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Politics and the Internet

The Internet's Influence on Politics
By Sharon Housley

Can, and will, the next generation of politicians exploit the communication mediums available to them? Will the new communication mediums have the power to influence public opinion? Will politicians be the victims of technology, or will they use it to their benefit? Will one party benefit from the use of the technology more than another? All reasonable questions, considering the role technology plays in today's society.

The staggering distribution numbers, through channels like iTunes, YouTube, or podcasting websites, indicate that technology could play a critical role in the upcoming elections. Technology could be the deciding factor in the 2008 US Presidential race, and while distribution has never before been as accessible as it is to today's politicians and political candidates, politicians have far less control over the news and media than their counterparts in previous years.

The curious need not look any further than YouTube to find the latest political constituents being haunted by their own words and dogged by their past missteps. Today's politicians have far less control of the news media and messages associated with their candidacy.

The Internet and technology is positioned to play a huge role in elections. Whether that truly occurs remains to be seen.

What Will Technology Affect?

Raising revenue for a political campaign is one of the biggest hurdles the candidates have to overcome in order to make a successful political run. We saw this when Howard Dean initially soared to fame as the result of grass roots Internet donations filling his coffers. Yet technology was also Dean's downfall, as the result of the "Dean Scream" video getting excessive play time on the Internet and other broadcast media outlets. The recorded spectacle is said to be what led voters to abandon this overzealous candidate.

The Power Of Political Pundits
With podcasting, everyone is a journalist, regardless of their credentials or credibility. Technology has given self-proclaimed political pundits a pulpit from which they can spread their message. How much these political pundits will be able to influence political campaigns and election results is still unclear.

Never Say Never
Political videos of nearly every 2008 presidential candidate can be found on YouTube. In many of the posted videos, candidates are engaged in old speeches, contradicting their current political positions. Politicians have yet to learn that their words may come back to haunt them, and it appears that many politicians have ghosts from years past that can be found in the YouTube video library. Older political videos are causing problems for candidates whose positions have changed over the course of their careers. The accessibility of the audio and video clips, and wide media distribution, is breeding distrust amongst voters who support candidates who have had a change of heart.

Pushing A Cause To The Forefront
Evident in the hit movies "Fahrenheit 9/11" by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, and "An Inconvenient Truth" by environmental evangelist Al Gore, these films not only brought in millions of dollars in revenues, but both movies also received Hollywood accolades and raised attention for the issues featured.

Technology appeals to a specific demographic: the affluent, the educated, and the young. And while a YouTube video may not sway the Grandparents in the crowd, the youngest voters are listening. Does technology have the power to change the face of politics? The youth in America are not currently an active voting block, but that younger generation will age, and it's only a matter of time before technology plays a critical role in elections.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.


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