Monday, January 22, 2007

New Media's Oedipus Complex

When my good friend Phil Baruth over at Vermont Daily Briefing is right, he's right (even though he's always Left).

The same may be said of The Note's Mark Halperin (who's always right without being Right or Left), Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post (who leans Left even when he's right but we still love his sharp media commentary) and Dan Balz also of the Washington Post (who breaks all the right political stories while managing to lean towards both John Weaver and Robert Gibbs at the same time).

And, when the Gang of 4 is right together, as they are today, Monday Morning Clacker sits up and takes notice.

Today the Gang of 4 all wrote about the effect New Media is having on two traditional institutions - The Mainstream Media and American Style Politics.

The Gang of 4's theme: New Media is slashing Mainstream Media's throat, forcibly taking American politics to bed and changing the whole world as we know it.

Ah Oedipus.

Baruth's Vermont Daily Briefing post is on the "transparency geeks" at the Sunlight Foundation who are helping end government corruption one interactive website at a time:

Transparency geeks begin from a seemingly simple proposition: political information — of any and all sorts — must be free. If it is not, then it must be busted out of whatever institutional lock-up currently confines it.

Once free, the information will then rat out its captors — expose potential corruption, in other words.

It’s pretty much the plot of every A-Team episode from 1983-1987.

Except, you know, with software instead of Mr. T.

It's no wonder Phil is known around these parts as "master scribe of the liberal dinner party set." He's hillarious (even when his "Leftist at any cost" tendencies make me want to scream).

Baruth goes on:
The mission of the Sunlight Foundation, according to their website, is to “reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy. We are unique,” they go on to add, “in that technology and the power of the Internet are at the core of every one of our efforts.”
Using the internet to watch over the people's interest. I love it. I'm sure Capitol Hill hates it.

Which is generally a good way to judge that you're doing something right.

Meanwhile, over at ABC's The Note, Mark Halprin Noted Howard Kurtz's Washington Post story, which has a slightly different take on the benefits of New Media to our Republic:
Kurtz's tour de force story — tracking the right-wing Freak Show's first-of-many attempts to muddy up Clinton (and Obama), in this case using the Washington Times-Fox News conveyor belt — leaves out the key talk radio piece. So: has the Clinton campaign found a way to track right-wing talk radio?
Both Halprin and Kurtz have been tracking New Media's explosion into American politics for some time.

And, what an explosion it has been. New Media is the foundation upon what the Political Freak Show is built - The Drudge Report, Blogs, talk radio, shady websites and stealth YouTube videos - until you have such a combustible media environment that Kurtz writes:
There once was a time when major media outlets refused to touch unsubstantiated allegations. When Gennifer Flowers sold her account of an affair with Hillary Clinton's husband to the Star tabloid in 1992 -- allegations that turned out to be true, at least in part -- some news organizations went with it and others shied away for days. These days, the time elapsed between a flimsy charge from some magazine or Web site and amplification by bigger media outlets is often close to zero.
From zero to hero and back again in the speed of bytes.

But, it's not all bad. Really.

Dan Balz's piece in the Washington Post highlights the ways that '08 Presidential campaigns are adapting and even thriving in the New Media environment:
Not long ago, an anonymous video on the Internet would have elicited little more than amusement from the candidate under attack. But the 2006 midterm campaign -- in which then-Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) saw his hopes for reelection, not to mention the White House, torpedoed by his now-infamous "macaca" moment captured on a widely seen video -- changed the rules.

But if last year was the year of the rogue videographers, the already-underway 2008 presidential campaign is likely to be remembered as the point where Web video became central to the communications strategy of every serious presidential candidate.

Playing defense is only one use of Web video. Equally important, the candidates and their staffs see Web-based video as an inexpensive and potentially significant tool for telling their campaign story without the filters of the traditional media.

Call it the YouTube effect, and it is only growing. The video-sharing site, which less than a year after its founding was bought by Google for $1.65 billion, has revolutionized the transfer of information via video, spawned a number of imitators and forced candidates to recalibrate choices, from their announcement strategies to their staffing decisions.
Bypassing the filters of the mainstream media? Taking your message right to the people? The unwashed mob?

Good heavens. Is that OK?

Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton thought so. They are the first major presidential candidates in the history of politics to announce their run for the Presidency via their website and not through a traditional press conference.

Which must have driven Rupert Murdoch crazy.

And I've always believed that asking "does it drive Rupert Murdoch crazy" is a good way to judge whether or not your doing something right.

New Media. It's here. And it's fantastic.