The medium and the message…

IT’S probably sacrilege to link to this, but Martyn Perks isn’t convinced that blogging by politicians isn’t the most effective way of communicating a political message. While converts like Ian Duncan Smith may believe an MP’s blog can perform a similar role to the old town hall meetings of the past, and Karl Rove believes that the national conversation is being democratised, Perks doesn’t think they can be held accountable through such a medium.

Perks writes:

Although today’s webloggers are from all parts of the political spectrum, they share disdain for the political process. They may argue that politics is unrepresentative of what actually is happening on the ground – but what they are really saying is that they don’t like it because it doesn’t suit their needs.

Conducting virtual politics online is second best. It is far less accountable than in the real world – it is impossible to hold anyone to account in a virtual ‘town hall’, where politicians are free to ignore the views people express. Political argument and persuasion should be carried out in the public realm, where politicians can be properly judged.

Duncan Smith wrote:

But the blogosphere will become a force in Britain, and it could ignite many new forces of conservatism. The internet’s automatic level playing field gives conservatives opportunities that mainstream media have often denied them.

An online community of bloggers performs the same function as yesteryear’s town meetings. Through the tradition of town hall meetings, officials were held to account by local people. Blogger communities are going to be much more powerful. They will draw together not only local people but patients who have waited and waited for NHS care. They will organise parents of disabled children who oppose Labour’s closure of special-needs schools and evangelical Christians who see their beliefs caricatured by ignorant commentators.

All this should put the fear of God into the metropolitan elites. For years there have been widening gaps between the governing class and the governed and between the publicly funded broadcasters and the broadcasted to.

Until now voters, viewers and service users have not had easy mechanisms by which to expose officialdom’s errors and inefficiencies. But, because of the internet, the masses beyond the metropolitan fringe will soon be on the move. They will expose the lazy journalists who reduce every important public policy issue to how it affects opinion-poll ratings.

Tired of being spoon-fed their politics, British voters will soon be calling virtual town hall meetings, and they will take a serious look at the messenger as well as the message. It’s going to be very rough.

Karl Rove is right. The internet could do more to change the level of political engagement than all the breast-beating of introspective politicians and commentators. A 21st century political revolution is now only a few mouse clicks away.