I just left a session where Joe Trippi spoke. He talked about how organizations are top-down, power concentrated at the top, commands flowing out form a center. Information is power, and this is why information is concentrated in organizations. He says that this has started to change because the Internet enables tools for bypassing this.
He said that we should look back to Napster as an example of this change occurring. Napster preceded Dean as an example of breaking up the top-down nature of organizations structures. It was the bottom, using the net to bring chaos to top-down structures.
He says that the situation with the Internet is like television in 1952. 1952 was the first instance of television having an effect, when Nixon – Eisenhower’s VP candidate – was “caught with his hand in the till.” Eisenhower was going to throw Nixon off the ticket, when Nixon asked for one more chance to talk to the American people, and went on television to deliver the famous “Checkers speech“. He mimicked the speech, but just go read it. Trippi called this televised speech “the instant bullshit had its own medium.” (The public rallied around Nixon and he stayed on the ticket.)
So this is the Net’s 1952, and Dean is the first time it has had a major effect in politics.
In the campaigns up until then, candidates traveled around the country on trains. Truman talked to 19 million people over several months by pulling into a station where the people were waiting, and giving a speech. After 1952 Eisenhower got on TV and talked to 19 million people at once. But the train stations were gatherings of people – social occasions where people shared a common experience, and talked with each other. Television is a common experience where people are isolated. The Internet blends the two, enabling people to share a common experience and be in contact with each other.