Are You on the Dean’s List?

That would be Howard Dean’s list. You oughtta be. Not because he’s a Democrat or willing to be outspoken or a physician who understands exactly how you’re gonna be screwed when you or your family actually need medical care, or because he runs a state where the governor actually governs and which is prosperous without exploiting resources, while Texas is bankrupt despite its huge resource base and fouled environment, dead-last among all states.

As for media consolidation, here’s a clue from yesterday:

May 27, 2003

Chairman Michael Powell
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Powell,

Americans cherish the freedom of the press — and the diversity of the press that ensures they can get access to the truth and to the information they need. The Bush Administration may not appreciate that freedom and diversity, but they should not tamper with it.

On June 2nd, the Federal Communications Commission should decide against allowing a single company to own multiple television stations, radio stations, and newspapers in a single town. The Bush Administration has urged the FCC to remove regulations that protect every Americans’ right to a free press. This latest attempt by the Bush Administration to undermine the American ideals enshrined in our Constitution is wrong…

…Therefore, I urge you to take the following actions:

  1. Delay the June 2nd vote by the FCC.
  2. Testify before Congress so that the Representatives of the American people can have the opportunity to question the representatives of the Bush Administration.
  3. Allow for, and consider, additional public input. The FCC must provide sufficient opportunity for public input on a decision that affects every American.

I appreciate your consideration.

Sincerely,

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

But never mind all that. You need to support Dean because he has said the most important thing that any candidate has ever said:

“I’m not unwilling to change positions based on facts,
  but I am unwilling to change positions based on polls.”

The reason his point is important is that we’ve never had a fact-based politician and if you read or write a blog or software code, you’re committed to the outrageous notion that facts matter. For many people, facts don’t matter. The process of discovering, testing, discarding and describing facts is such a mystery to many that they’re not willing to trust it. Most of us, and certainly most people in power, are interested only in what increases our influence, which is rarely factual.

So here’s a person who governs without the right to print money, who says he’s willing to listen to facts and make fact-checking a campaign issue. The other thing he’s doing is using the Internet as the center of his campaign strategy, ramrodded by his Internet-obsessed Campaign Manager, Joe Trippi:

When it comes to the Internet, no detail is too small for Trippi. Some campaign managers devote their energies to working the elite press or courting union leaders or wooing donors. But Trippi seems to spend an inordinate amount of his time checking Meetup numbers, posting to liberal blogs, sending text messages to supporters who have signed up for the Dean wireless network, and otherwise devising ways to use the Internet to build what Trippi envisions as “the largest grassroots organization in the history of this party.”

His team is so focused on leveraging the Net that they may win in 2004 because they have ways of getting out the vote of disaffected centrists. They’ll also use the Net to sow discontent among the authentic conservatives who have seen their civil rights purged by a big-spending, little guy-hating big-gummint administration that promised all the right things and did all the wrong things, from the viewpoint of authentic (pre-1990) conservatives. You know about authentic conservatives, don’t you? They’re as committed to the Constitution as the ACLU.

My logic is escapable but probable: Appropriate use of the Internet is the inside track to the 2004 election, and Dean’s team is the only one that knows what the track looks like. Appropriate use of the Internet isn’t fake emails or PR but is the use of meetup.com and blogs and Knowledge Management to organize consensus around people’s inclination to support a candidate who makes sense, not noise.

For about 24 hours I’ve been urging Doc Searls to get all over this. There are still nine candidates for the Democratic nomination, eight of whom are congress critters who have supported most of the measures that have gutted civil rights and fair use of published materials. Dean will wipe up the floor with them, but can’t yet be sure of it, so he and his growing team are probably willing to listen to the blogging world and to consider a blog-based administration.

Here’s my recommendation:

  1. Someone arranges a meeting with, at least, Dr. Lessig, Doc Searls, Dr. Dean, and Joe Trippi. The agenda is simple:
    1. Will you go to the mat to return fair use of published works to the people?
    2. Will you sponsor a blog-based, blog-responsive administration?
    3. Will you promote a fact-based judiciary?
  2. If those answers are public, unequivocal and satisfactory, Searls, Lessig and other Net thought leaders should pull out the stops and get behind Dean, our last best hope for an administration knowing that managerial capitalism is about to consume the seed corn that makes capitalism possible. The nutrients they’re snorting up are the major food groups of the American miracle:
    1. A free and informed electorate
    2. The freedom to oppose the majority opinion (which usually isn’t)
    3. Freedom of speech, and, implicitly, freedom from single-agenda broadcasting
    4. Freedom from unreasonable seizure and, implicitly, limits on fair use of purcahsed media

Listen for the Blog Horn

Dean is the first candidate to treat relatively unknown bloggers as a critical opinion-making constituency. “We understand the blogging community and have been active in it,” says Trippi. “A lot more people are seeing us on the blogs and other sites every day than on TV at this point in the campaign.”

…Last week, Dean even gave his first exclusive interview to a blogger, a rather well-done exchange via e-mail by the anonymous author of the blog LiberalOasis. The Dean campaign itself has an official blog that includes dispatches from the road, and Trippi also posts regularly to Dean2004.blogspot.com, an unofficial Dean blog that has become a hub of Internet organizing for the campaign.*

Like most emerging media, blogging tends to contemplate its own navel. But it’s probable the navel’s attached to something worth attending to. Blogging inspired the social software meme and is wrapping Knowledge Management around itself. By the time Super Tuesday hits, we’ll probably have a way to aggregate bloggers’ opinions and roll them up into a coherent sense of grass roots sentiment in ways never before possible. My gut tells me Technorati could tally up our common sense of reality by identifying political key words and associating them with positive vs. negative adjectives and adverbs.

So we shouldn’t support Dean just because he reads and uses blogs. Rather, we should get behind any candidate who:

  1. Has a mind
  2. Speaks it clearly and well
  3. Proves it by blogging for the record, in a human voice

Blogger interest is just a start. The work part of this possibility is for bloggers and aficionados to engage friends, neighbors and fellow workers by proving that there’s a there there: someone who deserves our support because he’s actually committed to responding to facts, including proofs that most of we the people have a more than wee interest in doing smart things.

The Central Plank in the Platform

But let’s not get blindly behind this guy unless the centerpiece of his campaign is fact-based policy-making in a blog-based and blog-responsive administration. Then we may see a role for technologists in politics at least equal to Big Oil and Big Media.

3:32:37 PM    

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