Rather than compare Dr. Dean to McGovern or Goldwater, it may make more sense to recall Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. It was not until F.D.R.’s fireside chats on radio in 1933 that a medium in mass use for years became a political force. J.F.K. did the same for television, not only by vanquishing the camera-challenged Richard Nixon during the 1960 debates but by replacing the Eisenhower White House’s prerecorded TV news conferences (which could be cleaned up with editing) with live broadcasts. Until Kennedy proved otherwise, most of Washington’s wise men thought, as The New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in 1961, that a spontaneous televised press conference was “the goofiest idea since the Hula Hoop.”
And Frank Rich saying this also:
The condescending reaction to the Dean insurgency by television’s political correspondents can be reminiscent of that hilarious party scene in the movie “Singin’ in the Rain,” where Hollywood’s silent-era elite greets the advent of talkies with dismissive bafflement. “The Internet has yet to mature as a political tool,” intoned Carl Cameron of Fox News last summer as he reported that the runner-up group to Dean supporters on the meetup.com site was witches.
I like that. It’ll be extremely interesting to see what happens to the Dean campaign. That all suggests that it may do rather well. However, I saw a tiny glimpse of Dean on TV last night, on a BBC Newsnight report of his efforts, and both the BBC reporter and Dean’s performance suggested to me that he’s a crazed demagogue and that when he comes flapping out of the caves of the internet into the cold light of those “impromptu televised press conferences” that JFK started all those years ago, he’ll crash and burn very quickly. But like I say, it’ll be interesting to see.
Even if Dean himself has (metaphor switch warning force six) flown on the wings of the internet too close to the sun of real politics, he has certainly done a lot to give political credibility to the internet, blogs etc. And sadly, what that means is that there will soon be a zillion blogs out there, but that they won’t be linking to the likes of this blog; they’ll be linking to each other. I am about to be an even smaller fish in an even bigger pond. You can feel the word ‘blog’ and ‘blogger’ (the BBC also made much of Salam Pax) becoming something that everyone will soon understand and have an opinion about and which about half of everyone will have to have, like ‘website’ before it. Respectable political opinion has stopped ignoring the political impact of the internet and has switched to worrying about it.
“Weimarization” is the word I am hearing, although I can’t recall where. The idea is that the internet is empowering the extremes. But that’s only because the non-extremes aren’t using it, and that’s surely about to change. Indeed, I keep thinking that this ‘the internet is predominantly conservative and libertarian’ vibe is about to roll over and die. And in terms of sheer square yardage of verbiage, it probably already has. If we continue in any way to ‘dominate’, it will be (a) because our ideas and arguments are better, not because we merely proclaim more of them, and (b) because to the liberal left, a media system not biased in their favour – not owned or captured by them – feels like it’s biased against them, even if all that’s really happening is that anyone can now say what they want and read what they want.
That of course being one – and I speak as a libertarian rather than as a conservative now – of our ideas.
By the way, who exactly is Frank Rich?