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It’s Not the Mail. It’s the Message.


This week over at eWeek, I’m writing about email.
The story sprang out of something I’m doing for my pals at the Personal Democracy Forum. It occurred to me that it’s perfectly possible that members of Congress – particularly the Senate which is going to be the political crucible of the next two years for both parties – could start getting people to lobby directly on issues of causes. This isn’t a big deal for us out here on the web. In the clubby 100-member U.S. Senate, it’s nothing short of a revolution.

UPDATE:I type it here, it comes out over there. And quickly, too. Josh Marshall’s reporting the results of an informal campaign aimed at the House of Representatives’ decision — or maybe not — to change its rules so Majority Leader Tom Delay can stay in office when — that’s when, not if, and that’s my opinion, nothing more — he’s indicted for violating Texas’ campaign laws.
This is really important. It seems that Marshall’s TalkingPointsMemo readers are taking it upon themselves to call their Republican Congressman and ask about that vote. And they’re reporting in to Marshall. I see trouble ahead. If TPM researchers get to 101 no-voting Republicans — more than half of the 202 members of the Republican caucus — then maybe rules weren’t changed after all.
Now, many of the folks I talked to for my piece – among them the very talented and somewhat cynical Matt Stoller — weren’t particularly sanguine about the ability of established pols to use email and the ‘net in any effective way. And, don’t get all self-congratulatory. We were talking about Democrats.
By contrast, it’s pretty clear that the Republicans have got this Internet thing down. For them, it’s not the technology. It’s the message. If you’re a Commie Liberal and you’re not reading – home of and the force behind — you’re missing something. The philosophy will drive you nuts. But the writing is often very tight and very smart. Those boys – yes, they appear to be all boys – have some sharp elbows and a keen sense of humor. has got DailyKos in their sights and they’re going to keep him and his crew of macho men there. The conservatives have gotten themselves all legaled-up up as a 527, a political organization that can spend on behalf of candidates. Which is a very deliberate and very public throw-down to Kos’ refusal – documented rather nicely here by Brian Reich writing at PDF – to talk about the links between his consulting business and his on-line advocacy for particularly candidates.
Speaking as someone who has worked in the rough and tumble of New York tabloids, this is great stuff. It’s exactly what the on-line web journalism is meant to do: Challenge the other guy to go one better. Keeping the competition honest.
Kos is dead wrong on this issue; he’s making all of us doing political writing on-line look sleazy. It really does looks as though he’s using his consulting business to charge candidates to appear on his immensely popular site. The Redstate guys are right to call him out on it.
UPDATE: Naughty Nicky Denton, Gawker media mogul, has his own suggestions for policing the ethics of on-line writers. I’m more of a free-market person on this stuff, myself. On the web, there’s plenty to choose from. You don’t like a writer’s ethics, you can go someplace else.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:04 AM | Permalink

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