Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Information Revolution

The Cambodian Christmas debacle keeps growing. Hugh Hewitt, Powerline, and Captain Ed have a great amount of detail and links about the growing scandal.

This may be conservatives spinning their wheels. It may be that America learns that John Kerry is willing to look them in the eye and lie about his war record in order to gain their trust, and shrug it off.

What has been proven, I think, is that finally the American Right has found a combination of media effective against the liberal stranglehold on the print and broadcast outlets. Those are talk radio, and the Internet.

Talk radio came first, as Rush Limbaugh reinvented the newly deregulated format and proved that Americans will listen to hours of political talk. But conservative talk radio had its limitations; like all broadcast media it must be brief, and like anything driven by talent, second-hand accounts of "what Rush said today" pale in comparison to the actual performance. You had to actually commit to listening to Rush before you got his message.

But the Internet provides privately controlled political content of nearly unlimited length, beyond what any print or broadcast media could offer. Want to see the complete texts of Kerry's statements about Cambodia over the years? Publish the text or the links or both. Would a map be helpful? Then add one. And the readers can comment and argue about what they're reading.

The only real limitation to Internet publishing is the volume of sites. How to make your voice stand out? That's where radio complements the Internet, by publicizing websites. And by offering the listener a quick reference to a free source to check out the entire story, the radio host is able to have serial, short discussions about a topic over several days.

The Cambodian Christmas tale is a good example. The Swift Boat Vets put up an ad with extremely limited air time on television, but available 24/7 on their website.

When the DNC sent letters threatening TV stations with FCC complaints if they didn't pull the ad, the full text of the letter was available online. The full text of the Swift Vets' response was also published, and this contained the refutation of the Cambodian Christmas. None of these documents were published or broadcast in full. They were fully available online. Commentary by viewers led to a compendium of Kerry speeches, interviews and press reports regarding the Cambodian Christmas, and these were fully published online. Talk radio publicized these sites. The more viewers, the wider the web of collective memory and the fatter the file on Kerry's duplicity.

Until now, less than a week into the story, the buzz about the story--and about the total lack of coverage by the mainstream media--has forced the press and broadcast networks to take notice.

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