The Internet’s Dean Problem

Jeff Jarvis is working on an Op-Ed on the Dean/Blog problem, which will be worth reading. Jeff’s already said that he figures Dean’s problem is that the blog effectively insulated him from the Iowa voters by coating his campaign with a thick gel of True Believers who didn’t represent the ordinary people who make electoral decisions, and I think that’s a big part of the problem.

But there’s another way of looking at things that may cast more light on the events leading up to the Great Meltdown on caucus day in Iowa. Instead of asking why Dean wasn’t able to use his super-fantastic organization to sway the voters in Iowa, we should be asking how such a marginal candidate was able to build such a large and dedicated following in the first place. After all, the “I have a scream” speech tells anyone who cares to pay attention that Dean doesn’t have the right stuff to be the leader of the free world: not the temperment, not the character, not the policies, and not the staff and advisers. But he’s raised more money than the other Democrats, even those like Kerry and Gephardt who’ve been in the game for long enough to have cultivated their own large followings and networks around the country.

Dean captivated the hearts of an army of naive and inexperienced followers who only know politics and Dean through the Internet and through their Internet-enabled MeetUps. Most of them joined the campaign not because of any specific admiration of Dean – there’s not much there to like – but because his campaign gave them to tools to get together, mix with each other, make friends, and swear allegiance to a Movement. Had they come to meet Dean in the old-fashioned face-to-face way, they would have noticed that his emotional affect is off, but the Internet hides emotion and allows us to substitute our wishes about a person’s emotional makeup over hard information about it.

So Dean captured well-meaning, naive people by hiding his character behind a screen, as so many scammers have done before him. Fortunately, the face-to-face nature of retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire provided the necessary corrective to the Internet’s blind spot.

And that was good for America, even if it was a tragedy for George W. Bush, the Emergent Democracy crowd, and Dean’s insiders.

17 thoughts on “The Internet’s Dean Problem”

  1. Because you think highly of Bush’s character despite the fact that he has been anything but honest.

    Some examples…

    -Bush talks about “the terrorists” as if they are some unified group and also about defeating them as if it will be possible to eliminate terrorism.

    -In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq Bush couldn’t keep a straight story on whether Iraq was an imminent threat or not.

    -After Saddam’s regime had fallen but before Saddam had been captured Bush said in more than one speech that Saddam would never again be able to use weapons of mass destruction or threaten anyone with such weapons. Since neither Saddam nor the weapons of mass destruction that were said to have existed just before the invasion -and may in fact have existed- had been accounted for, Bush could not make that claim and thus was saying the war had accomplished something that he did not know it had in fact accomplished in order to make the military operation appear more successful. (I suppose it is possible that Bush and friends had/have determined that weapons of mass destruction were not going to be found in Iraq, but then they have been dishonest about something else.)

  2. I don’t figure that Saddam is in a position to be much of a threat to anybody these days,

    That’s not a response to anything I wrote.

    little bubba.

    Is that supposed to imply that I supported Clinton? I didn’t.

    Perhaps I should phrase this in the form of a question. Do you believe that Bush is an individual of high “charcter” despite his record of dishonesty?

  3. Wow, that “putting the typo in sneer quotes” gambit has probably damaged Richard’s self-esteem. You should be ashamed, Micah. As for the rest of your blather: the issues you raise (direct from the dumbshit talking points memo) are fatuous at best, and have been dealt with a million times for anyone who cares to take a serious look for the answers.

  4. I’m deeply ashamed that my blog is read by people who spell as poorly as micah, and will probably have to kill myself as a consequence. micah, my blood is on your hands (or some sort of bodily effluent, surely.)

    I would have known that Saddam was directing WMD blasts from his Spider Hole, were I not so naive and stuff.

  5. Steve,

    Please tell me where they have been effectively dealt with. I’ve read tons of pro-war arguments and been unable to find any serious entries in that category, unless of course I am to count the ones that ignore facts.

  6. “micah”, you have a fascinating way of reading – you sort of lash out at the English language as if it were your enemy and not your friend. English loves you, and it wants you to be all you can be, so embrace it.

    “Terrorists” share a common set of tactics, and in many instances a common ideology, or at least a common enemy, The anti-American terrorists operating in various Muslim countries fit that description, so the word “terrorism” is not really a lie, it’s a fine English noun that has great utility.

    Bush was never unclear on the imminent threat business, that’s your confusion. I wrote a letter to the San Jose Mercury News, which they duly published, on that very subject after they editorialized on the dangers of going to war without an imminent threat. The threat was said, by the President, to be “grave and gathering,” not imminent. He didn’t want to wait until it was imminent, and that’s what the uproar was about.

    In your paragraph where you complain about remarks that were made after the fall of the Saddamite regime and before the actual capture of the head Saddamite himself, you sound simply silly, so I’ll save you the embarassment of further correction.

  7. Actually Richard, it is you that sound silly.
    You can’t answer his questions, so you divert. Typical of right wing blow hards.
    (Sorry for the fragment!)

  8. The problem with ?the terrorists? is that they do not all get along. The MEK, for instance, is dedicated to overthrowing the current regime of Iran and replacing it with a secular government. Iran of course has supported and is supported by other groups that engage in terrorism. Additionally if the opponent in the ?war on terror? is just terrorist groups in ?Muslim countries,? why doesn?t the Bush Administration come out and say that and why has Richard Myers connected issues of ?terrorism? in Latin American countries, where there is no reason to think Islam or Islamic groups are playing any role, to the ?war on terror??

    At one point -an October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati- Bush said that he knew that Saddam?s regime was and then later changed their story. The fact that you didn?t get part of his message is not important.

    As for sounding “silly,” you are the master at critiques.

  9. Anyway, back to the topic of Deanies yearning for allegiance to a Movement, any Movement. I haven’t had the stomach to do more than scroll through Dean’s blog, but this comment caught my eye (the post was a message from Janeane Garofalo about how she’s inspired by Dean, etc.):

    “Janeane/Zephyr, how about a first hand account of the attempt by the republicans to crash our rally?? Did we really sing the Star Spangled Banner to shut them up?”

    Note the “we.” This is from a guy in Orlando, speaking about a rally in Iowa that he did not attend, let alone sing at. But putting aside the subsuming of his personal identity into that of the hive, I’m sure he was just pumped.

  10. Micah does have a point about the “war on terrorism” and “war on terror”. We are not at war with a tactic or an emotion. We are at war with a specific group (Islamists) who have chosen to use that the tactic of targeting civilians, and who use that tactic against America (but our PC sorts can’t name that group outloud because that might not be PC). We are also at war with those who support that group.

    I’ll believe we are at war with ‘terrorism’ when Sein Fein is declared persona non grata in the US.

    ‘War on terror’ is simply nonsense words. Prescribe the US population daily doses of valium if we are at war with an emotion. Easy win.

    Words mean things. And we are using the wrong words in this war for fear of offending our enemies. If this keeps up, we lose by default.

  11. OK, “War on Terror” is imprecise, and it doesn’t really apply to all terror groups, or the IRA and their US supporters Ted Kennedy and Peter King would be under arrest. But the accurate formulation “War on Islamist Terror” sounds too much like a “War on Islam”, and would certainly be spun that way in the Middle East. The recruiting values of such a phrase is more a worry to me than the PC implications, frankly.

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