Talking points for BBC TV interview on role of Internet in U.S. politics
September 23, 2008 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I've just been asked to be interviewed for a popular show on BBC TV to talk about the role of the Internet in U.S. politics for this campaign cycle. What are some succinct and intelligent talking points I can follow without sounding like I'm talking out my arse.

My role in the 2004 campaign cycle is fairly well-known. I was heavily involved in the Wesley Clark campaign during the primaries and built the first campaign web site for Clark04 and then proceeded to build the innovative (at the time) Clark Community Network that allowed every campaign supporter to be a blogger for Clark and have a voice in the campaign.

After the Clark campaign I proceeded to consult for the Kerry campaign but left after 6 weeks because I refused to play the backstabbery game that most campaigns are chock full of. Side note: It's kind of ironic that political campaigns have some of the most screwed up office politics I have ever witnessed.

I also wrote some proposals for the DNCC, proposing they build an online community that allowed the delegates, remote bloggers, the political activists and journalists to communicate with one another -- basically break down the barriers that have been in place at every political convention for the past 100 years.

This cycle, I am mostly uninvolved with politics but am paying close attention to the polls and the proposed policies of each candidate. I'm impressed with the online efforts of the Obama campaign and know a few of the people who helped put that together.

So, if you were in my shoes, what talking points would you stick to? Should I take the opportunity to throw in a few digs at the McCain/Palin campaign? I'm obviously a strong Obama supporter, if only because I think McCain is walking death and Palin is the most unqualified person to ever be this close to the White House (even trumping George W. Bush's ignorance and mismanagement).
posted by camworld to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any suggestions for talking points, but I would leave political jabs out of your interview. It doesn't sound like they want to interview you for your political views but rather for all the experience you just listed. Own it!
posted by warble at 11:23 AM on September 23, 2008

Point 1: The press has been the gatekeeper for news for decades, especially in the US. The most important power of a gatekeeper is the power to keep the gate closed, to decide what is not "news" and to make sure it doesn't get covered.

The most important impact of the rise of the internet has been to deprive the press of that power to black out stories. They can't do that any longer.

Point 2: The press has always seen its role as scrutinizing the acts of government and of politicians. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The internet now watches the watchers. The press itself is now subject to unprecedented scrutiny. (And they don't like it, either.)

Scrutiny of press bias was one of the most important stories that the gatekeepers used to black out.
posted by Class Goat at 11:35 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, if you were in my shoes, what talking points would you stick to?

For context: there really isn't a UK political blogosphere to anywhere near the same extent. In part, that's because politics is done differently -- no real need to raise funds, different rules on political advertising, different kind of media environment. So you ought to be prepared to explain this, especially if it's for the BBC's domestic programming as opposed to its global operations.

I'd talk about how Obama's campaign has created a parallel structure to the main players of the liberal blogosphere, taking inspiration from how they work but not necessarily engaging with them in the way that non-campaign blogs tend to do. You've also got a liberal fundraising network that's much more mature than in 2004, thanks to ActBlue and blog-related PACs, and the rise of YouTube to create a panopticon for candidate's movements and to create instant response ads, parodies, etc.

Should I take the opportunity to throw in a few digs at the McCain/Palin campaign?

Unless you're being paired with a Republican, no. (You might want to mention the 'Blackberry' gaffe from last week, perhaps.) Though you can talk about bottom-up vs. top-down as the classic difference between left and right media structures online.
posted by holgate at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2008

Should I take the opportunity to throw in a few digs at the McCain/Palin campaign?

Most of the BBC's viewship is British and as such unable to vote in US elections; you might be wasting your time. Or they might edit that bit of the interview out as off topic, which is likely to offend.

1. You could outline the online organising efforts of the two candidates (e.g. which are fairly cutting edge compared to what parties in the UK have. There will soon be an election in the UK; if British parties were looking to America for inspiration, what should they emulate and what should they avoid?

2. There are plenty of unofficial videos on Youtube etc; how important are unofficial efforts in influencing public opinion? Could youtube videos and blog posts ever compare to the impact of, say, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?

3. I would mention Howard Dean and Ron Paul as a counterpoint, illustrating how online support isn't everything.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2008

The power of forwarded email smears.

This seems to be unique to the US to me. I live in another country with its own election pending, but I never get those kinds of emails. Reading blogs like Metafilter it would appear that American inboxes are stuffed with them.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2008

you could talk about speculation on the election outcome happening at intrade
posted by dawdle at 2:16 PM on September 23, 2008

Something that I would hit upon is that there's not just one way that the internet influences politics. For example, sure, Obama's fundraising. But also Palin's email hack.

It's also worth mentioning that UK media still operates under a "party press" model, much more than US journalism (ostensibly) does. You know who a Guardian reader is voting for; likewise The Sun or The Telegraph. That's being replicated through the adoption of informal party presses—The Daily Kos and HuffPo or … (here, on the internet, I can say LGF and Malkin, but I'd try to demure, because I don't believe in giving those places more coverage or playing the false equivalency game).

The internet has also shifted news cycles to a surprising degree—there's no more waiting for the Beeb to run its next update on an election. You can also talk about the surprising amount of participation from foreigners, both good and bad. Like, at MetaFilter, there are a huge number of Canucks etc. who all are fairly informed and have a broader way of communicating with us Yanks. But it can backfire, as during '04's Brits-for-Kerry bit. Without the internet, most of us wouldn't have known that the Guardian readers even cared about our election. Instead, they're trying to sway Ohio, and there was a pretty large backlash over it.

You can also point out that the internet has allowed me to come up with talking points for you, and encourage them to seek me out for an interview, during which I will evidence the most appallingly provincial accent imaginable.
posted by klangklangston at 4:12 PM on September 23, 2008

Re KlangKlangston's point: if you're looking for a respectable right-wing web site to cite, use Power Line.

But I think you're better off ignoring partisanship, and ignoring the specifics of this particular election, and concentrating on the more global and long term ways in which the internet is changing things pretty much permanently.

Another example is the way that YouTube has become an alternate form of distribution for election video advertisements. And yet again, this is a way of bypassing the gatekeepers, who could and did refuse to run ads they deemed unacceptable, back when they were the only means of distribution.

The real, fundamental change that is being brought about by the internet is the triumph of populism over elitism. No one now has the kind of influence that Walter Cronkite did, and no one ever will again.

This is the true rise of the grass-roots. It's also the rise of astro-turfing. There have always been phony grass-roots campaigns, but the internet has made astro-turfing easier and much more common.
posted by Class Goat at 4:40 PM on September 23, 2008

Skim through the draft of political scientist Matthew Hindman's upcoming book The Myth of Digital Democracy.
posted by PueExMachina at 9:45 PM on September 23, 2008

The power of forwarded email smears.

This seems to be unique to the US to me. I live in another country with its own election pending, but I never get those kinds of emails.

I don't either, but my theory is it's because forwarding chain e-mails with incorrect or biased information is for morons, and my friends aren't morons.

There's also, to coin a phrase, the "reverse smear" where you forward trivia (be it true or false) which shows a candidate in a good light.
posted by Mike1024 at 7:04 AM on September 24, 2008

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