Antizeus asks: While not everyone on the net shares a common political philosophy, there are some very common tendencies, such a strong libertarian undercurrent. Do you guys think the net could be used as an important tool in bringing together freedom-loving people to form a third party to represent the interests of liberty that so often get stepped on by the two major political parties in the USA? And could such a party have a chance of winning a significant number of elections, unlike (apparently) other third parties such as the lamented Libertarian Party?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: There's literally no other medium in existence today that has the potential for jump-starting a new political party *except* the Net. The open, decentralized nature of the Net naturally facilitates organizing and sharing ideas. The challege, of course, is finding issues and ideas around which people are willing to rally.
Also, the Net alone is not enough. Politics happens in the real world -- at the ballot box and the halls of Congress. While the Net does have the potential to grease the wheels of the third party movement, it alone is not enough to change our politics.
GuySmiley asks: For over a year, we have been told to either vote for Bush or Gore in 2000. The mainstream media does not let anyone else get air time.
How can you bypass the networks and use the internet to publicize a candidate that actually has a brain and a flying chance in hell of getting elected?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: The same way that /. gained notice and an audience -- word of mouse. If a candidate has a compelling message and people who are willing to carry it, the Net is in many ways more powerful than TV or other traditional media. Since the net has no gatekeepres (like tv does), spreading a message is much easier.
What does this mean? Talk to your friends. Do interesting things with the net that get positive press attention, buy banners ads, anything that will help generate positive attention for a candidate's message. But first and formost, have a good message (and never SPAM).
kmj9907 asks: UCITA is a pretty big issue among /.ers, I'd think. Are there any major efforts to fight this act? If so, how or where can I (we) find them? I personally think it would be a crime to allow this to pass.
Shabbir and Jonah answer: We're not closely following UCITA and therefore don't have much to say about it.
xmedar asks: There is strong advocacy within the geek population as epitomised by the Linux Advocacy How To, ways of increasing debate, and providing good quality information rather than FUD, therefore increasingeveryones understanding of the situation rather than polarising arguements and ending up in irrational finger pointing. Do you think this ethos can be translated to the world of politics, and what effect do you think it might have?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: (no answer - R)
Hobbex asks: Is it, as many like to believe, the NSA and the rest of the Intelligence community still running the show like puppet masters with absolutely no resistance, or is there in Washington a deep, pessimistic belief that freedom must truly be fought with all means possible because we the lesser people of the earth cannot handle it?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: (no answer -R)
Signal 11 asks: How does one organize a group of people entirely online? I have seen several attempts at getting a movement off the ground - setting up a listserv, website, discussing the issues.. but that's usually all the farther it goes, and then the whole thing sinks.
What's the best way to get in touch with people and get something off the ground?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: It's a hard combination of good leadership, a receptive audience, and the right moment in time. Without any real cohesive issue to keep people focused, or the right moment where a group identifies with itself, it's hard to coalesce.
Once you've built a group, I think the trick to avoid burnout is to stay focused on your issue, set small realistic goals initially, and don't try and take on everything yourself; spread out the work.
Mr. Slippery asks: Citizens who find themselves in the minority on many political issues have found the Internet a very valuable tool to organize, share information, and make their views known to the mainstream.
Now it seems that the federal government is trying to censor such discussion. For example, we have the "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999", which would criminalize many discussions of drug policy.
I believe that you can't have a meaningful discussion on, for instance, the sentancing guidelines for possession of crack vs. powder cocaine without an understanding of how crack is made. Thus, my drug policy site has such information.
Trying to censor "dirty" bits is bad enough, but to censor political discussion is utterly abhorant. Political censorship is a life-and-death issue - people will fight, kill, and die for free speech. What, short of bullets, is it going to take to stop the cybercensors? (Or should I just go buy more bullets while I still can?)
Shabbir and Jonah answer: As you probably already know, we cut our teeth on the defense of free speech of the net during the CDA battle in Congress and through the Supreme Court. We have since then seen many many attempts at suppressing speech on the net, and though we never take these lightly, we have faith in two things:
1. The hope that people like yourself will never stop telling their members of Congress that you don't like it when they play the censor, and that 2. The system we have in this country will continue to balance the whims of ill-thought-out legislation with the values in the Bill of Rights.
Since we don't live in a direct democracy, citizens input isn't always a "silver bullet" to making stuff happen. But it helps, and it's the first step.
dattaway asks: I would imagine the problems we have with the conflicting and silly laws we have is the low voter turnout and research on a bill's viability is based on polls. Statistics, not for love of the country.
So, my question is, if better than 95% of eligible voters had their voice punched on the ballot, would it be the end all of obscure laws, mudslinging, and corruption? Eligible voters should be based on age only (18) and nothing else. Having a disagreement with the law and getting a felony, etc, should be no excuse for silence. I feel it is everyone's duty to participate. Is this unreasonable?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: It is indeed everyones duty to participate, and if you don't vote you've got no right to complain.
PD asks: Al Gore offends Open Source fans by mocking the concept on his campaign web page. He offends internet users by claiming that he invented the internet.
On the other hand, G.W. Bush offends free thinkers by announcing that he wants religous organizations to take a larger part in government programs, and might directly tax dollars to those programs.
What is the best way to let these candidates know that their current positions are counter-productive? I want someone to say clearly that they will increase NASA's budget over the next 4 years.
Shabbir and Jonah answer: I'd definately focus on telling the campaigns directly, and then use the net to *organize*! Put up a site with a statement of what you want candidates to do (more $ for NASA), what people visiting the site can do to make it happen (write a letter to the campaign, or get on the mailing list) and then keep up with them.
Whenever a candidate is going to be somewhere online (like Gore's interactive town hall meeting this week) tell your mailing list to go and submit pro-NASA-funding questions!
There are also ways you can donate to the campaigns, as a group through online means as well.
Finally, check out the the Center for Responsive Politics database of contributors to the presidential campaigns (http://www.crp.org/) Some (but not all) of the contributions of the candidates are there. You can look through them to find donors who may already be supporters of the space program, and try to enlist them in your cause, either as supporters or spokespeople.
Stonehand asks: Arguably, the Internet can be used as a tool for the dissemination of propaganda -- including outright lies. This is at least partly due to
- The availability of free Web hosting.
- The difficulty of confirming the identity and credentials of 'net publishers/speakers.
- The occasional strange credulity of people...
Is there any reason that the people *should* view the 'Net as a medium for information and activism, given all this? That is, why -- and how -- should people write or listen?
Shabbir and Jonah answer: Indeed, even outside politics, the rule of this medium is the reader's equivalent of "buyer beware". There isn't another medium where so many have had so much potential to speak so broadly.
But the medium can self-correct. Look at Slashdot! A perfect example. Many of these questions were selected because several moderators rated them highly, and even without the rating, anyone (even an Anonymous Coward) has the ability to reply and post a message correcting or clarifying a mistake in the message being followed up to.
Certainly, the medium has potential for abuse, but then so does every other. And I'd rather be in a medium where the power is spread out.