A companion to the official Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign website.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Open Forum submission for SF Chronicle

The Writing on the Wall
Or, Flame and Lurking on the Campaign Trail

Right now, at this moment, a tool of immense power is lying dormant in homes and libraries all over the world. As the citizens of America await a deeply divisive accounting of their votes on November 2, many still claim that they are not hearing enough about the issues that truly affect their lives. For these souls, helpless ignorance is an isolation that can be shattered.

The tool I speak of is the Internet. A sort of digital Wild West, the Internet contains everything from news and information to x-rated material and hate speech. The problem with navigating through the Internet is finding your way around once you get inside. Many Internet Service Providers helpfully give their users a “homepage”, from which they can click around and play. Google, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN are popular homepage destinations for millions of Internet users. The problem though is that most of these homepages are owned and maintained by large, publicly traded corporations, and just the same as ABC or NBC control the message on our TV screens, Yahoo and AOL can control the message we see on our computer screens.

This all changes with the invention and integration of web logs. Called “blogs” for short, they allow users to anonymously peruse the expressions of an unlimited number of participants. In the case of blog.johnkerry.com, the forum provided is officially connected to John Kerry’s campaign. Many of the users are dissatisfied with the Bush campaign and desire change in American government policies. Their use of the John Kerry blog is what I call “reading the writing on the wall”.

The official blog of the John Kerry 2004 campaign is a portal that does not limit the thousands of voices of those who use it. Comments can be posted after an easy registration, or one can peruse the comments of others without being registered, called “lurking”. Occasionally, a Bush supporter will take advantage of the openness offered to Internet users and will try to pick a fight with the blog at large. This activity is called “flaming”, and its perpetrators are known as “trolls”. Debate and discussion are actively encouraged, with the basic ground rules that politeness and respect are supreme.

The Internet is sympathetic to our cause. The great impartial Internet provides a mountain of evidence: documents, videos, pictures, and quotes that ultimately the American people have a right and a need to know. It is the combination of openness, information, and independent thinking that make the John Kerry blog such an inspiring concept.

Needless to say, the George Bush campaign is scared of this largely undiscovered freedom of expression most Americans have no idea they have. The George Bush blog does not encourage instant and worldwide communication, probably because much of the information in the impartial Internet does not support Bush’s claims. It is hard to maintain the party line when people keep linking to a declassified Department of Defense memo about human right violations at military prisons, or a picture of Bush picking his nose at a Rangers game.

Still, the Internet and the unlimited possibilities of free expression is a double edged sword that cuts both ways. It is only by using the blog in a way that is informative and productive to anyone who views it that it can be successful.

Just as our electoral process is open to anyone above the age of 18, the Internet is also appropriately open-ended.

The possibilities and progress the John Kerry blog allows for our citizenry is spectacular. We can get everyone on the same page, so nobody is left behind in ignorance or confusion.

For those who have not yet become a part of this online army, I have only one question.

What is it you want to tell the world?

Andrew Podolsky

Is a registered blog.johnkerry user under the nickname “Andrewski”
He is also webmaster of The Writing on the Wall, www.thewritingonthewall.blogspot.com