In my last post, I aired my misgivings about the American show of Democracy currently traveling through its states. Felt that I should now give some more thought to the "good karma" that I talked about.
This takes me back to Howard Dean because, as Jon Lebkowsky at Greater Democracy points out:
We need a government that listens broadly to many people with many interests, and is responsive in a balanced way. Howard Dean has been running a campaign that seemed to work that way. Dean and Joe Trippi encouraged people to participate and gave them permission to do their own thing, to speak with their own voice. The campaign tried to be responsive (though constrained by lack of bandwidth, especially as demands grew). Dean and Trippi seemed to get the relevance of the technologies they were using, the possibility for greater citizen participation via computer-mediated communication: email, weblogs, chats, RSS feeds, forums, etc. The Dean campaign had many ways to have conversation and many conversations were happening.
The blogosphere is abuzz with punditry about what went wrong and who's to blame for the Dean debacle. Earnest and passionate discussions abound about the promise of the "New Politics." I am both an aspiring pundit and an aspiring visionary and I am an expert skeptic. When I first heard about the wonders of the New Politics, my eyes rolled instinctively because it reminded me of similar sounding pseudo-wonders from not so long ago: the New Democrats and the New Economy. Apparently, I'm not the only one who seems to have made such a connection, at least in the case of Dean, who arguably got the most leverage out of aspects of the New Politics. Comparing his fall to the dot-com (aka New Economy) bust is now a cliché.
I'd consider myself a blogger and possibly better informed and more tech-savvy than the average American. My guess is that I have fewer time constraints than the average American. Despite this, the Internet is only a supplemental source of news for me and I have not been able to glean useful info often enough from the multitudes of blogs to look to them as a news source. I get most of my news from NPR when I'm doing other stuff like waking up, washing dishes, driving, etc.
I'm fortunate enough to have access to NPR & PBS, two of the better media outlets in the country. Earlier this evening, I watched one of my preferred sources of news and commentary on TV: NOW with Bill Moyers. There was a sobering report on the reach and influence of the fiercely ideological talk shows, virtually all of which are of the conservative ilk. These are essentially entertainment shows that exercise no diligence in factual reporting but are seen as serious journalism by their audiences. Consider this in an environment where media ownership is getting consolidated, diminishing the diversity of options for news and information.
So what's my point? The Internet-based New Politics will be yet another flash in the pan if it ignores the reality of people's lives and how social and political forces affect them. Just as all of Joe Trippi's tech-smarts and all the net-savvy volunteers couldn't win the real races for Dean, the New Politics is unlikely to have any real effect if its modus operandi is restricted to the Internet and its denizens.
There's no shortage of expert opinions on this stuff so I don't need to pretend to offer one. The good karma does not come from any technology or concept but can benefit from them if their promise doesn't get in the way of their utility to it.