In the last ten years, technology has advanced faster than in any time in human history. It’s impact on our culture is undeniable, and its impact on Politics, along with other popular topics is no exception.
Despite the internet picking up in popularity since 1996, and the dot com bust of 1999, starting from the year 2000, Internet usage has risen 134% in the United States alone. Dial up modems and busy singles are a thing of the past, and Internet technology and speeds have advanced to the point where websites like Youtube can offer streaming video of live political events online, in real time, and without interruption as seen during the political debates and eventual election of President Barack Obama.
Before the year 2000, individuals had websites, but services like FaceBook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube and other popular social media websites didn’t exist. Yahoo was the search engine of the day, and the most common form of communication young people used online were AOL chat rooms, that nowadays, don’t really seem to exist.
Despite the untested waters, Obama’s Presidential Campaign set up its own YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter account, MySpace page, blog, website, community forums, and ran banner ads through Google’s ad network, all for a total reported 7.79 million dollars, which is a little over the price of a single 30 minute infomercial that the campaign ran on network television before the November election.
The online marketing strategy worked. Of the record breaking 600 million dollars of contributions that Obama received during his run up to the election. 500 million came from the internet. Supporters clicked through to his campaign’s official website to make donations, either through a chain email from a friend, or from social media websites showing web banners of Obama’s famous campaign logo along with slogans promising change. Later the same young people who followed Obama’s every move online, turned out to vote in droves.
Now being just over a year out from the historical election of Barack Obama, it still seems like we are still waiting for that above mentioned change to manifest itself. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are ongoing, unemployment is on the rise, the dollar is depreciating at levels not seen since the great depression, and the government is getting bigger and more bureaucratic
Since the election, the internet seems to have shifted from Obama’s best friend, to his greatest political enemy. Some of the most controversial legislation in US history is being introduced and posted online for all Americans to see, online commentators who once supported Obama are continuously pointing out unfilled promises, and allegations ranging from him being born in Kenya to him being a communist run rampant.
Although I don’t agree with the latter two, thinking about it, without the internet, I wouldn’t even be aware that the accusations even existed. But one thing that I am certain of, is that the rise of the internet has put politicians under a magnify glass like never before.
The Banker Bailout doesn’t seem to be helping either. The once universally ignored C-SPAN, now has key points recorded, edited, and posted all over the internet. One clip that comes to mind is Ben Bernanke directly telling congress that he will not tell them who received the banker bailout money. Which in my mind, throws up a red flag and tells me, you probably wouldn’t want to reappoint such a smug guy to be chairmen of the most powerful central bank in the world. This is another example of another situation that has thousands and thousands of seemingly all negative opinions spread out across the web. We also can’t forget Congressmen Joe Wilson’s now infamous “You Lie!” outburst, which has went viral – and led many to ask themselves, even at just a subconscious level. What if he is lying?
As a result of all of the negative online press Obama’s approval rating has dropped faster than any other president in history, although the mainstream media seems to be positive or neutral at worst in opinion over the new president, some polls say his approval rating has reached as low as 40%. To me its pretty amazing that one of the most popular candidates in history can dive down in public opinion so fast. However, in Obama’s defense to that, there is no telling what would have came to light if the internet and social media had existed during the Johnson years, or the Nixon administration, and how it would have impacted history. Perhaps time will only tell, as an unlimited amount of information and access to research material has never been so easily accessible to the average person. In the years to come, it will be interesting to see how the political landscape will adapt, and how even newer technologies and the social trends that always follow will pursue.
Another clip that I found on YouTube that I am reminded of as I write this article is one of Senator Ray Rockefeller saying that we would be better off if we just did away with the internet. To that I agree. Although he was supposedly talking about national security, “we,” I would think, would only apply to the politicians who would the only ones who would truly benefit if the internet was removed from existence. “We,” the American citizen on the other hand, would once again be moved back to a time where we had no idea how the people in Washington were trying to run our country.