Sunday, October 01, 2006


Tories get a decent communication strategy complete with screaming kids and ums and errs.

The telling moment comes at the beginning, when Cameron warns that he's in competition with the BBC and ITV. Of course he is : the most profound and fundamental shift in democratic politics over the last 100 years is the shift of power from political parties to the media in determining who will get into government and what they will do when they get there.

Political parties must learn to route around mainstream media if they want to regain control of elected governments.


John Powers said...

I'm such a fan. You have a knack for keen insights and relevant links.

For me here in America maybe it's worth noting that the British Press is very important. On my browser is a button for headlines from the BBC. You may not be able to imagine how seriously flawed the American mainstream media has become!

Your observation about the need for political parties to route around mainstream media--and your corresponding alarm that the Tories seem to get it--is a good one. Reality bites, but it's better than the alternative.

I'm sure you've seen it but John Robb piece on propaganda today is very good Global Guerrillas The attention that you and other social software intellectuals pay to trust is of enormous significance to the effort to route around mainstream media. It's humbling to remember that the lessons "to tell the truth" we all learned as children are still so vitally important.

John Powers said...

Gad! I just watched Webcameron.

I'm looking forward to the day when you rule the day as a media maven!

I probably should be pestering you via email--probably shouldn't be pestering you at all. But since I've started here, I'll continue.

Not really related to anything, I note that Glenn Greenwald spends half of his time in Brazil because his boyfriend is Brazilian. Greenwald impresses me with his blog and the way he published his book "How Would a Patriot Act?"

I suppose I mention Greenwald's Brazilian connection because I feel quite strongly you are well ahead of the curve in understanding the new media landscape. Busy as you are I'm sure you're not loking for new ways to make a living. But, damn it, I rather wish you were one of the media big wigs. So I'm wasting my time imagining how you might get there;-)

Oli Sharpe said...

Unfortunately I think there's a risk that this webcameron could completely backfire on a number of fronts.

1) As much as 'we' think we want to see behind the curtain, I'm not sure that we are ready to be led by just an ordinary bloke next door. Surely we want our leaders to be superhuman. To genuinely know and care about all the important issues that we care about. To have a deep insight into the problems we face today and thereby a clear, confident route forward. It's OK for us to be confused and uncertain about the world, but our leaders need to help show us the way. This weblog could end up making Cameron look like someone you'd really like as a friend down the pub - but not actually running the whole country.

Note - I don't think that anyone would admit to a desire to be led by a 'superhuman', but I am suggesting it's a powerful subconscious preference.

2) Many other politicians will not tolerate important meetings being filmed and/or broadcast unedited. Therefore we wont really see the most crucial and gossip worthy pieces of political life. Hence, the audience will soon feel short changed. Now, if we could determine where the cameras go - now that would be fun. Let's watch Cameron discuss Europe with the EU skeptics. Let's see how Cameron discusses tax with John Redwood - and then hear what John Redwood says behind Cameron's back as he walks off. Now that would be a real 'behind the scenes' look at the conservative party - and we wont get it. So this webcameron will soon just feel like a webflufferthon.

3) Cameron was already starting to look like he's all image and no substance. Even the Economist ran its front page on this issue (in the UK at least). Adding a fluffy webcam is not going to 'help' anyone who's really interested in politics to understand Cameron. OK, Cameron, you're nice guy - we get it. But we got that a while ago and everyone is time poor these days, so please: why should I vote for you. It's not because you're a nice guy with a weblog.

Despite these doubts, I still think it's a fun thing that the Tories are doing - and it might just work. Indeed if the voting public really does just want to vote for a nice celebrity bloke then Cameron will win the next election.

But is that really how we want our politics to work?

Scribe said...

"Decent" is, imho, dependent on your point of view at this moment. The shift from "traditional" media as a political broadcast platform to the use of emerging "social" media risks opening up a whole barrel of political methods.

Thus, your closing phrase here, implying that political parties will expand their broadcast opportunities more (assuming they subscribe to a comeptitive, FPTP election system...) is double-edged. On the one hand, yes, 'power' is removed from the large news networks. On the other hand, isn't it just being moved into the hands of those that the free press is supposed to question, and supposed to hold to account?

I guess whether you hold this to be a 'good' thing for politics (bringing the politicians closer to the 'people') or a 'bad' thing (the combination of non-accountable media with accountable policy-makers) depends on how much you trust not just the platform used, but the people involved, to establish accountability.

Personally, I'm extremely cautious.

Scribe said...

Manual trackback... 'Who Owns The Deliberation[tm]?'

John Powers said...

John Robb continues with the discussion of Propaganda
with a link to LinuxWorld. And Nick Turse considers the US military using MySpace

I'm not sure how to describe David Cameron's video blogging: homespun or unspun? Either way I found it appealing. The folks over at LinuxWorld in response to Robb's post pointed out that getting unspun information from the trenches is one way of beating down propaganda. Webcameron exists in an eco-system of video blogging. It seems harder in that eco-system to manage your message because the medium is a conversational medium.

I was looking to a link for Billy Bragg. Right on his front page is a short video "Yo we have a problem?" Politicians will Video Blog, and they better be prepared for answer-videos. The medium is conversational and they're going to have to learn the medium before they can spin in circles using it.