This is an archive, please visit for current posts.
PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine
Recent Entries
Like PressThink? More from the same pen:

Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

Syndicate this site:

XML Summaries

XML Full Posts

December 18, 2003

Interesting Theory. But Journalists Don't Do Theory. Do They?

Everett Erlich calls Dean a Third Party "taking over" the Democrats. Jeff Jarvis says the Dean campaign is really a one way machine pumping out propaganda like all before it. Meanwhile, Tom Mangan, newspaper editor, wonders what good "theory" does in journalism.

In a deft commentary for the Washington Post, Everett Erlich, former Undersecretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, took apart the 2004 campaign and put it back together as a three-sided contest. Dean vs. Bush vs. the Democrats. Dean is trying to start a third party, and at the right moment turn the Democrats into that. He’s using the Internet and the “small pieces loosely joined” approach to replace the party that Terry McAuliffe heads:

Other candidates — John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark — are competing to take control of the party’s fundraising, organizational and media operations. But Dean is not interested in taking control of those depreciating assets. He is creating his own party, his own lists, his own money, his own organization. What he wants are the Democratic brand name and legacy, the party’s last remaining assets of value…

This theme has been sounded before. Ryan Lizza got at it in the New Republic: “Dean, by contrast, has come to represent the party’s anti-establishment forces.” But Erlich’s explanation is new. Lower information costs and new media are giving small networks the same capacity to reach voters, and so the big national party can be gotten around.

Read his argument. Now suppose he’s right, and there is a three cornered competition among Dean and his network, the “old” Democratic Party, and the Republicans. (With the Christian right ready to pull a Dean on the GOP, and split off.) How does campaign reporting by the national press—let’s say at the Washington Post—absorb this possibility? Covering a three-sided race is different, more complicated. It demands a different deployment of people and use of news space. And yet it might be a more accurate picture—a savvier read on the situation—which means it would produce better coverage.

But this would require acceptance of a thesis, Erlich’s thesis. The trouble there is the press does not ordinarily choose between one thesis and another in setting its sights for campaign coverage. It has a third choice, which is to say: “Thesis? What thesis? We don’t do that. No sir. Our job is to report the campaign, not to theorize about it.” I said this was a choice, but it might also be a style of decision-making that is common in journalism. Not recognizing an issue can be an effective way of handling it.

For example, Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times argues that disclosing an editor’s basic political philosophy is always a mistake because the material is irrelevant. The news is not edited to political taste. We don’t care what political party the umpire in baseball is from, and we should not be revealing that information when groups have a passionate rooting interest and the umps stand between the people and a just victory.

Our politics are irrelevant, just like the umpire’s, and political bias is not a significant problem. “Programmatic politics of any sort are at best a vestigial presence in all but a handful of American newsrooms,” Rutten writes. Poof. There goes an issue critics thought was relevant. Press think in this style can “disappear” things.

So which is the more accurate image as we begin events in calendar year 2004, a two-party or three-party race shaping up out there? To me, that’s an interesting pair of alternatives for any sharp journalist to tackle. And I think the smart ones will tackle it, as the coverage goes on. But these are not two different stories. They are different premises for stories. We might also say different theories.

Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis wants to cool down some of the passions for Dean’s distributed model of campaigning and its “two way” features. He’s in a contrarian mood about it. His three theses:

1. In terms of policy and substance, presidential campaign weblogs are not two-way. They are necessarily one-way.
2. In terms of policy and substance, presidential campaign weblogs must be essentially propagandistic.
3. In terms of organization, presidential campaign weblogs and community effectively exploit their participants.

He also says there is nothing scandalous about this, it’s just the reality of trying to win. Now you have to watch journalists—well, everyone, but especially journalists-when they set out to debunk. Not always but very often, the debunker will first inflate the claim, and then write 800 words about how ridiculously inflated the claim is.

The trick is easy to learn. You exaggerate what “others” are saying (or just make it up) but in a manner that sounds close enough to what some people actually have said that the inflated paraphrase gets by without scrutiny. After that, the argument falls into place. This is considered kosher in column-writing. “The fashionable view is… (insert writer’s wish)… but I disagree.”

To guard against this, I dock points from any debunker who does not quote real live people saying the things that need to be debunked. It’s cheating. And it usually means there are no people (or very very few) making the “fashionable” claim. It’s the writer’s wish to argue against them, however, and this is what the column is actually about: that wish.

Last month’s example (entertaining in its way) was John Dvorak’s PC Magazine column debunking the weblog’s ultimate importance in journalism. Here’s the trick I was talking about: “We’re told that blogs… are sure to become the future of journalism.” Are we? Told this by whom? And do they know anything, have any authority whatsoever? Dvorak didn’t say, of course, because he didn’t want to argue with real and reasonably bright, informed people. He wanted to strike a controversial pose amid those people while doing close to zero work. He succeeded at that.

But the best thing about this “make a wish” device (if your editor lets you get away with it) is when people howl in protest at your purposefully lame paraphrase, telling you how bad it is. These howls not only become proof of a great column (“struck a nerve, did I?”) but permit the writer to feel contrarian, even brave under assault. Dvorak’s is a feel good piece of this type. If those wrongly paraphrased don’t protest, the trick works well. If they do protest, it works even better.

Now Jeff Jarvis, one of the top journalist webloggers, (fourth in this recent poll) is also one of the best quoters and linkers around. This is part of what makes Buzzmachine such a good read: he sends you to what he’s talking about. And it’s different stuff. But this…

seems to me that we have been assuming — in a case of accepted wisdom I now don’t fully accept — that presidential campaign weblogs and communities are all about the people gaining control of campaigns.

… is not up to Jarvis standards. Whose assumption is that, Jeff? How come no quotes, man, and no links? This is Buzzmachine, right? You aren’t trying to pull a Dvorak on us, are you? Please, take me to some of those observers who claim that “the people” have gained control of, say, the Dean campaign—via their weblogs—and the people are now running the show, policy-wise. Not Joe Trippi, not Dean himself, but the people are calling the shots and determining the candidate’s stands on what you call “substance.”

It should be a snap, especially for a Webbie with your skills, to find lots of people spouting this view. I don’t know any, myself—any who say that campaign weblogs allow webloggers to gain policy control of presidential campaigns—but I’d love to read what they say in support of such a strange thesis. (Thesis? Do we do that?)

Well, over at Andrew Cline’s Rhetorica, Tom Mangan, boss of Prints the Chaff and a newspaper editor, wrote this in a comment thread, and it made me think.

I’m curious: how would more study of these structural biases help journalists? A reporter still needs to quote official sources, there is a finite amount of time available to report stories, there are inevitable fiscal pressures that discourage more authoritative reporting, and the audience’s attention span gets smaller by the day.

The journalism we have feels like an organic reflection of the environment we live in. Maybe my own blindness to the profession’s “under-theorized” tendencies is another of your structural biases … I wouldn’t deny there’s a sense that we know all we need to know about how to report the news, and that the stuff we need to fix its failings simply is not available.

I suspect most working newsies would say, “don’t give me more theory; just give me more time, talent and money.”

He has that right. Journalists and people who choose to become journalists have a strained relationship to “theory.” It is axiomatic that they don’t need it, don’t want it, and really don’t like it, but so axiomatic that after a while a close observer begins to wonder: maybe they do need it, in the sense that self-definition requires things one is definitely not.

During 17 years on the journalism faculty at NYU, I have heard many hundreds of students complain that they are not in J-school to learn “theory,” a statement I fully agree with. But it is odd to keep hearing it because we have no “theory of…” courses in the journalism curriculum, no professors whose specialty is theory, and no reputation as a theoretical program.

Without being instructed in this, journalism students pick up on an act of self-definition that will later be expected of them, and some of them use the word “theory” to show themselves, and us, that, yes, they’re becoming journalists. There’s nothing really amiss in that: acculturation is part of learning to be a…

I’m not for dumping press theory texts on newsrooms, either (it would be a disaster). But go back to Erlich’s theory that the 2004 campaign is really a three-way race. This notion, if accepted, affects everything an editor and a team of correspondents would do with the “more time, talent and money” they need to cover the 2004 campaign. Suppose the campaign team in the newsroom says: “Nah, we’re not convinced. It’s an interesting theory, though. We will stick with the premise of a two-party race.”

Aren’t they deciding to go with their own theory?

Read Britt Blaser and Jeff Jarvis, among others, in the comments section.

Matthew Stinson comments in a similar vein with Jarvis: “I think blogging and other forms of Internet communication have altered the general dynamics of the campaign, but the campaign blogs, up to this date, have not impressed me very much.”

Ed Cone also reacts to Jarvis: “As a debunking of the starry-eyed, campaign blog-as-Woodstock meme, good stuff. Howard Dean and Joe Trippi are trying to WIN AN ELECTION, not run an encounter group. Ditto the other candidates using or about to use the Internet to manage their campaigns. That’s the whole point of setting up your own parallel media. But I think Jeff sells short the collaborative possibilities of an Internet campaign.”

Those interested in the Erlich thesis should read the full rebuttal from Professor Bainbridge. Headline: analogy flawed.

Here’s one writer supporting the case for Dean as third party force. Part One. And two.

Posted by Jay Rosen at December 18, 2003 6:47 PM   Print


What if this turns out to be a "vs." story after all? It will be if the open vs. closed source "conflict" story jumps from software to politics.

That's good news for the Master Narrative, since the press is accustomed to covering the open source conflict, which may be more real in politics than in software (Doc Searls says there's actually no competition between Microsoft and open source tools; MS competes with its own customers' needs to use the open source toolset as a complement to MSware.)

The tension between open source governance and totalitarianism has always been the essential political story. If the press picks up on this, they're actually going home again.

Perhaps then the press will frame the Rs and Ds as different flavors of tories, under fire from the public they're both competing with.

Posted by: Britt Blaser at December 19, 2003 9:58 PM | Permalink

OK, Jay, here's one quote:

It's almost spooky. The campaign is somewhere... out there. It is not at headquarters any more, although it talks to headquarters by blog. This is a de-stabilizing premise, and for a journalist who decides she buys it, a kind of reporting nightmare.
That, of course, is you here.
I am saying that the campaign -- especially the substantive campaign -- is very much at headquarters, still; it's not out there.
Or take Glenn Reynolds' assertion -- which I quoted and quite fully bought here -- that the Dean campaign proves you have to give up control to gain power.
I'm now questioning that. I'm now questioning that, operational and recruitment issues aside, the Dean campaign is giving up control or can give up control.
Should I have quoted those quotes and linked those links? Perhaps. Always fair criticism. But sometimes, accepted wisdom is accepted wisdom and one can argue with it from that starting point. For example, is it accepted wisdom that we haven't found WMDs in Iraq or that many say we're mucking up post-war Iraq; need one quote and link before starting a column on those issues? Sometimes that's a judgment call. In print, it's often a space call. Online, it can be a space and time call.
You and Glenn and I and others I could quote and link if it weren't late at the beginning of my vacation have all bought that the Dean online machine is changing campaigning. I agree that it's changing campaigning. But I'm arguing that it's not changing campainging in quite the ways that it has appeared.
Headquarters is still wherever the candidate is.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at December 19, 2003 10:17 PM | Permalink

Excellent response, Jarvis. I see much better what you are getting at now. "There is no second campaign, really" is something I and others can argue with. I think you are right that there's a hot air quotient in many things being said in Dean's favor, and some of these "new pattern" claims may not stand close scrutiny. I'm sure there's quite a few illusions active out there.

But the one you picked is *not* a common argument, I say. It's a strange thesis. Its bears no similarity to an attitude like "weapons of mass destruction not found in Iraq," which is common enough to not need citing.

I cannot recall anyone--myself, Glenn, Ed Cone, any journalist, any supporter, any political pro, any weblogger you read regularly--saying that the network of Dean blogs gives control of Dean's policy stands to "the people." And I meant it when I said I would love to read such analysis and see how the writer got there.

I'm not nitpicking you, lawyerly style, for evidence when everyone knows what we're talking about because there are thousands of examples. Rather, I think you got the claim wrong. "It's still at headquarters, don't buy the lost control hype" corresponds to a claim I do recognize in the work of Dean enthusiasts-- from PressThink and other places, like the New York Times Sunday magazine.

I would love to see you take up in Buzzmachine the "headquarters still in charge" thing, too. But did anyone ever say the grassroots were "in charge" of the campaign overall, as against certain parts? I doubt it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 19, 2003 11:06 PM | Permalink


Perhaps the following is not a 100.0% fit, since it's phrased as a discussion topic, but I think it does bear on the idea that the claim is not fictitious.

Check out the current Berkman Center Technology in Politics question, which is in part written by the Dean Campaign

"When accepting the victory, you seize the hands of two young programmers and
deliver the sentence that has served as the message of your entire campaign: "The
president doesn't have the power in this country. You have the power." Electrified,
your supporters celebrate their win on blogs, listservs, messages boards, and in small
groups gathered in living rooms and kitchens."

"Now you are President of the United States, a position perceived by many as
responsible for the health, safety, financial security and well-being of two-hundred sixty
million people, plus the peace and prosperity of the entire world. You are also
responsible to the mandate of your campaign -- to change the role of the president of
the United States, shifting power from the White House and to the American people.
The night after you are elected, you receive 2 million email messages from supporters.
Not surprisingly, each supporter seems to believe that he or she has been elected
co-president and stands ready to guide your domestic and foreign policy."

"How do you, elected on a platform of citizen empowerment, govern? ..."

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at December 20, 2003 5:26 AM | Permalink

Not buying it, Seth. Others may. I still say that there is no common assumption, even among Dean enthusiasts, that *control* of campaign policy has been handed over to the grassroots, to the network of Dean groups, to webloggers, etc. I do not know anyone who makes that argument, and yet it is called a common argument. It isn't. I doubt that a single quote can be found in direct support of it. But I could be wrong, which is why I asked my friend Jeff Jarvis if he had links.

Jeff, in this case, took something people have indeed said--that total control from the center has been replaced by a system where people do things on their own to benefit the candidate without direction from headquarters or coordination--and turned into a wildly different claim: that the people "out there" have taken over policy decisions in Burlington, also called "substance." If that were a common attitude, it would take minutes to produce a link. But it's a phantom. Jeff Jarvis is a great weblogger, so it surprised me that he relied on it.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at December 20, 2003 11:30 AM | Permalink

Jay: The only power that is meaningful in a campaign or administration is the power to change substance. If that power is not "out there" then no power is.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at December 20, 2003 3:22 PM | Permalink

These are strong opinions, Jeff, so they run the risk of being overstated:

"The only power that is meaningful in a campaign or administration is the power to change substance. If that power is not "out there" then no power is."


"I am saying that the campaign -- especially the substantive campaign -- is very much at headquarters, still; it's not out there."

Sorry, Jeff. You're simply wrong. I spend a week a month at Dean HQ, where I sit as I type this. I am well within my observational powers to alert you to your mistaken impression. You've quoted Zephyr Teachout who meant it when she said the campaign is out there, one reason she just spent six weeks driving across America to update our marching orders in person. The staff (HQ & state offices) is a support system for the campaign that matters. That campaign is out there, not here.

"But I'm arguing that it's not changing campainging in quite the ways that it has appeared. Headquarters is still wherever the candidate is."

Wrong again. That's like saying Condé Nast exists only on 42nd Street. While Dean is in New Hampshire today, the Headquarters remains centered here in Burlington but is as distributed as Condé Nast has become. Like any modern organization, Dean Headquarters is the vector comprised by the group of professionals designing and executing the strategic plan called the campaign. Some of those are unpaid volunteers like me. Like any management, the plan is based on the resources available to the campaign, and the capital needed to increase and effectively deploy those resources. That's Biz Admin 101.

Ronald Coase, speaking through Everett Ehrlich, is suggesting to us that, as the costs of information drop toward zero, the influence of the tiny bit of required capital declines proportionately. The power is usurped by the people actually doing the communicating. The Internet lets a campaign stop being a tightly controlled symphony and become a jazz improvisation.

Organizations ALWAYS reflect their constituencies. When an enterprise expands its stakeholder base it takes on their biases, for better or worse. My father's GOP would have never genuflected before Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, but the Bushies have no choice.

The test will be if the Dean Campaign invites the public to design and refine and, after too long a hiatus, publicize a party platform. Remember that quaint notion - a statement of core principles and values?

The Dean campaign relies on a formative "smart mob" that has a strong voice in how the campaign is run and promises to staff a West Wing that continues to listen to its base: millions of people who have never previously had the [communications] power to be heard. Collectively, they will exert a visible, pervasive and powerful force on the 44th President whoever and whenever that is.

All presidents must dance with the one what brung 'em, as Molly Ivins would say. Even when they're owned by the public.

Posted by: Britt Blaser at December 20, 2003 6:43 PM | Permalink

Interesting discussion. Jeff, why does control of the policy apparatus mean that the campaign is necessarily one-way? By segmenting the campaign into 'operations' (details) and 'policy' (the real stuff) it seems that short shrift is given to the process of electoral politics, when in fact that process seems to be dictating the political realities which will enable policy to be enacted and enforced (or not).

The Dean campaign writes the policy papers, sure, but their political power doesn't come from their policy positions, as you well know. The political power of the Dean machine is mostly due to their indirect operational methodology, as you have rightly pointed out. But to discount that political power as essentially unimportant and directed by the top - as opposed to helping shape the message from the top - seems to miss a strong element of the new dynamics of internet politics.

The Dean supporters are a force that Dean doesn't control, and should he decide to run a government in a secretive and top-down manner, he would quickly find that his supporters would begin fractious warfare and his political power would substantially erode. In essence, Dean as a political force becomes more powerful if his campaign is two-way.

So on the 'substance', yes, Dean controls the policy apparatus, but that policy apparatus is dictated by political realities, and his campaigning style is fostering new pressure groups and support groups that shape that reality.

Posted by: MattS at December 21, 2003 5:13 PM | Permalink

From the Intro