Once again, politics dominated the agenda at the Thursday
Night Bloggers meeting, although at least this week part of the discussion
was about whether politics SHOULD dominate the agenda. Dave has
proposed that the first of our suave new Salon series center on the role
of blogs in the presidential campaign.
I wish I could share Dave’s enthusiasm. The political sphere has
long fascinated me, but like many Americans I have grown disillusioned
and disassociated from the political process.
Sterling Newberry was at the meeting and he spoke eloquently and passionately
about the power of the new politics to change the panorama of the American
landscape. He deserves to be listened to not only because of his passionate
eloquence, but because, unlike many of us armchair pundits, he has actually
gone out and created a working example of the kind of cyber-social sphere
of which he speaks and writes. Because politics is his passion,
the forces he has unleashed and channeled are politically oriented, but
Stirling is open and seemingly eager to seeing it adopted by other communities,
to other ends.
Sterling: "The old politics – of complacency, of the consumer
electorate, of the pyramid, is dead. None of the candidates who pursued
this road are viable. Those that try and crawl back to it, will find
that there is a hostility to this kind of politics."
Again, Sterling, I wish I were convinced. But the old
politics won’t die until it is killed on election day, over and over again,
on state, local and national levels by something which is only now gestating,
cocooning and gathering force. The entrenched powers that be, in a very
real way, have not yet begun to fight. They have barely noticed the
blogosphere up to now, although they are starting to grow aware thanks to
some younger members of the fifth estate. The resources and cunning desperation
to retain the reins of power of the "old politics" are not to be underestimated.
In addition to confrontation and conquest, they can subvert,
co-opt, corrupt, buy off, blackmail or discredit challengers. It will take
a sea change in the American political consciousness to sweep them from
am increasingly convinced that just such an event-driven metamorphosis is
on the horizon.
Where Sterling and I differ is in our estimation of the current
crop of candidates, including his Chosen One, Wesley Clark. He thinks several
of the bunch represent the "New Politics".I just see more of the same macho
theatrics, albeit with some promising permutations around the fringes.
Are the true men and women of stature in public life irrevocably
resigned to the bins of history? Are there no modern equivalents of the
founding fathers abroad in he land today? Individuals of inspirational
vision who stride above the petty politics of their times and change the
direction of history?
Where are the public figures (I cannot deign to call them
"politicians") who champion Truth and Transparency? Who dare to challenge
even the fundamental paradigms of the day, and have the power to reach into
the hearts of each and every citizen an touch them where they live?
Who was the last American politician who could write like
Robert Kennedy? Or like Martin Luther King? Will we never again get to
hear a President read something scrawled on the back of an envelope, and
which turns out to be the Gettysburg Address? My guess is that the answer
is yes – when we elect a true Blogger to the White House.
I look at the motley collection of strivers and seekers in
the current race and while some, perhaps most, are good men, I see no giants. I
see no one with the power or vision or will to break the grip of the Major
Media on the stream of global consciousness. No one willing to take on the
perversion of the American dream or tap into the slowly mounting edgy desperation
in the population. These are lesser men.
The bottom line is that none of the current candidates is
a Natural Born Blogger, or even a Barely Believable Blogger. Most of the
Democrats, at least, have had the survival instinct to hire people who
really understand blogging, like Sterling, but none are really blogging themselves.
Howard Dean took a turn at Lessig’s
blog, but it was pretty
lame (time constraints). Now word is that Jonathan Edwards is going
to do the same, and we will watch with interest. But are any of these guys
serious about changing the paradigm? I wouldn’t bet the farm.
The problem with the American political system has become
the essential nature of those it calls to service. Fundamentally,
they are individuals drawn to the acquisition and exercise of power. They
are super-straight, type A alpha males, and in my opinion this is not the
kind of person I want making decisions for me. Compounding this perverted
prerequisite is the political process itself, which guarantees that even
should some truly righteous person feel the call to public service, by the
time they reach the top their souls are so deeply mortgaged that they have
lost their moral compasses.
Even Wesley Clark, by all accounts an honorable man, is infected
with this driving thirst for power. Some of our most inspirational presidents
have been generals, but in every case they were striding giants who were
overwhelmingly called into service by public demand. Washington,
Grant, and Eisenhower were swept into power almost reluctantly on the shoulders
of massive public demand, and I see no equivalent tidal wave of Clark support.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Once, public service
was seen as a necessary evil. We can go back to a model of public service
which attracts people whose primary motivation is not a desperate drive
to power. People who will serve their four years and then gratefully
go back to being teachers or pilots or potters. Or lawyers, actors or business
leaders (I don’t want to sound too hippyish). But people who are not necessarily
Unrealistic? Perhaps. But change is in the air, and
the current paradigm is clearly leaking faster than the power elite can
bail. And I sincerely believe that blogging and similar phenomena will play
a role in the upcoming changes.
Every revolutionary advance in information diffusion technology
has engendered a subsequent revolution in political, social and economic
life around the world. The introduction of the printing press in Europe
broke the choke hold of the Catholic Church. The ascendancy of Broadcast
News after the second world war brought us the Major Media Monopoly with
a Million Eyes that rules the world today.
But these sea changes take years, sometimes decades, while
the profound changes wrought by the technological advances work their way
into the lives and minds of the body politic. Then, at some point, events
precipitate a crisis, and the new media is pivotal in how it is resolved. This
is the tipping point, and the rest is inevitable.
We have not reached that point yet. None of the current candidates
is going to bust the monopoly. But the technology is spreading like a virus,
and events will bring the situation to a crisis. When that happens,
and people desperately feel the need to know what’s going on, and Major
Media fails miserably to meet that need, the blogosphere needs to be ready.