June 17th, 2008

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Pew On Internet and Election

As usual, an excellent report from Pew on the use of the internet in the current political campaign.

It confirms that Dems are more connected than Rs, and that connected Dems use the internet for more political purposes than connected Rs, and that Obama supporters use the internet more intensely for political purposes than Clinton supporters. It does not address the cause and effect elements of these. i.e., is it that Dems in general and Obama in particular have been better at giving people online outlets and inspiring connected people to use the internet in new ways; or is it that people who are more likely to use the internet in these ways are attracted to the Obama campaign for other reasons (I suspect it is synergistic).

But to me the critical statistics are:
46% of Americans have used the internet or mobile/text technology to get campaign information, share their political views, and mobilize others.

35% of Americans ahve watched online videos relating to the campaign, and 10% have participated in campaign-related social networking sites.

39% of internet users have used the internet to gain access to primary campaign documents and observe campaign events.

All this is indicative of a steady but massive change in the nature of the electorate. It is a return to the pre-WWII progressive mindset where citizens actively engaged in political discourse and viewed research and participation in political discussion as a natural part of being a citizen, and a movement away from apathy, couch potato style push politics (in which we outsourced our political responsibilities to organizations) or total unswerving party loyalty. Mind you, there is still plenty of all three out there. But the trend lines of the last 8 years have moved in the direction of increased involvement facilitated by internet access.

Here again, I will postulate that increased internet access (and the rise of broadband) are significant causes of this change, not merely propitious tools for a newly energized generation. I will argue that internet access is transformative of behavior and attitude for a variety of reasons. Notably, it facilitates research, it facilitates discussion, it facilitates action, and it facilitates collective action. It breaks the mass media and learned helplessness mindset that has so dominated political discourse for the last 30 years. We discover we are not alone, that there are different points of view and greater information, and that we no longer need to rely exclusively on information gatekeepers (although again, they remain very strong in their influence). It makes difference in people's attitudes, and the attitude adjustment spreads virally.

I expect the trend lines to continue.
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Stumbling Toward Hudna?

A very interesting analysis of the possible cease fire between Israel and Hamas.

The only point lacking, in my opinion, is that the author fails to explore the real repercussions of the utter absence of the U.S. Israel is negotiating (at least indirectly) in an expectation that the U.S. will be passive. While the U.S. is still a guarantor of Israel's survival, it is not attempting to influence the talks in either direction -- a marked change from the past when the U.S. either pressed Israel for concessions and promised rewards to negotiating partners or (in the Bush administration) signaled a willingness to give Israel diplomatic support for its military operations.

I have written previously of the problem of the U.S. as a "moral hazard" to political reconciliation in Iraq. The ability of the U.S. to force results and/or provide benefits warps behavior. It may be that in the absence of an active U.S. presence, but with a sufficient presence to provide stability, parties will become more willing to deal.