The Politics of Internet Communication

Article excerpt

The Politics of Internet Communication. Robert Klotz. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. 257 pp. $600.00 hbk. $26.95 pbk.

Book cover blurbs suffer from an unavoidable credibility problem. They all proclaim "Buy this book," or else they wouldn't be there.

In the case of The Politics of Internet Communication, they are to be believed, for the most part. The book is, above all, as Mark Joslyn says in his blurb, "clear, concise, and packed full of useful empirical data and historically rich detail." Examples range from the digital divide to the Internet paradox; the failed federal information gateway; the mythic 5-cent e-mail tax; the 2000 South Korean presidential elections; dolekemp96.org; papalvisitl999.com; peta.org; and a comprehensive treatment of Internet law and regulation that includes the alphabet soup of ACPA, CDA, CIPA, COPA, COPPA, DMCA, EFOIA, ICANN, ITFA, and others.

The Politics of Internet Communication certainly also "addresses important issues" about the news business and Web-based politics, as Philip Seib proclaims in his blurb. But in addition to politics on the Internet it also extends to what Klotz, a political science professor at the University of Southern Maine, calls the politics "of" the Internet. That is both a strength and a weakness. The scope of the book, and its depth as mentioned, is admirable, but it is also somewhat loosely bounded. In some sense, when Klotz extends the politics "of" the Internet to include "the political meaning of Internet experiences" almost anything to do with the Internet is fair game. Indeed, The Politics of Internet Communication could almost as easily suggest a book about power relationships, gender, identity, and other aspects of computermediated communication. The problem, then, is less with the book's content, which does keep mostly to party politics, social movements, and government legislation, regulation, and use of the Net, than it is with its title.

Klotz may, in the end, give readers "a clear and compelling overview of important developments that will reshape politics in the twenty-first century" as Scott Althaus blurbs. But sweeping statements about the author's "compelling" analyses and assertions are by definition open to dispute, at least more than are claims about factual content or the clarity of the writer's prose. So it is natural that the reader might remain unconvinced by the blurbs and unswayed by Klotz's central assertion that the Internet "acts to strengthen the relationship between citizens and leaders," as Joslyn put it. …