[FORUM]Internet now a political factor

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[FORUM]Internet now a political factor

The Associated Press published an analysis of winners and losers in the U.S. presidential election. One interesting analysis was that the Internet was a winner and television a loser.
The Republican candidate George W. Bush and the Democratic candidate John Kerry fought a bloody fight, spending $600 million combined, more than double the spending on the 2000 election, most of that on television ads. There were more slanderous advertisements than positive policy campaign advertisements. They fuel-ed confusion about the election; several probably had an adverse effect because they made people sick.
AP counted the television campaign as the loser because despite the tremendous offensive advertisements, only two states, New Mexico and Iowa, changed their results from those of the 2000 election. This means the buying power of $ 600 million was terribly poor. Television advertisements have the weakness of just delivering one-way messages, unlike the Internet.
The two candidates spent much less on the Internet campaign. But the Internet and the blog, Internet media run by one Internet user, have enhanced their status and influence greatly through the election. They played the roles of a window for fund raising and uniting volunteers, and they were a way of directly communicating with candidates and grass-root voters. They were also arrangers of off-line gatherings of supporters.
The fund-raising via the Internet was remarkable. It was zero in the 1996 U.S. presidential election, but this year over $100 million was collected through the Internet. Mr. Kerry’s camp set a record by raising $82 million on the Internet out of a total of $249 million raised. Thanks to the Internet, Mr. Kerry’s war chest approached Mr. Bush’s $273 million. Mr. Bush benefited from “virus marketing” that used e-mail. He lured voters to voting booths by repeatedly sending e-mail that asked them to keep moral values and not same-sex marriage and abortion alive, and criticized Mr. Kerry’s stance. His camp posted a target ad, “Education Is Passion,” on more than 60 Web sites frequented by working women.
Dan Gilmore, a political analyst, commented that on Mr. Kerry’s site, voters expressed their opinions and directly sympathized with the candidate. It had better two-way communication with voters than Mr. Bush’s campaign, he said.
The influence of the Internet users who posted personal blogs on politics was great. Right-wing bloggers undermined the service of Mr. Kerry in the Vietnam War. Leftist blogger Josh Marshall and rightist blogger Glen Reynolds became stars. The Democratic Party gave about 40 bloggers the same authority as reporters for the first time in this presidential campaign.
Both sides saw an effect thousands of or tens of thousands of times greater than their investment in the Internet. An “age of e-politics” opened. This will have a positive effect on direct democracy in that civic participation will increase. Politics should listen to the needs, wishes, and anger of citizens through the Internet. An important cause of Mr. Kerry’s defeat was his neglect of conservative Christians.
An interesting analysis by Shim Jae-woong, a director at Korea Research, says that U.S. radio has a conservative bias, and has provided the basis for the Republicans’ recent political domination. During the campaign, there were 41,731 hours of conservative radio commentary, but only 3,042 hours of liberal commentary. Even aging media have clout.

* The writer is a deputy managing editor in charge of digital news of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Il
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