An enormous amount of Public Mass Media has been created this year in this transitional period following thousands of years of State-Controlled Media (see: “Egypt”), and dogging the heels of a few hundred years of Personally-Controlled Mass Media (see: “Rupert Murdoch”). It presages a period that is much discussed and yet to be determined in type and form, and the impact of Public Mass Media is a matter of a great deal of current debate.
Four years ago the blogosphere had produced a set of individuals who had broken onto the public Media stage (see: “Drudge”) and public forums that set the precedents for places like Motley Moose (see: “MyDD” and “DailyKos”). Today there are many individual contributors who have gained a fairly wide audience (see: “Ben Smith”, “”, “”) and a broad gamut of forums where Public Media is created by significant numbers of contributors. Four years from now there will be a pervasive public understanding of how Public Media shapes our culture.
Now, we stand on a brink and often wonder “Does any of this make a difference to what happens in the world?”.
Yes, it does.
Human Beings have a unique ability that above all else enables us to achieve what other creatures cannot: we communicate. By doing so we take structures we have created in our heads and add them to the structures others carry in their own (“memes”). Between 2001 and 2007 I became enamored with talk radio, and frequently called in to shows (particularly in Canada) to share my opinions. Several friends mentioned that they had heard my comments, completing a feedback loop that set me pondering how the meanderings of a person driving along the highway could reach out and make others’ thoughts evolved. Having gotten politically involved early this year I have been fascinated to plumb the depths of the communications that are occurring today, and to trace their impacts through my own experiences.
After watching CNN do a piece on Barack Obama’s internet campaign in early March I wrote a note to the host of the segment. I tried emailing it to him, but the web-form page provided crashed repeatedly. Telephone attempts to find a human who could assist failed, and in the end I faxed it to the only known CNN fax number (in Public Relations) where it likely died an horrible death. So I instead posted it online and emailed it to their competitors.
TO: Rick Sanchez – CNN
FROM: Chris Blask – Obama Rapid Response
Hi Rick et al!
I just watched your coverage of Barack Obama’s Internet campaign. Bless their hearts, but your panel just embarassed themselves in front of the entire American population under 45 (and quite a few over) with their complete lack of understanding of modern communication. I got the impression of a group of county elders gathered on a porch trying to give comment on the New Fangled Teler-Fone down at Mable’s place and how it “wasn’t the same as just goin’ down there and chawin’ with a man”.
barackobama.com is not a “new-fangled Internet thing” – it is a use of communications methods to promote messages and connect people. No different than a printing press and a coffee social – just a billion times more effective. To use geek terms you could say it is “an application of communications technology” – and frankly you folks are, too, so it shouldn’t stump your Talent to discuss it – but that is to miss the whole point. I am a geek – but a geek who has moved more than $3B worth of hard goods – because I understand that all of this Internet stuff does not matter when it is all about geeks. It matters when my mother (and to her grave at 96, my grandmother) adopt it for their purposes – and that is what has happened with Barack Obama’s campaign.
Let me give you an example. Obama Rapid Response (ORR) is a group of volunteers who monitor the media – we monitor you – and the opposition campaigns, discuss how to respond to spin we preceive in the media, attacks by other candidates and statements for/against our candidate around the country and around the world, and deliver our message effectively to appropriate venues and individuals.
Obama Rapid Response was setup by Neil in Vermont almost a year ago. Neil is not a technical person, but he wanted to get involved so he went to barackobama.com and created the group – everything was there for him to do it.
Lisa in Buffalo has trouble getting her caps-lock key off and her browser working, a fax machine and two cats. Lisa is passionate about her candidate, and despite the fact that she knows less about computers than you do about cold fusion, she was part of a team that picked up the Lord Trimble story (that I still haven’t seen you folks pick up on) that hit the UK wire late Friday night ET and pushed it out to every newspaper, radio station and TV station in Wyoming before the polls opened (here’s that story, in case you are still sorting through your lithographs for it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new… ;~).
This past week, the site got so much traffic that the email server slowed down. This impacted the ORR since emails were not able to get out to the membership fast enough. Without prompting from the campaign (who are understandably rather busy), I created a Google group (http://googlegroups.com/orr-backup), dropped the key ORR membership into it and got all of the activity up and going again.
Your panel pointed out how the MyBO site allows volunteers to organize shoe-leather activities – which is true and impossible to overstate the effectiveness of – but their handling of the story underlined the complete lack of understanding of what is going on with MyBO and in fact the entire Obama campaign.
It is not only about delivering bumper-stickers and T-shirts faster (the graphics of which are online and can be sent directly to the printers). It is not just about drawing people to coffee-socials (thousands of which are organized through the site for every primary day, as one small example). It is not even just about enlisting and organizing door-to-door and phone campaigns (those, too: 1.5M calls from people at home to Wisconsin voters, as another small example).
It is about doing everything you’ve even seen being done by the handfull of people in a campaign office in Docudramas recounting past campaigns with a cast of thousands instead of dozens. It is about creating a center-less operation that enables free people to assume responsibility for themselves and act on their beliefs. It is about implementing on the largest scale the fundamental and foundational beliefs of America, namely:
o That all people are created equal.
o That Freedom of speech and freedom of action are the key to personal, national and global success.
o That Free Enterpise in business and thought enable the Individuals who make up the Population to be more powerful than the established Powers that hold all the advantages out of the gate.
Obama’s success is not “cheating” as you asked on the show. Obama’s success is an acting-out of the basic principles that underly every success in American history. Obama’s success is a re-enactment of the founding of the country, where citizens met and decided to stand up to massively disproportional powers and tradition based on their belief in themselves and in the strength of individual freedom. Obama’s success is the tactical and tangible proof that this country is, in fact, based on the strongest set of ideals in human history.
PS – CNN is, oddly enough, the least available media outlet online. All of your competitors provide actual email addresses – for example – not just these silly boxes.
Since that time I have spent a good bit of time reading other people’s thoughts on various blogs – consuming the memes they have shared. I have felt compelled to share my own thoughts, further redistributing the thoughts that I have read. When in doubt of the veracity of my own or other people’s information, the cross-references are easy to find (and hey, telephones still work, too), so I have little doubt that the information I am reading and writing is as likely to be as valid as that which is produced by professional media.
I have seen my own words circle back to me many different ways, and not infrequently from unexpected directions. It seems clear that Public Media has reached a level