by Sebastian Benthall
Anil Makhijani pointed me to a New York Times article on Obama’s announcement to forgo the federal public campaign financing system and the spending limits it entails. It’s an important story that’s worth a read. But speaking of e-campaigning, there;s one detail in particular that caught my eye:
Mr. Obama announced his campaign finance decision in a video message sent to supporters and posted on the Internet.
I am far from the first to bring this up, but Obama’s use of the internet in his campaign is amazing. I’ve heard the analogy has been made between FDR and radio, Reagan and television, and now Obama and the internet; each mastered a new communications medium and used it to great effect to rally and expand their base.
What seems special about Obama’s use of the internet is that it allows him to eschew mainstream media outlets entirely when he needs to. Rather, he is using tools communication that are available to all of us: videos posted on the Internet. There is something compelling about this use of popular tools to reach the populace. It places him not just in living rooms, but in social networks; however distantly he may be from you or I, he is present in the same space.
This ties directly back to his fund raising efforts, of course. By existing, virtually, among his supporters instead of transcending them, he can ask for the millions of small donations for which his campaign is famous. Institutions–even the institution of the Democratic party itself–are made obsolete as an intermediary.
I agree that he’s using the internet well, but don’t you think others have done that before? What about Howard Dean? Ron Paul? Can you point to a difference there, or do you think it’s the same usage?
Calling the internet a tool “of the populace” is accurate in the sense that everyone has the same mechanisms for producing and distributing information, but that “populace” still consists of a specific population [internet users, youtube generation, whatever]. Because of that, I’m not sure he can afford to “eschew mainstream media outlets entirely” unless he’s willing to write off substantial portions of the American electorate that aren’t as internet-savvy (I’m thinking older generations, for example).