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    Success of ‘going negative’ changes campaign strategies
    [ # ] Some Perils of Political Interactivity
    August 2nd, 2007 under Uncategorized, 2008 Presidential Race, Blogs in the News, Blogging & Politics

    I just finished my final draft of Blogwars: The New Political Battleground (Oxford University Press). It’s a book on the history, present and future of the role of the weblog in American politics. 

    As I have said, writing a book on blogs is like reporting NASCAR with stone tablets–so much happens so fast. One topic of current interest is the nature of interactivity: what are its benefits and drawbacks for politicians or for the public? In the bloglands, you can’t pack the rooms with your supporters, shut out hecklers, and enforce message discipline. Here are some examples of interactive blowback…

    Wesley Clark has embraced the new technologies of interactive media. He maintains sites on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Frappr. But once again, the lesson is that simply “blogging up” does not automatically save or resurrect presidential ambitions. Clark’s lively community blog (http://securingamerica.com/) features posts by him and those who register for the site. But the Clark Community Network—as of winter 2007—would not immediately have sold any political professional on blogging. In December 2005, the site hosted “Live Blogging with General Clark” in which commenters asked general questions on many topics, from government wiretapping to relations with Serbia and other more exotic issues. Consider how the following exchange highlighted the problems, prospects, and hilarities of real interactivity between candidate and public.

    meshuggah132461 on December 19, 2005—5:29pm, 5:31pm. General Clark, as a former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and [considering] your military background, have you ever been briefed on UFOs? Do you know what really crashed near Roswell New Mexico in 1947? Why does the U.S. Government feel the need to keep this information above top secret? What national security reasons would keep them from fully disclosing this information to us? What are your opinions on the UFO/ET subject.  Thank you sir, I respect you very much. [Also] Do you think the alien technology we’ve recovered is the reason for the 50+ years of denial when it comes to UFOs? Do agree [sic] it’s time for disclosure and some congressional UFO hearings so that the 400+ Disclosure Project witnesses can testify before congress like they wanted to do just before the 9/11 attacks? Thank you . . .

    Wes Clark on December 19, 2005—5:48pm. I’ve never been briefed on Roswell.

    Clark gave direct, if careful, answers to some questions. But sometimes, he did not reply at all, presumably because the queries were coming too fast, were too complicated for him to just rattle off responses to quickly, were too dangerous to take stances toward, or because he realized that some posters were pulling his leg.

    Then there’s the more recent case of candidate Barack Obama who pioneered the use of MySpace as a campaign tool. Look at what happens when you open up the gates of interactivity to anyone, from kooks to your sworn enemies to supporters who embarrass you by their support. Among the July 2007 commenters on the Obama MySpace site, one “Namaste” from the hip-hop music producers at StreetLabStudio signed on to say, “Fallin’ thru ta show ya some luv and say wassup!! Have an Excellent, Blessed Day!! ‘lid…..never follow.” Fair enough, but does the accompanying video graphic of a nude woman jiggling her buttocks help or hurt the Senator from Illinois in his march to the White House? Then there’s the scary LostInQueens who signed on to assure the candidate, “you can count on my vote.” His graphic is a masked man pointing a gun at the viewer. And MySpace sells ads: In one on Obama’s page, the conservative magazine Human Events offers readers a free report on “the real Barack Obama,” detailing issues from “his radical stance on abortion to his prominence in the corruption scandals that has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media” and asserts that “Barack Obama is not fit to be Senator — not to mention the next President of the United States.”
    Do politicians need such interactivity? How can they make people feel involved with their campaign and still, well, filter them? –David D. Perlmutter

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    The Dole Institute of Politics is a bipartisan facility. Our mission; to encourage political and civic involvement, especially among young people; to encourage civil discussion on important issues; to emphasize that politics is an honorable profession; and to provide opportunities for all to interact with political leaders, practitioners and writers.
    While content on the blog will be moderated, we in no way wish to stifle vigorous debate. We request that participants engaging in the online discussion avoid personal, vitriolic attacks, and maintain respect for different opinions.

    David D. Perlmutter, Editor
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    A Summary of the 2006 Blogger-Reader Survey

    Fall 2006 Blogger/Reader Survey Details and Research Reports
    In December of 2006 Dr. Dhavan Shah of the University of Wisconsin and his “Blogclub” of graduate students and Dr. David D. Perlmutterof the University of Kansas conducted a survey of major political blogs and their readers. The project was partially sponsored by a grant from the Knight/Carnegie Foundation’s Future of Journalism initiative. The summary of the results are posted here--please fully cite us if you refer to the findings.

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