Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the revolution hasn't happened

I've had a tough time posting for the past few days. I've wanted to write something about the hastiness of the post-election analysis coming from the social media folks -- the ones who want to say that it was the netroots -- or YourTube -- that can be thanked for last Tuesday's election results.

But I didn't. (Michael Silberman at EchoDitto did.)

I wanted to say that, despite the hype, social media has changed the landscape for a small portion of the population who was already relatively engaged in the first place. I also wanted to say that social media has changed the landscape for the mainstream media, which now has a new place to look for news stories and scandals (In other words, Macaca became Macaca-gate because bloggers wrote about it and then the mainstream press wrote about the fact that bloggers wrote about it. If the mainstream press hadn't done so, it wouldn't have made much of a difference.)

I'd like to say I felt differently, because I do believe that social media has the power to be transformative, but I also know that, when I was at Rock the Vote, we kidded ourselves into thinking that what we were doing was having a much bigger impact than it was because it was our world 24-7. It was tough to think about the fact that that, despite our long hours and anxiety, millions of young people didn't give a sh*t and would never give a sh*t and, hell, we didn't actually want to give them a voice anyway because they were self-centered idiots.

(So there.)

My entire career has been dedicated to using media and communications as a tool for political and social change. (I think I have said this here before.) I am a strong believer in the idea that putting the power of communication and expression into the hands of "the people" is one of the most powerfully democratic things that we can do. I started off by working with kids to produce their own videos and, ten years later, while the tools may be different and the potential for dialogue is greater, I still have the same aim at heart.

But the revolution hasn't happened.


Don't jump the gun and say that it has. Have higher expectations for what is ahead of us and what is possible. The netroots had an impact and YouTube had an impact. But so did the fact that nearly 3,000 young men and women have died in an unjust war. So did the fact that people are tired of politicians who squander our trust through unethical behavior. So did the fact that too many people in this country don't have jobs or health insurance or childcare or retirement savings and they just want to see if someone else can do a better job.

There, I posted.


michael said...

A: thanks for the link. just curious, did you think that i was suggesting that the changes we saw in online politics this season revolutionized politics or the outcome of the election? because i'd agree with you that we're not there yet -- field and traditional media all still have a greater impact on the outcomes of election on balance. the point of my post was really to try and explore the major changes we're seeing within the realm of online politics, but NOT to try and measure or quantify the impact of online politics on election outcomes.... however that would certainly be an interesting correlation to try and prove. i nominate IPDI

abf said...

No, I thought you were being realistic and saying that people were jumping the gun by concluding -- without proper analysis -- that social media could take the credit for the outcome of the election.

Sorry I wasn't clearer . . .