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The Web Fueling A Crisis In Politics? 322

Posted by Zonk
from the maybe-in-britland dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC is reporting that Tony Blair's outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fueling a crisis in the relationship between politicians and voters. 'Mr Taylor said Mr Blair's online grilling from voters — and other initiatives such as environment secretary David Miliband's blog and Downing Street's new online petition service — showed the government was making good progress in using the Internet to become more open and accountable. But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to "solve problems" rather than simply abuse politicians or make "incommensurate" demands on them.' 'But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or mendacious by the media, which he described as "a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage." Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you.'" Some credit was given to the Internet for high voter turnout in this month's elections ... how is that a bad thing?
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The Web Fueling A Crisis In Politics?

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  • by DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:40PM (#16886682) Homepage
    All Day.

    Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you'."


    And, they are not?

    What an interesting proposition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Some_Llama (763766)
      I think like most endeavors, potential leaders start off trying to help to people but as time goes on they are either corrupted by the power they are given or become disillusioned by the corruption that already exists...

      There are "some" politicians that can resist and for the most part do a really good job, the problem is they are in the minority and end up having no "real" power to effect change.
      • I'm to the point that I don't think a politician can get on the ballot without being corrupted. Campaigns are expensive in comparison to the salaries politicians earn- VERY expensive (like it will cost you an average of $500,000 to get a seat that will pay you back, if you're lucky, $60,000 in salary over two years before you have to campaign again). That just invites corruption from the start- before a politician is ever elected he's already been bought by one or more special interests.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rufty_tufty (888596)
          "ike it will cost you an average of $500,000 to get a seat"
          And there is your problem - ask why it takes $500,000 to get a seat.

          Because people vote for a face they're familiar with, regardless of how well they know them; and because $500,000 is how much buisnesses are prepared to pay for the ammount of power they can get from this person.

          Not an easy problem to fix, but the best one I see is either make publicity cheaper with the internet, and/or remove the ammount of power those people have and spread it aro
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by Moofie (22272)
            "And there is your problem - ask why it takes $500,000 to get a seat."

            Supply and demand. People will pay that kind of money for a seat, therefore that's how much they cost. Invisible Hand FTW!
          • And there is your problem - ask why it takes $500,000 to get a seat.

            Well, there's the initial filing fees, the campaigning inside the party to get the nomination, the TV time at $10,000 for a single 30 second advert, the campaigning against other candidates- democracy in a free market is expensive even if your main form of advertisement is just handbills (printing costs money!)

            Because people vote for a face they're familiar with, regardless of how well they know them; and because $500,000 is how much buisnesses are prepared to pay for the ammount of power they can get from this person.

            Yep- and unfortuneately the salary-to-campaign-costs is a logrithmic scale- the higher up your are, the more the corps are willing to pay your challenger, so the more you have to spend to get the seat.

            Not an easy problem to fix, but the best one I see is either make publicity cheaper with the internet, and/or remove the ammount of power those people have and spread it around a bit more.
            Unless someone has a better idea?


            Not better, just different- how about removing personhood, and therefore free speech rights, from the corporations? Then at least you're down to individual private contributions instead.
            • by suggsjc (726146)
              I'll go ahead and say it in the face of being considered "pro-corporation" but how else are corporations supposed to solve the problem?

              Hypothetical example: You are a CEO of a company that produces widgets. There is a person/politician ("Bob") that sees the benefit of your product. He wants to ensure your company succeeds (for the betterment of society, haha). There is also another person/politician ("Larry") that things your widgets are harmful to society and in turn wants to levy additional sin/widge
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Red Flayer (890720)
                People (at least should) vote for representatives that provide them what what they perceive will give them the best benefit
                Except that nowadays in the US, people vote on wedge issues (stem cell research? abortion?) rather that which politician would benefit them the most.
              • I'll go ahead and say it in the face of being considered "pro-corporation" but how else are corporations supposed to solve the problem?

                The corporations shouldn't be allowed to solve the problem at all- individual people should instead. We've given the corporations entirely too much power.

                In a slightly more controversial/real situation. You are a corporation that disposes of toxic waste. While nobody would argue that having legislation that encourages lessening the environmental impact of industry processes is a good thing. If your industry is affected, then that additional legislation adds additional costs. Does that mean that you should resist the legislation? If you do, are you evil (for supporting the "destruction of the environment")? If everything was black and white, laws and life would be a lot easier. But as the saying goes there are two sides to every coin.

                I say the living, breathing human citizens should have *SUPERIOR* rights to the invented imitation corporate citizens. And that merely giving corporations a form of personhood invites such evil.
          • Better ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

            by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:55PM (#16888140) Homepage Journal
            Unless someone has a better idea?

            Yes, I have a better idea.

            1. Any political contributions must be made to a government pool.
            2. Candidates and their supporters must gather signatures on govt paper to a set threshold. No one can be paid for any part of this process.
            3. Once qualified by signature count to run, govt supplies X dollars from the pool, which you can use any way you like. Every candidate gets the same amount.
            4. People think about what they've been exposed to.
            5. People vote.
            6. Done till next election cycle; rinse; repeat.

            This evens the playing field such that people who are probably electable (demonstrated by signature gathering) all have equal access to media, etc. Those who manage that access best and send the voters the most successful message are elected. No "sideways" moneys may be used at any time, including moneys from the candidate's own fund EXCEPT if the candidate wants to opt out of the govt pool, in which case the candidate may spend up to the amount the other candidates get from their own pocket. This amounts to a nice civic gesture, but cannot affect the amount of marketing available to the candidate as it does not result in a difference in the amount of funding. As a registered voter, you could sign one or more "I want to run" lists; that way, if there are two candidates you'd like to see run, you could help get them both on the ballot. This in turn would do away with the two party system (because political parties would not be allowed to market themselves in any way that involved spending money, only individuals would and even then, only when they have enough certified signatures.)

            With the political parties gone, two thresholds have to be set. One to pass laws; another to disenfranchise them. My thought is that about 80% should have to vote for a law to get it operative, and about 40% should have to vote against an in-place law to knock it out. 30% of the representatives asking for a vote on an in-place law forces a vote. This biases the system towards only passing, and keeping, laws that really apply to the population in general instead of one group of loud crazies. If something turns out to be a social fad (like these idiots who are voting "defense of marriage" into law) then it is relatively easy to retreat from such a stance, just a small change in outlook, one vote, and bingo, it is gone.

            Anyone caught taking bribes or falsifying a signature on a vote-for-me list goes to jail for life. Or we can shoot them. Just so long as they don't get to spend the bribe, run for office, or otherwise continue to screw up the system.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hoi Polloi (522990)
              The problem with your proposal is one you see today.

              "Once qualified by signature count to run, govt supplies X dollars from the pool, which you can use any way you like. Every candidate gets the same amount."

              The problem here is that a 2nd party, say a PAC or the party's national committee go out and raise their own funds for your election. They can say they have the right of free speech to advertise on your behalf. This ultimately is the same as if you'd gotten the money yourself. "Support our project an
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by fyngyrz (762201) *

                Read again; I already said only candidates can spend money on political ads, and only from the pool. So this problem would not arise. No political parties, no PACs. Individuals must speak up for what they stand for as legislators. Voters vote on that account. No other political advertising is allowed.

                Regarding the 1st amendment issues, this is a job requirement. Just as a military scientist can't speak of what he's doing outside of specific, controlled circumstances, people wanting the job of legislator

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AuMatar (183847)
            A better idea- publicly funding elections. All politicians who meet the filing requirements (signatures, etc) get the same amount of funds. They are not allowed to spend more, of their own money or of others. Unused funds are returned. Breaking either of these is a very long jail sentence without parole. Its not perfect, but it would be a damn site better than what we have now.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by PastaLover (704500)
              Belgium has a similar system to this. It's a bit less strict since party contributions are allowed but they're capped at a certain amount. Any party that manages to make the voting treshold in a certain area (5% of votes) will get government funding for their next campaign. I personally think it's a very good system since it greatly reduces the influence big business can exert on candidates. Would be interesting to see how it would scale to a bigger country though.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ozmanjusri (601766)
            Unless someone has a better idea?

            "$500,000 to get a seat"

            $50 to get a hunting license.

        • by drooling-dog (189103) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:54PM (#16889090)
          I'm to the point that I don't think a politician can get on the ballot without being corrupted.

          A friend of mine ran for congress in the election just past, on almost no money at all. She was able to get the nomination largely because she's a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, so the heavy hitters weren't interested. Even when the race got unexpectedly close, the party refused to assist her in any way - not even returning phone calls - on the basis of historical voting patterns in the district, completely ignoring the problems that her Republican opponent was having. In the end, she was outspent something like 100:1 (refusing to accept corporate contributions), and lost by something like 4 percentage points.

          I'll never know if she would have been "incorruptible" in office had she won, or if she'd ever have been able to get anything done there, but it would have been interesting to see.
      • by thrillseeker (518224) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:54PM (#16886994)
        There are "some" politicians that can resist and for the most part do a really good job

        True - I always vote for the dead politician when presented with the opportunity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by TimHunter (174406)
          "A statesman is just a dead politician. Lord knows we need more statesmen." -- Opus
    • > "But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or mendacious by the media, which he described as 'a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage'."

      Yeah, that's right, it's a conspiracy!
      Honestly, is it any wonder we regard them as out of touch? They think it's anyone's fault but their own.
  • Oh yeah? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cakefool (801210) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:41PM (#16886688) Journal
    Well give us something to make positive comments about then...

    Seriously, transparency within the government for example, will cut down on a lot of wasted money as people become outraged at where their money goes.

    That might be a bad example - just causes more rantyblogs...
  • Wahhhhh... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:43PM (#16886730) Homepage
    Politicians are having their dirty laundry aired to the world and they are complaining. What a suprise.

    Honestly they brought it upon themselves.. The dirty spear campaigns have existed since the civil war and they will continue, the net is simply a new tool they realize they can use.
    • by bigpat (158134)
      Honestly they brought it upon themselves.. The dirty spear campaigns have existed since the civil war and they will continue, the net is simply a new tool they realize they can use.

      The difference being that if you paid off the right people then you could have previously squashed scandals and kept them simply word of mouth rumors. Now if there is dirt out there, then someone on some messageboard is going to start a thread on it and instantly they have worldwide distribution potential. I think the key there
    • by TubeSteak (669689)
      FTFA: "What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are."

      Sounds like he's describing "The Daily Show"

      Politicians have always done boneheaded things, lied & generally behaved irresponsibly. The only difference between "Old Media" and "The Internet" is that on the internet, there is no editor wh
  • Almost got it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:43PM (#16886734) Journal
    Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you'.
    Well, that's the effect.. but the motivation is not to shaft the people, but to better their on situation. Perhaps "the leaders are out there to benefit themselves with little regard for you" is more fitting.

    Is it any surprise that people in power are unhappy when they no longer control public opinion? When the people have sources of information that run counter to the corporations that control both government and the media?
  • by clambake (37702) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:43PM (#16886738) Homepage
    "Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you'."

    Sounds about right to me... When a new laws are passed that mandate life in prison or the death penalty (for countries that do that) for taking political bribes, THEN I'll start looking at them more objectivly. It *should* be next to impossible for those in power to abuse that power to the detriment of the people who elect them... But the way the system works now, it's almost impossible NOT to become corrupt.
    • by AugstWest (79042)
      I couldn't agree more. If the politicians want to push Mandatory Minimum Sentences for minor drug offenses, then I want Mandatory Minimums for political corruption.

      Screw your constituency? Go to jail for a long time. Federal pound-em-in-the--ass prison.
      • by lawpoop (604919)
        Yeah sure. If we did that, there would be so many politicians in jail, that there would be special politician jails that were more like resorts or country clubs than prisons.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you'.

      The Left and the Right are both Statist, ergo the never-ending growth in government. What you want are legislators willing to reduce the size of the State. Sadly that's almost an oxymoron. Today's children are tomorrow's ... subjects.

      • What you want are legislators willing to reduce the size of the State.

        Such legislators cannot be elected in any capitalist society- the real money payback in paying for a politician's campaign is in the pork. Who would invest $4 million in the campaign of somebody who won't return any pork?

        The real sad thing is the con game the libertarians have going- convincing people that cutting taxes isn't just another form of pork.
  • Problem Solving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renniks (989959) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:44PM (#16886750)

    But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to "solve problems" rather than simply abuse politicians or make "incommensurate" demands on them.

    Incommensurate demands? Like what?
    Honesty?
    Free Speech?
    Free Internet?
    Please the only thing politicians want to do with the internet is censor it, own it, and tax it.
    • From the article:
      They wanted "sustainability", for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.

      He has a point here, of course (though I don't see what the internet has to do with this). If you look at the referrenda in California state, the voters are up to their old tricks of approving bond issues and turning down tax increases.

    • Re:Problem Solving (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:08PM (#16887310)
      Incommensurate demands? Like what?

      Like "free" healthcare, including batteries of medical tests using equipment and services that costs thousands per patient, per event to operate/provide... while in the same breath demanding subsidized college tuition, tax credits for everything under the sun... all of that nice have your cake and eat it too type stuff.

      Like, freedom from violent fanatics without any inconvenient actual action that might be required to actually deal with such people.

      Like magical minimum wages provided to employees of small businesses without the necessary consequence of the small business hiring fewer people or raising the prices of what they provide.

      Like demands that Wal-Mart be somehow less damaging to higher-priced local businesses, without actually running Wal-Mart out of town, because gee, it's sure nice to be able to go in there for lower prices.

      Like demands that students not be "socially promoted" through public education without basic education skills while also demanding that substandard teachers and administrators not be let go, and students not be expected to comprehensively read and write.

      Like demanding that when choosing to live below sea level in the direct path of recurring hurricanes, that the government take care of the costs of the inevitable messes without expecting the residents to recognize that they've chosen (for as long as they can get the government to keep bailing them out) to lead a more expensive life on other taxpayers' pockets.

      You said "honesty." So, yeah, honesty would be calling that sort of stuff like it actually is.
      • by udderly (890305) *
        Like demands that Wal-Mart be somehow less damaging to higher-priced local businesses, without actually running Wal-Mart out of town, because gee, it's sure nice to be able to go in there for lower prices.

        There used to be a general store type operation in the small town in rural Oklahoma that my mom lived in for a few years. Their prices were exorbitant, their service horrible, their refund policy non-existent and they paid minimum wage to their employees. But they were the only game in town unless you
  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:44PM (#16886752)
    fears the internet could be fueling a crisis in the relationship between politicians and voters
    In other words you can't lie all day, because (at least) one blogger will spread the word and hold you accountable? Truly a crisis.
    • Re:In other words... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:35PM (#16887848) Journal
      If you RTFA, you'd see that the real issue being discussed is the problem of (on the internet) people berating, criticizing and/or demanding of government (officials) without offering any solutions or compromises.

      Voters want results, but not costs:
      Better schools without raising taxes.
      Cleaner power... but Not In My Back Yard!
      Cheaper housing, but no more construction
      Et cetera

      At least in the real world, if you want to make those gripes, you have to write in to your local paper, or attend a town hall meeting... where the politicians can respond to you directly.
      • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:10PM (#16888336)
        people berating, criticizing and/or demanding of government (officials) without offering any solutions or compromises.
        I don't see anything wrong with that. The voters don't have to come up with the solutions, thats why the politicians are there. Think of the voters as a review committee.

        The politicians have _vastly superior_ platforms than the average blogger to explain themselves, their ideas, their situation or in your examples the concept of public taxation to support the public ventures, with which the government is tasked to carry out.

        And as for your last point, response doesn't have to be immediate or direct in order to be a response.
    • by zxnos (813588)
      to play devils advocate...

      what about a blogger, etc., who takes things out of context or otherwise intentionally, blatantly misrepresents a politicians comment/standpoint for some political gain? it is a two-way street.

  • by m93 (684512) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:45PM (#16886780)


    Because the traditional methods of influence and control are not standing up to what the web has made available. It's an easier and more effective mechanism for criticizing your leaders, as well as organizing against them.

    Bottome line: you have slightly more control now, and the leadership does not like that a bit.

    • All that may be true, but it's also easier to spread lies and disinformation.

      In an environment where people are all too willing to believe everything that they read and nobody trusts politicians anyway, which do you think is going to spread farther, faster? The truth that disagrees with everyone's point of view or the lie that supports it? The boring truth or a salacious falsehood?

    • by Coryoth (254751)

      Because the traditional methods of influence and control are not standing up to what the web has made available. It's an easier and more effective mechanism for criticizing your leaders, as well as organizing against them.

      It could, of course, be a powerful tool for organizing with them, but that would involve the politicians actually engaging with us. A good example of this sort of idea at work in the Green Party of Canada's policy wiki: they created a wiki for policy development, allowing anyone to come an

  • He has a Point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Black-Man (198831) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:45PM (#16886798)
    >>"They wanted "sustainability", for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village. "

    A lot of the political posts on this form fall into this category. Nobody in the US wants coal-fired power plants, but they don't want the price of electricity to double. They want energy conservation, but they want their server farms burning enough electricity to power 10 homes. On and on....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigpat (158134)
      A lot of the political posts on this form fall into this category. Nobody in the US wants coal-fired power plants, but they don't want the price of electricity to double. They want energy conservation, but they want their server farms burning enough electricity to power 10 homes. On and on....

      And politicians have forever been promising us everything, and telling us that they need the fruit of our labor to deliver. All of a sudden they can't deliver what was promised and it is our fault for expecting too mu
      • Sales has the same issue - you can be honest and tell a potential client about the limitations and why they shouldn't do what they're hellbent on doing OR

        You can smile and say "yes we can!" and win the contracy.

        Because if you don't, the other sales guy who DID lie wins the contract. Same shit, different profession. (I think it's a variant on the Prisoner's Dilemma actually)

    • Re:He has a Point (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CompSci101 (706779) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:18PM (#16887512)

      The things you're citing from the article are high-level problems that actually could have used government intervention to guide a common effort into a better place for everybody. They have been identified for a long time as something that needs real leadership on (energy sustainability, equity of opportunity for economic advancement of the young and poor, etc.) as these issues require concessions to be made on all sides and real leaders to broker a compromise between the competing interests. Sadly, we get none.

      These people are there to serve the public interest, and not line their pockets in a perpetual job. They have lost sight of this.

      For the author to essentially complain that "They asked us for transparency, and then bitched and moaned because what they saw on the inside was rotten to the core," is absurd. Of course we should complain! We aren't and weren't normally afforded the insight and oversight to make sure the current state of affairs never came to pass. We elected our representatives and expected them (naively) to do their jobs. And many of those representatives have had their positions for longer than much of their constituency has been alive (hyperbole, but not by much), at least here in the States. I'm not sure how easy it is for an incumbent to be re-elected in England but if it's anything like the States then said representative complaining that the constituency is restless probably is/was/has been part of the problem to begin with.

      People say you get the government you deserve -- I believe this is true only if the government is truly accountable to the people. In the US, for at least as long as I've been alive, this has not been the case.

      C

    • Black-Man wrote:

      Nobody in the US wants coal-fired power plants, but they don't want the price of electricity to double.

      Close, but I think it would be more correct to say that they don't want coal-plants and can't bear the thought that they were wrong about nuclear plants.

      But even that's not quite right, it's more like they want to reduce emissions of "green house gases" and think they can do that somehow by switching to electric vehicles, when really that'll make the problem worse if they don't repla

  • its still true.

    politicians are out to line their pockets, by any means necessary. and if that happens to screw over their constituents, then grab your ankles and grit your teeth.
  • Great Spin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FreeRadicalX (899322) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:46PM (#16886818)
    This looks like another case of political spin attempting to fix the symptom and not the problem. If you're a politician and the internet reveals that the people you represent are angry at you, it's not your job to block that anger or try to make them express something else- it's your job to find the source of that anger and make it right again. The "Damn The Man" mentality doesn't arise spontaneously on it's own, there's always a reason fueling it- wether it be obscure or not. And hey, when you're in a position of power as great as Tony Blair's, this kind of thing should be expected. Complaining about it seems to be to be the equivalent of a construction worker complaining about all the noise or a pianist complaining about the number of notes on his piano.

    Basically, deal with it.
    • I agree with what your saying here, but I feel the need to point out something else that is covered in the article, something that he is very very right about. The way a lot of politicians stay in power now is by pork-barreling [wikipedia.org]. This is what I feel he means by the demands of the people. People on the internet see some project or another thats benefiting some other place, and wonder why they don't get that kind of thing. The internet makes it much easier to both revel these projects, and to open a forum
  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:48PM (#16886846) Homepage Journal
    - problems so that people will be obliged to try to solve problems between them and polticians ?

    you have sucked people's blood for over centuries. very little 'people's men/women' have been able to pass through your elite circle and become heads of state/ministers.

    go away pal. no can do. internet is a new thing, it is 'us', and 'we' are going towards direct democracy step by step.
  • more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to 'solve problems' rather than simply abuse politicians or make 'incommensurate' demands on them.

    I had a few ideas about that. I put together a few ideas for Internet based direct democracy. It is a system I call DDD [reamined.on.ca]. Hopefully in the next few months I'll be able to get started on creating a prototype.

  • How Dare They! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doug Dante (22218) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:53PM (#16886966)
    'a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage'

    I went through this.

    Growing up, in a public school: Government works for our benefit

    Then, as an adult I came to understand: Government works for its own benefit

    I understand that we VOTE for the government: Government works.

    Or as Churchill said: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    This is not to say that there is no injustice.

    Just because I want our government to:

    Free John Murtari! In jail and on hunger strike Since July 31st, 2006!

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/52668/joh n_murtari_receives_feeding_tube.html [associatedcontent.com]

    Doesn't mean that I don't love my country.
  • 'But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or mendacious by the media, which he described as 'a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage'.
    - Matthew Taylor, former Chief Strategy Advisor to Tony Blair, November 2006.

    Is this the same Tony Blair whose political party has been responsible for the Cash for Honours [wikipedia.org] scandal which is currently being investigated by poli
  • by krell (896769) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:54PM (#16887002) Journal
    "simply abuse politicians or make "incommensurate" demands on them.'"

    translation: criticize politicians for abuses by the politians and demand that they actually act in good faith in regards to keeping the public trust.
  • by Jtheletter (686279) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:55PM (#16887032)
    I don't think any media conspiracy or otherwise is necessary to induce rage and contempt for politicians from the public. Just looking up at any street corner to see the CCTV cameras of the state watching you (what's the ratio these days? something like 1 camera per 7 people* in London?) would be plenty enough to enrage me. Or how about Blair's lapdog-to-Bush style of international relations? The concessions to the US on international plane traveler privacy laws? Forcing a massive upgrade to passports that turns out to be flawed and insecure? I mean, hell, I'm not even a British citizen or even traveled there for that matter and these things have me pissed off!

    Let's face it, the internet can be used to help the public suggest changes and work with their representatives to improve the situation. But is it any surprise that the overwhleming volume of comments and the like are nothing but complaints? Maybe when some of the glaring abuses of government and invasions of privacy start to be addressed people will be more willing to calm down and discuss things with a focus on solutions. I agree, suggesting solutions and working to fix things is a better idea than just ranting and making unfeasible demands. But then again maybe if the government had listened to salient points of contention in the first place, or put people's privacy, rights, and well being ahead of politics then it wouldn't be so bad right now.

    * I don't claim this figure to be accurate, might be off by an order of magnitude, take it with salt. ;)
    • any street corner to see the CCTV cameras of the state watching you

      I'm personally amazed at the British response to this development. I would have expected more Monty Python Wannabees putting on shows for the government or small plastic dinasoars taped to said cameras- instead you've pretty much got business as usual there.
    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      I don't think any media conspiracy or otherwise is necessary to induce rage and contempt for politicians from the public. Just looking up at any street corner to see the CCTV cameras of the state watching you (what's the ratio these days? something like 1 camera per 7 people* in London?) would be plenty enough to enrage me. Or how about Blair's lapdog-to-Bush style of international relations? The concessions to the US on international plane traveler privacy laws?

      Mod parent up.

      Add to this the parliamenta

  • remind's me of the report by the trilateral commission http://www.trilateral.org/projwork/tfrsums/tfr08.h tm [trilateral.org]The Crisis of Democracy"
    • arg, hit submit by accident. Wanted to say it reminds me of the trilateral commission's "The Crisis of Democracy", whos thesis was basically 'we have a crisis: too much democracy'. All these previously obediant masses, like women and blacks, are demanding things like equal rights and better government representation.
  • by mikerich (120257) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:59PM (#16887098)
    Dear Matthew, (can I call you Matthew?)

    Your government is elected by a minority of the electorate using a system that gives it an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. Your Members of Parliament say their first loyalty is to the Party and the manifesto, not to the electorate. You ensure almost all votes are whipped through Parliament with fearful penalties if an MP disobeys the Party line. You have changed your Party conferences so that votes by the members have no bearing on policy making which is performed behind closed doors. You refuse freedom of information requests that would allow the electorate to see that policies are enacted according to regulations. You take money from multimillionaires and do not declare it to the authorities; coincidentally, all of these donors then become members of the House of Lords where they become law makers. You pass legislation that require people to get police permission to protest outside of Parliament. You rip up ancient laws that regulate the power of the State over the citizen and propose to take more for yourselves. You politicise the intelligence service, getting your spin doctors to sell a war planned in collusion with a foreign power.

    You shouldn't be so much wondering why voters feel alienated, as be amazed that we haven't dragged you out of Downing Street and strung you up outside of Parliament.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday November 17, 2006 @01:59PM (#16887108) Homepage Journal
    Some credit was given to the internet for high voter turnout in this month's elections ... how is that bad thing?


    It's a bad thing because it means that merely relying on a party's base to come out and vote isn't enough. In the most recent election, the Republicans had a higher number of their people turn out than did the Democrats.

    However, the large independent vote is what turned the tide. Independent voters turned out in higher numbers than in previous midterm elections and voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

    So yes, high voter turnout is a bad. But only if you're one of the two major parties because it screws with your polling numbers. Witness Karl Rove's pronouncement that the entire media world was wrong when it was saying there would be a Democratic takeover of the House and Senate because he, Karl Rove, was looking at 68 polls a week and he had "THE" math to show that Republicans would hold onto both houses. Partial transcript [pollster.com]

  • This is rich. The role of the free press was and IS to cast a skeptical and critical eye on the government. In recent years, at least here in the United States, the corporate media has either been complacent or cowed into not fulfilling its journalistic responsibility. We are told the "news" through their filter, and then we have an echo chamber of talking heads which tell us what to "think" about the news. You have certain media outlets that are essentially tools of a particular ideology, echoing talki
  • Missing something (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nightfire-unique (253895) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:02PM (#16887174)

    I think one point they're really missing is crucial.

    There are a lot of us that are just so tired of "business as usual." We are sick to death of the war on this, the sanctions on that, the backdoor business deals, the pandering and "moral outrage," the manipulation... all of it. The Internet gives us a way to:

    - Communicate (with each other) outside regulated channels
    - Disseminate information around the world (ie. cameraphone pics - see recent UCLA tasering incident) without censorship
    - Effectively inform the busy, everyday, "influenceable mass" when reality is inconsistent with the dominant political opinion

    As a simple example - 10 or 20 years ago, very few westerners realized what was happening in the Middle East. We all saw the reports on CNN, or the blurry graphics as American tanks rolled through the desert. Now, we have camera phone pictures coming back from places like Lebanon, showing the devastation caused to people just like us, by our weapons.

    The Internet brings people together from places around the world. It makes us, as individuals, realize that we're all the same. We all want to live productive and enjoyable lives in peace, without the overburdening influence of others. When you talk to someone from Iran, and realize that they're basically just like us... it gets difficult to swallow the "end of the world" scenario, used by our governments to justify mass killings.

    Mr. Taylor, people are waking up. It's only going to get worse. You will either learn to deal with the fact that lying and manipulation is going to get harder every day, or you will be replaced.

    Ironic, isn't it, that the tool that can ultimately be used to control and restrain our governments was created by a government agency.

  • by Bogtha (906264) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:07PM (#16887276)

    One of the big problems in politics is communicating with and informing the general population. Not only does the Internet itself make it easier than ever to do so, but offshoots like mailing lists, wikis, etc help to organise people and information. We already know these things have the ability to coordinate efforts to build things as complicated as operating systems. Why not apply that experience to other problem domains?

    We've already seen the beginnings of this. TheyWorkForYou.com [theyworkforyou.com] publishes and indexes what MPs say in the Houses of Parliament, and notifies people when something they are interested in is discussed - with all the source code for the website available [mysociety.org] and a web service too [theyworkforyou.com]. A few days ago, the same team [mysociety.org] launched an open-source online petition system [pm.gov.uk] backed by the UK government (sign the "fair use" petition [pm.gov.uk]). The same team also have a number of other projects [mysociety.org] in the same vein, such as mailing lists for MPs [hearfromyourmp.com]. Some MPs now have weblogs [tom-watson.co.uk]. Across the pond similar work is being done in the USA [slashdot.org].

    The real problem is that current MPs mostly grew up without the Internet and haven't gotten to grips with it. This is why MySociety's work to get them on board is so important. For instance, it took me thirty seconds to find out that my MP [theyworkforyou.com] "replied within 2 or 3 weeks to 73% - 96% of messages sent via WriteToThem.com during 2005, according to polling data -- well above average amongst MPs," and I can sign up to get an email every time he speaks in Parliament.

    Far from fuelling a crisis in politics, I think the web can be incredibly beneficial. Unfortunately, there is incredible inertia amongst government to adopt new strategies like this.

  • Politicians being ignorant of voters and technology might be fueling what politicians think is a crisis.

    • Oh, it's not that they are ignorant of it, but that they see no clear way to control it, craft it, make it bow to their will. For most of those in power, they have good reason to fear it.
  • is to hold the government accountable through criticism, investigation, etc. This is the same complaint people in power have had throughout history. If you've taken a public position, you can expect a great deal of scrutiny, fair or unfair.

    Unfortunately, in the US, a relatively recent effort by politicians to organize and fight media oversignt was highly successful. Most people still do believe in an inherent liberal bias in mainstream media, since it was the conservative party that was the promoter of

  • by segedunum (883035) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:08PM (#16887302)
    But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to "solve problems" rather than simply abuse politicians or make "incommensurate" demands on them.' 'But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or mendacious by the media, which he described as 'a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage'.
    The reason why people bitch on the internet and in the media about corrupt politicians is because they simply are corrupt liers. When you can't get a single straight answer out of any politician in any debate, and when politicians lie through their teeth about things like the country backing national ID cards (which by every poll and survey, they most certainly don't), what the hell do they expect?! Politicians have this inbuilt idea that if you lie often and consistently enough then people will simply believe it. Looking at the reactions of various media, and people blogging on the internet, people simply won't accept that.

    The so-called 'Iraq War', where no one in Britain wanted our soldiers there, no one saw the need to have our soldiers fight and die 'for their country' there and where politicians repeatedly lie bare-faced to not just the country but the families of those who've given their lives. And they wonder why there's rage? Wow. What a closed world those Downing Street thinktanks are.

    The rage has absolutely nothing to do with a conspiracy by the media or people on the internet. It has everything to do with politics and democracy simply being less and less relevant to getting anything done or sorted out these days. If they want a right-wing party like the BNP or someone else to come to power then they're going the right way about it.

    It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.
    Errrr. Well what are people supposed to do? Paint over the wrongdoing, corruption and utterly silly ideas flowing out of government? Pretend that none of this stuff ever happens? This just sounds like someone who's frustrated that there isn't a controlled media and where they can't control what people write and what they see.

    Might I suggest that the government, heaven forbid, does something good that people can blog about?

    Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that "leaders are out there to shaft you".
    Never was anything truer said. It also matches up to reality as well.
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:11PM (#16887366) Homepage Journal
    Abusive politics is, I am afraid, the wave of the future. The folks in the UK just aren't accustomed to it yet.

    I remember reading one UK analysis of the midterm US elections in which the commentator remarked on the difference in the level of civility in the US election. He said something to the effect that, "If elections in Britain are a walk in the park, in the US a candidate must carry the One Ring to the Land of Mordor".

    It has been long said that freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one. With the blogosphere, any knuckle scraping blockhead can set himself up as a news source. This pretty much means that whispering campaigns have become shouting campaigns.

    There is good and bad in this, but trying to contain the bad is worse than returning to the status quo. And wishing the situation would be other than it is is pointless.

    Instead, we should try to make the most of the developments in communication, by giving people something worthwhile to talk about. Let's really make our government transparent.

    I'll give you an example of non-transparency. Recently, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was secretly abolished. The way this was done was that the provisions extending the office were secretly stripped from the authorization bill at the last minute. Thus the Senators who voted for the bill had no idea that it was changed.

    When word of this got out, the senate reversed itself on a voice vote. But it raises questions: how many other things are put in and taken out this way? Do we really want anonymous committee staff have ths power?

    Why not make a legislation tracking system where every addtion or deletion from a bill is digitally signed by the person doing it. A Senator voting for a bill could call up a list of differences between the bill he is voting on and the bill as it was last week. Then make the entire history of every bill available on the Internet.

    The principle I am working from here is this: it is a good thing that people want to talk about politics. What is bad is that they are not talking about substantive things. So: given them something real to talk about. Let them scream and holler, but at least give them the information they need to do so usefullly.
  • Ridiculous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by travdaddy (527149) <travo.linuxmail@org> on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:12PM (#16887380)
    Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you'."

    And this is a crisis? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure everyone was thinking this WAY before the internet. The idea that the average person thinks "Politicians are crooked" only since the internet came about is ridiculous! The only difference is that the internet makes that more visible. The same thing with the "incommensurate" demands of Joe Sixpack. Of course we all want to pay no taxes and receive a ton of money in Social Security when we retires, but a lot of people don't understand that it's impossible! But now because of the internet the average person gets heard. It should be obvious that what is on the mind of the average voter is actually a very good thing for a politician to know, even if it is ridiculous demands and distrust of leaders.
  • Some credit was given to the internet for high voter turnout in this month's election/em

    Actually, the credit should go to both sides for their scare-mongering... which somewhat counteracted the negative campaigning by both sides which tends to keep people away from elections. It's a fine balance, but this time around *both* sides managed to convince their base that the fate of modern civilization rested on the voter.
  • "Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you'."

    Could it be because its true?

  • I recently finished writing an essay about political weblogs for a collection about genre theory and the web, and one of the most important exigencies (reasons for writing) that I found after exhaustive narrative and discourse analysis was the need to be involved. The MSM frustrates political bloggers because it acts as a culturally accepted regulator of public discourse: an editorial board (controlled by a corporation) can deny access to opinions or questions it finds unacceptable. This conflicts with a

  • the government was making good progress in using the internet to become more open and accountable.

    No. Governments have used the internet to make it easier to pay my taxes; to report my neighbors as potential terrorists; to avoid printing costs for things that really should get mailed out.

    Governments have conspicuously not used the internet for anything even remotely resembling making themselves more "open and accountable". Simple example - After seeing what happened to Clinton, Bush publically declar
  • by eno2001 (527078) on Friday November 17, 2006 @02:18PM (#16887514) Homepage Journal
    ...is that the web makes EVERYONE who buys in feel like they are "informed voters" no matter how misleading and self-serving the web resources they access may be. Higher voter response is NOT a good thing when the majority of the mobilized voters are voting simply based on emotional reactions rather than looking at the real issues and analyzing the impact of a vote for a candidate or issue. On the left you have people reacting to information stating that voting for issue or candidate X is a vote against the environment. On the right you have people reacting to the "OMG teh gheys want to get married and it will make my marriage worthless" propaganda without thinking about how it really affects real people (yes gays are real people). For the third parties, they all have their echo chambers telling them that "this is the year that the third party candidates will take the world by storm"!!! So everyone votes for or against things without really understanding the implications.
    • by krell (896769)
      "...is that the web makes EVERYONE who buys in feel like they are "informed voters"...

      ....whether or not you agree with their opinions and conclusions? Perhaps they have the opinion that you aren't an "informed voter."
  • Dear Rabble,

    All you do is attack the [government|crown]! Instead of working with officials, you use [the internet|pamphlets [wikipedia.org]] to anonymously attack the government. By [blogging|writing anonymous pamphlets] you are acting like teenagers. [Blogging|Anonymous pamphles] are not mature discourse!

    Signed,

    Your patronizing British Government
  • ...I think there is something to learn from Mr. Taylor's comments. Squeaky wheel syndrome: its easy to focus on what's not working and forget about the things that do.

    Roads get paved, mail magically shows up, and this mysterious place called the library buys books so we don't have to. If something unjust happens to us, there is generally a method of recourse.

    How much of these services we need can be debated, but its pretty great in general.

    Elected officials definitely seem like the worst offenders, and so
  • The internet isn't making people perceive these politicians as corrupt, it's the decisions and actions these politicians make that leave people to perceive them as corrupt.

    It's very similar to hollywood vs. internet piracy. It's not the internet or piracy that is making movie ticket sales dive, it's shitty product.

    They need to take a whif of the stuff their shoveling!
  • by rs232 (849320) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:17PM (#16888448)
    "The BBC is reporting that Tony Blair's outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fueling a crisis in the relationship between politicians and voters. 'Mr Taylor said Mr Blair's online grilling from voters --"

    No it's you politicians fueling the crisis by lying to us about WMDs in Iraq, by removing peoples right to peacefull public protest, by scaring us with fake terrorist reports, by falsely claiming there is huge public support for ID cards when we all know it's your best buddy in Washington is behind it. Bush orders Tony to go to war and Tony does what he's told by the US president as all UK PMs have done since WW2.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      'Exaggerated' yes but I wouldn't call any recent reported attacks 'fake'. The media is often paranoid and quick to sensationalize anything perceived as terrorism because they know it's of public interest and gets great ratings. Equally, politicians are quick to use it as a way to scare the public into submission. I'm with you on all your other points though. What's up with all these contractors winning bids from the government officials they help to elect. Isn't that illegal? Favor for a favor?
  • Most politicians (secular and religious) globally are worthy of the citizens/public disgust. It was not the news media, movies, or a friend that provoked cynicism in government, politics, and/or religion. Skepticism comes very naturally to any observant human wanting to be objective about what they are monitoring in their day too day life and having confirmed by additional reliable sources on the Internet.

    Mr. Taylor and all other politicians should take note that politicians are not aristocrats and they do not have any god-given birthrights to any position in any government.

    As I have said for years now give me a Clinton having a BJNDO over a flaming-Bush NDO anytime.
  • Teenagers eh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Socguy (933973) on Friday November 17, 2006 @03:56PM (#16889132)
    So, the electorate in the UK are like 'Teenagers' who make 'demands' but refuse to 'be governed'. What an arrogant statement. Democratic governments work in the interests and by the grace of electorate, not the other way around. The electorate is fed up with virtually no accountability from the leadership. Countries with a first-past-the-post voting style are going to increasingly run into this problem. The average Joe has issues that he wants addressed with but no one listens to him, so why should he be required to worry about someone else's problems as well? In my experience whenever the government talks about tradeoffs, they generally look like this: Company X wishes something. People complain since it offers them no tangible benefit, often the opposite. Government then 'compromises' by giving company X some of what it demanded. People lose.

    For too long politicians have had the luxury of campaigning on the interests of the electorate then flipping and governing in the interests of those who fund their campaigns or have the money to lobby and make connections. Times are changing, and peoples interests are more diverse. This means that government must become more representative of a diverse range of interests.

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