The Web of Politics: The Internet's Impact on the American Political System

The Web of Politics: The Internet's Impact on the American Political System

The Web of Politics: The Internet's Impact on the American Political System

The Web of Politics: The Internet's Impact on the American Political System

Synopsis

Is the Internet destined to upset traditional political power in the United States? This book gives an emphatic "no". Author Richard Davis shows how current political players such as candidates, public officials, and the media are adapting to the Internet and assuring that this new medium benefits them in their struggle for power. In doing so he examines the current function of the Internet in democratic politics, i.e. educating citizens, conducting electoral campaigns, gauging public opinion, and achieving policy resolution, and the rotes of current political actors in those functions. Davis unconventional prediction concerning the Internet's impact on American politics warrants a closer took by anyone interested in teaming how this new communication medium will affect us politically.

Excerpt

On Friday, August 11, 1998, the full contents of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report to the House of Representatives on the conduct of President Bill Clinton were released to the public-- on the Internet. Experts feared the first serious bout of Net gridlock-- a massive overload of demand exceeding the Net's capacity to respond. There were, in fact, several million "hits" on the various Web sites that contained the Starr Report, but no major glitches.

The Starr Report thus became historic in two ways. It was the first time after enactment of the law creating the independent counsel that a report on potential impeachment had been sent to the House. and it was the first time that a momentous document of this sort had been released directly to the public using the Internet as the conduit. To many, the latter consequence was more significant than the former--here was the Net unleashed, enabling citizens to get direct access to vital public information rather than being forced to rely on the press as the conduit and filter. This was the epitome of Net empowerment--the new wave of democracy, the herald of citizen rule.

Those predictions might prove true. But it was easy to be skeptical. the day after the Net release, major newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times printed the full text of the report as an insert, reaching more readers than the first Web package and in a much more easily digestible form. a book version emerged within three days and showed brisk sales, seemingly not affected by the easy and direct access on the Web. Moreover, it was not clear at all that the six million hits and downloads of the Starr Report meant that six million people were actually reading it. Nor was it clear who the millions of downloaders were. Were they largely highly educated elites or a representative slice of the electorate? Did they barely scratch the surface, or did they represent the full popu-

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