Why New Media is the Domain of Progressives
The Right is right to fear the Internet, because it is a medium whose ethic is essentially antithetical to the Right.
I've been thinking a lot about this since Amanda Congdon left Rocketboom, not because Amanda is so openly a lefty, but because of how she talked about her relationship with her audience. It is about interactivity and listening and having the audience be coproducers of media as she said in a recent interview. When she was asked what new media gets that old media doesn't get she answered, "How to make friends with my audience." Old media doesn't want to make friends. They want to make consumers.
And then I saw Loic Le Meur, a french entrepreneur, on Mobuzz talk about the nature of innovation in business to take advantage of the new media. He talked about how the old model was for some idea guys to cook up an idea for a product, focus group it, design it, produce it, and then make a market it. If necessary, create the need for the product. The new model is almost completely backwards. You first announce the product and then cocreate it with the consumer from the ground up.
A good example of this is what is going on with the new Star Trek Online game. When Perpetual Entertainment announced they were doing this, started hiring artists and engineers, immediately a parallel community of excited potential players started message boarding about the potential game in mind numbing detail. Instead of trying to shut down the community or ignoring them, the design time has embraced them, takes ideas from them, and communicates with them regularly, making them cocreators of the game. In new media the consumer is not passive, but is an active participant.
So, what is so progressive about this? What does this have to do with the Right? So glad you asked...
The Right is all about controlling their message and making it as authoritive as possible. The message of the Right is put out for assent, not discussion. Ever notice that the devotees of Rush Limbaugh are called dittoheads, so-called because the ditto everything Rush says?
The Right workshops their message to gain the assent of the masses working on their fears and insecurities. Inasmuchas the Right appears populist, it is because of this playing on the fears and insecurities of the masses not to provoke rational thought, but to provoke a baser, more visceral response.
But most importantly, the Right has to control the message and media is for the Right is about informing an audience, not about that audience then talking back. In this way traditional media is very paternalistic. It knows what is good for us and it lets us know what it is we need to know. In traditional, old media you can't talk back.
Loic Le Meur's byline on his blog is "Traditional Media Send Messages, Blogs Start Discussions." And there you have it. The reason why new media is the domain of progressives is its authority comes from the participants, not from the originators.
Amanda's comment about the power of the new media to make friends is telling as well. We, of course, are familiar with old media's ability to make celebrities that we'd like to emulate or have as friends, but that is not the same thing as having a relationship.
The leaders of the Hispanic community in the United States were caught off guard when people started organizing spontaneously this past spring when there were so many protests and demonstrations. Although it is often compared to the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, it is in essence completely different, because it was not focused on charismatic leaders, but the movement itself. Like recent movements in easter Europe, it was decentralized.
So, there is my thesis and the beginning of a supportive argument. Now it's your turn. Am I completely offbase? Nuance it for me. Question me. Bring in detail. This is what it is all about, folks.
Points where I am not satisfied - My use of the phrase "The Right" is too broad and not articulated enough. I know what I mean, but the term is used ineffectively here. I am speaking specifically of intellectual totalitarians like the religious right. I am also speaking of fear-mongers like racists, homophobes, and xenophobes. I am also talking about Neo-Cons who have aspirations for remaking the world order. All of these are elements of the Right, but are clumsily summed up by this term.