John F. Harris has written a good article about how new media is a powerful political weapon, and although he focuses a lot on the negatives he also points out that Republicans at least see a lot of positives in the new landscape.

Former congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.) ended his political career over sexually charged e-mails to former House pages. Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) stumbled over his puzzling use of the word "macaca" and his clumsy response to revelations about his Jewish ancestry. Former president Bill Clinton had a televised temper fit when an interviewer challenged his terrorism record.

All three episodes, however, were in their own ways signs of the unruly new age in American politics. Each featured an arresting personal angle. Each originally percolated in the world of new media -- Web sites and news outlets that did not exist a generation ago -- before charging into the traditional world of newspapers and television networks. In each case, the accusations quickly pivoted into a debate about the motivations and alleged biases of the accusers.

Cumulatively, the stories highlight a new brand of politics in which nearly any revelation in the news becomes a weapon or shield in the daily partisan wars, and the aim of candidates and their operatives is not so much to win an argument as to brand opponents as fundamentally unfit.

New media is really fulfilling the promise of the "global village", gossip and all. Just like these sorts of personal attacks factor heavily in small-group dynamics, new media is allowing people to network more extensively and thereby redefining "small". No village chief would be selected without public knowledge of his dirty laundry, and now national politicians face the same scrutiny on a much larger scale. For people who complain about past generations of corruption and cronyism in government -- me included -- new media may lead to vast future improvements as the old dogs retire.

The article also has an astounding quote by former president Clinton ackowledging that the old media has long been an ally of the left.

But he [Clinton] said Democrats of his generation tend to be naive about new media realities. There is an expectation among Democrats that establishment old media organizations are de facto allies -- and will rebut political accusations and serve as referees on new-media excesses.

"We're all that way, and I think a part of it is we grew up in the '60s and the press led us against the war and the press led us on civil rights and the press led us on Watergate," Clinton said. "Those of us of a certain age grew up with this almost unrealistic set of expectations."

Only unrealistic when it comes to the new media, who don't tend to be leftist lapdogs. The older generation of rightwingers seems to have a better grasp on reality.

One of those who salutes the changing landscape -- with as much passion as Clinton deplores it -- is Cheney, who said he considers the breakdown of what he called an old media "monopoly" as among the most favorable trends of his years in politics. He said the change requires politicians to grow a thicker skin. Once while shaving, he heard Imus referring to someone as "Pork Chop." Only after a few minutes did he realize the host "was talking about me. I'm Pork Chop. And I laughed like hell."

"Sometimes it's pretty trashy," he said of new media's rise. "But I guess I'd put the proposition that there's more time and opportunity for policy discussions and debate than there used to be."

And that's exactly the point. No censorship in the global village -- everyone gets to know everything, and everyone gets to have their say.



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