November 2, 2006  ·  Lessig

Sitting in Germany, each morning scanning the morning Google News, I can’t describe how depressing it is that this story — Kerry’s gaffe — is the top story on Google News. Can it really be that the most important story is (yet another) gaffe by a presidential candidate who couldn’t beat George Bush? I can’t believe how good the GOP is in playing this game. I can’t stomach how bad the Democrats are.

  • lucychili
  • lucychili
  • Seth Finkelstein

    lucychili: Sadly, there’s a good argument that Internet shifts have made things WORSE – from the news article above:

    “Rejecting the explanation, Republicans quickly developed a Web campaign ad demanding he apologize and issued statement after statement blasting him …”

    And note:
    “In a separate interview with radio host Rush Limbaugh, Bush said, …”

    Demagoguery Is Not Democracy

    I keep saying, we’re being sold a bill of goods with the evangelism that the Internet is going to be the way to have a more rational politics. Instead, it’s going to favor the interests of those who are most skilled at dominating the echoing system, and the right-wing rant machine isn’t called The Mighty Wurlitzer for nothing.

    The idea that the Internet exists in isolation from all other media, and can’t be used effectively in concert with domination of other media to dominate Internet politics, is very strange. Especially given that many blog A-listers ARE mainstream media partisans.

    But, recursively, is there any determination if I’m right rather than if people like what I’m saying? :-(

  • lucychili

    Yes I think its worse.
    Yes I think that the current structure is broken and corrupt.
    Because these systems operate on a ratchet, and have no means to operate in ways which connect properly to our communities and places, they will continue to ratchet more power and money because that is the function of the structure. It has no logic with which to navigate a change of direction. Usually apolitical communities are talking about ethics, politics, alternative paths.
    Even the larger proponents of the current system are trying to offer release valves for the pressure MS is offering ethics and promises because the laws have given way to such a degree that they feel they need to offer a gesture of goodwill to soften the facts. Patent commons too could be viewed as a concession to concerns about the system being too apparently disfunctional.
    There are groups in Australia offering to organised IT professionals in the Public interest, but the processes attached are about compliance, accreditation, exclusion, and brokering.
    Proposals to ban blogging lawyers is another broken system
    with an ethical faceplate. The people who are a part of these systems cannot see value outside of it. The people outside of it cannot see value in the loss of freedom inherent within it.
    I feel like was are evolving into citizens of distinct conceptual nations. Franchise and Commons based. How we express that professionally and geographically will be interesting.

    This site has some interesting debate:

  • Crosbie Fitch

    Nice word innit, eh, Seth? ;-)

  • Janet Hawtin

    innit is an interesting word =)
    perhaps it comes down to one person’s democracy is another person’s demagoguery. astroturf and using control of networks and google for that matter to flex the same systems is likely, but what alternative is there other than using the freedom we have as best we can.

  • Crosbie Fitch

    The alternative, Janet, is to create better systems.

    Build a better mousetrap and the mice will stop beating a path under your barn door to crap in your cornflakes.

    It is possible to build a completely decentralised and distributed voting system (facial photographs as biometric – mutally corroborated, peer to peer PKI).

    Even so, such a system isn’t necessarily salvation from the ochlocracy we appear to be enjoying today.

  • rodander

    This is too funny. Here we are, at ground zero of Net Neutrality and open source content, and there is bitching about how the Internet has broken the monopoly on which news is disseminated.

    I really don’t think that “neutrality” is what many of the commenters here really want in the end. Sounds like they want control instead.

  • Mark Earnest

    The soldiers at least have a sense of humor

  • John Dowdell

    Larry! Why are you giving Kerry’s problems so much attention? You’re not one of those super-secret Karl Rove moles too…!?!?

  • michael d. morrison

    the irrational media frenzy over a botched political joke is similar to the one a couple of weeks ago re the florida congressman enmeshed in a sex scandal with teenagers. anyone who watches the news on tv saw both TOO many times. overuse likely diminishes the import of this so-called news. really, there are many other things going on in the world today that rank these two in grave importance. attn media: give it a rest and give us a break!

    michael d. morrison

  • Crosbie Fitch

    Perhaps one could co-opt the Digg site into a meritocratic news filter?

    Rather than rely on the salacious inclinations of the many, contrive a reputation metric to enable ranking of news stories according to ‘importance to humanity’ or something like that, eh?

    Wikipedia is having to consider moving this way.

    Sometimes ‘the many’ ain’t good enough arbitration. You may need to assemble ‘the worthy’.

    Naturally, you need to be careful to ensure ‘the worthy’ don’t deteriorate into ‘the corrupt’. ;-)

  • John Eden

    Lessig -

    What the &^%$ was Kerry thinking?! Is he intentionally trying to subsidize the fortunes of the GOP?


  • Fact checker

    The story has all but evaporated in the U.S. now that Kerry apologized and gone into seclusion where he can do no more harm.

    It lasted 2 days (too long), but it’s over. Poof.

  • Janet Hawtin

    yep its an interesting idea but who’s idea of worthy/whuffie*.
    as soon as some people lose voice in order to provide voice to the whuffie folk then we are shifting from distributed to a form of moderated and heading back to brokerage. this is a scale issue.
    we know who we want to hear from at a certain scale, personally, perhaps organisationally, but at global scale how do you avoid whuffie being another form of traffic shaping v net neutrality.

    Perhaps there is a scale or model where we can effectively whuffie but it is likely to need to be one where we speak/vote/connect transparently so that we can see really what the person speaks/votes/connects to. and what they say they think. if we have one space for our profile then it is trickier for people to astroturf, but that feels like a different kind of scary because then identity theft would be a real concern.

    I followed the witty soldiers to the MS in China article:

    ‘I don’t think we should make corporations responsible for securing our freedoms.’
    Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive director APC

    If whuffie sifts people into trust relationships
    There would be schools of thought in a more formal sense?
    We have not needed to declare our differences before.
    Not as a tool for daily negotiation. Can we effect tolerant inclusive communities when we have to declare those differences. Would we be able to see the voices of people we differ from.
    Perhpas I just need a coffee.

    *whuffie = see Doctorow’s Magic Kingdom

  • Chris

    This NY Times article about sums it up.

  • Shiralee

    Surely any fool can see– whether he meant it or not — Kerry had a point. The US system means that if you stupidly forgot to have wealthy parents of super-smarts (to get scholarships etc), you’re stuffed and the military (or crime) are your only real ways *out*. US citizens seem determined to look anywhere but inwards for responsibility for the fact that you have an enormous 3rd world hidden inside your country… and large sections of the rest of the world fear, despise and resent you. It is not a problem that the Internet disseminates reportage… what is a problem is that so many of you seem ready to seize on what is reported as either symbolic of a lack of patriotism (WTF! since when is telling the truth unpatriotic..? oh yes! that’s right, in the *United States of Denial*) — or to blame in advance for losing the race (WTF! Have clear social justice policies and get people to vote for them rather than nationalist rhetoric, then you might win !!! Oh, and remembering the separation of church and state would help too).

    BTW your heroic troops are just normal people doing what they’re told to — but that doesn’t change that what they’re being told to do makes them murderers and imperialist. Ours too. The future will hold us all responsible.

  • Chris_B

    Seth: I still want you on my dodgeball team at recess.

    Why did the “freedom” folks (utopians, whatever) get it wrong about news? No vested interest to protect. What happened to the promise of the Internet and price transparancy/reductions? Same thing.

    Ya know what really dissapoints me? Its not that the Left is bereft of Good Ideas & Agendas, its that no one is minding the shop. As long as this is the case alot of good causes are going to look like the oddball agendas of kooks and do-nohthings. And that my friends is a crying shame.

  • News Watcher

    Google News does an extremely poor job of covering big stories. For example, when the Democrats took the House, the front page of Google News only had one small excerpt from some small-town newspaper and NO pictures of the victory! Meanwhile, pretty much every other news site had the victory covered in large pictures and many headlines.

    Makes you wonder if the “algorithms” are republican moles…