Truth and consequences: The Internet bares all
Tue, 13 Oct 98 16:54:08 +1000
The Internet as the enabler of the dictatorship of the proleteriat, eh?
<intelltectual_snobbery> Half the world is below median intelligence, and we
want unmediated democracy? </intellectual_snobbery>
Subject: Truth and consequences: The Internet bares all
Author: Bernard Robertson-Dunn <email@example.com>
Date: 13/10/98 15:33
The following is from the Politech mailing list but seems to be
My view is that the pressures of the Internet, while being similar
across the world, will have different impacts. The world is
non-linear and chaos rules.
What holds true in USA will almost certainly not be true in
Australia, or anywhere else for that matter. Any predictions that
prove to be true
will owe more to random chance than the insight of the predictor.
The role of the Internet in Australian politics is relatively minor.
All it needs is a high profile incident to change that.
Alternatively, without a high profile incident, the Internet may be
perceived as an educational/entertainment medium.
TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES: THE INTERNET BARES ALL
by Bill Frezza
Copyright InternetWeek, October 1998
Watching Bill Clinton's ship of state slowly sink into a foul mire
of its own making, one can't help but be transfixed with the same
horrible fascination that drew so many viewers to the blockbuster
movie "Titanic." Everyone knew the outcome in advance, yet the
awesome spectacle of the great ship going down, accompanied by
flashback commentary describing the exact nature and progress of its
mortal wounds, served as an abject lesson on the wages of hubris.
Regardless of one's political leanings, it's fair to say that we are
facing a watershed in our nation's history--not just the destruction
of a flawed politician, but the unraveling of the imperial
"Old media" and hard times created the imperial presidency when
Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed a constitutionally limited
enumerated powers into an unbridled leviathan. As federal power
grew, escaping the fetters crafted by the founders, mass media
played a key role in molding public opinion. Gulled by brilliant
propagandists, the citizenry abandoned its instinctive distrust and
invested its faith not
just in elected rulers but in a new class of pundits, journalists
and opinion leaders who, they were told, could be trusted to serve
as disinterested watchdogs over the burgeoning central power.
Unfortunately, this "fourth branch" of government was driven by a
business model that could not help but foster a symbiotic
relationship between the press and the very people they were
supposed to watch. In addition, the false scarcity created by
government spectrum policy resulted in an oligopoly of broadcast
networks whose interests were far more common than diverse. While
the outward appearance of an adversarial press was maintained, in
fact the media took care to protect the people and institutions from
which they drew their power and influence.
The destruction of the Clinton presidency never could have happened
at the hands of old media. Clinton's defenders and apologists are
absolutely right: This president's disgraceful behavior and
persistent mendacity make him no different from either his
predecessors or the hypocrites who occupy Congress. The only
difference is that the old media elites have lost their ability to
frame the debate.
Instead, the white blaze of the spotlight has moved to the Internet,
which has no owners, brooks no pundits and offers no controls. The
Internet imposes no limitations on content and hence requires no
manipulating or manipulated editors. The Internet's business model
will not create a symbiosis with the nation's rulers because it has
no unified business model. It is a diverse, decentralized,
irreverent, snarling watchdog that our founding fathers certainly
would have loved.
The release of the entire Starr report on the Internet was not a
calculated act of political sabotage by the Republican party.
was a panicked act of surrender. By disenfranchising the
intermediaries that ruled the airwaves for half a century, a
precedent has been set that will undermine the spin doctors of both
parties, along with the millionaire news anchors who serve them.
Let's have it out. Let's have it all out, every bit of dirty laundry
in every nook and cranny in Washington. Let the accusers and the
accused go down together, and by breaking through the fog and smoke,
lay waste to a self-perpetuating political machine that has run
What old media and hard times created, new media and good times can
And as this process unfolds and federal paralysis sets in, perhaps
the people will awake from their stupor and realize that they don't
all-powerful president and Congress to "run the country." This
country and its resourceful, hard-working citizens are fully capable
of taking care of themselves.
Bill Frezza is a general partner at Adams Capital Management. The
opinions expressed here are his own. He can be reached at
frezza@alum.MIT.EDU or www.networkcomputing.com/frezza/frezza.html .
Being in politics is like coaching football. You have to be smart
enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's
--Eugene J. McCarthy