Day By Day

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tory Populism?

The Guardian runs a story today on bloggers by Iain Duncan Smith. In it he looks at how bloggery has affected American political culture and what its implications may be for Britain. He thinks it's a revolution in the making.

He writes:

For decades the national conversation in most western countries has been directed by a few talking heads. Newspapers play important roles but all the evidence suggests that broadcasters have possessed the greatest potential to frame public debate. British politicians have known that communicating their message depends upon getting the nod from a small number of powerful figures in the broadcast media....

But all of this looks set to change because of the blogosphere....

Mainstream TV can no longer say what it wants without fear of correction. Online diaries, written by teachers, soldiers and numerous other people with real knowledge of subjects, are fact-checking ill-informed broadcasters. The bloggers have already toppled two of American TV's biggest names.

Mr. Smith then repeats [without credit] Michael Barone's observation that bloggers have helped Republicans fend off attacks from the MSM, consolidating its hold on the political center, while at the same time drawing the Democrats out onto the lefty fringes of American political culture. In other words they have radically altered the dynamics of the American political system.

This, Smith holds, was a positive development and he sees a similar effect in store for Britain.

An online community of bloggers performs the same function as yesteryear's town meetings. Through the tradition of town hall meetings, officials were held to account by local people. Blogger communities are going to be much more powerful.

[T]his should put the fear of God into the metropolitan elites. For years there have been widening gaps between the governing class and the governed and between the publicly funded broadcasters and the broadcasted to.

Until now voters, viewers and service users have not had easy mechanisms by which to expose officialdom's errors and inefficiencies. But, because of the internet, the masses beyond the metropolitan fringe will soon be on the move. They will expose the lazy journalists who reduce every important public policy issue to how it affects opinion-poll ratings.

Tired of being spoon-fed their politics, British voters will soon be calling virtual town hall meetings, and they will take a serious look at the messenger as well as the message. It's going to be very rough.

He concludes:
The internet could do more to change the level of political engagement than all the breast-beating of introspective politicians and commentators. A 21st century political revolution is now only a few mouse clicks away.
Some great phrases here: "the broadcasted to"; "the masses beyond the metropolitan fringe will soon be on the move"

I like this guy.

What is extremely interesting here is that Smith is a Tory and he is looking to a democratic rising of the masses to restore him and his party to power. Tory populism -- who woulda thunk?

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