been their disciplined technique of staying unified in the delivery of its message. The standard procedure is to formulate the message at the top, at the level of the RNC or the White House, then distribute that message downward through various media outlets.

But that process doesn't work in "the often chaotic, bottom-up, user-generated atmosphere of the Internet."

The less discipline, more fractious Democratic party is being invigorated by the free forum chaos of Web 2.0, according to Peter Leyden of the New Politics Institute: "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

The few Republican triumphs online that Vargas chronicles, which include 2004 attacks on John Kerry and Dan Rather, were still top-down, coordinated projects rather than grassroots initiatives by cadres of amateur politicos, as has generally been the case with the notable Democratic successes, such as the YouTube broadcast of George Allen's regrettable "Macaca" comment.

Republicans have had astonishing success on radio, which McLuhan called the "tribal drum." The advent of Web 2.0 offers a new, radically different form of participatory community where the voices of Democrats and Progressives may speak the loudest.

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