By Maxime B. & Karen Y.
The 21st century has seen an exponential increase of the world’s communications. People rely more and more on the Internet to find the latest news, to research extensively a subject, and communicate with people around the world. However, at the end of 2011, the Internet penetration rate was 78.6 percent in North America. Thus, almost 70 million Americans still don’t have access to the Internet. This situation isolates those people from the rest of society, and impacts drastically their vision of our world. Politics, one of the most propagandized aspects of society, is inevitably affected by the situation generated by the digital divide.
“Talking directly to the voters - and providing links to various information sources - is important. Using the Internet as a mobilizing tool in terms of e-mailing to spread word about the election that's coming up while also helping organize volunteers to help publicize campaign events. The Internet really is becoming an indispensable part of campaigning.” This is how Dave Norris, Irish scholar and civil rights activist, views the developing relationship between politics and the Internet. Politicians have been dedicating time and money to the possibility of easily reaching out faster to millions through the use of emails, because this is helping their campaign gather supporters and funds in a short amount of time. However, people without access to the Internet won’t benefit from this new way of campaigning. They will receive information through mails, flyers, or programs; but this is more expensive and time constraining for politicians; so it is less likely that mail would even reach these people.
In 2008, Barack Obama was the democrat candidate for the presidential election. According to Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post she says “Were it not for the Internet and public media, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee.” Everyone has seen and knows the poster for Obama’s campaign. Shepard Fairey, the creator of these posters and many other critical arts, about the government and about George W. Bush. Not only were there many similar posters like these but T-shirts, stickers, and pins too. It is exactly what scandalized Adlai Stevenson when he said. “The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal - that you can gather votes like box tops - is... the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.” Because of Obama’s use of the Internet and social media website such as Facebook or YouTube a lot of teens and high school students supported Obama. “The campaign’s official stuff they created for YouTube was watched for 14.5 million hours,” Joe Trippi, a political consultant, said. “To buy 14.5 million hours on broadcast TV is $47 million.” During the whole campaign more and more students were wearing T-shirts and posting 2008 Hope Campaign poster for Obama stickers all over their binders or books, and that all of that for free publicity for the Obama’s campaign.
In 2009, Obama used popular issues like Immigration, Taxes, health care, and many other issues. Most of these issues promised like Universal healthcare and Immigration reform have been broken. People that don’t have access to the Internet can’t find out the true details and the probability of the promise being passed or kept. Today, the 2012 election is just right around the corner and yet again Obama is trying to use another hot topic to gain re-election votes. Gay rights are what Obama is using as this year’s hot topic. Obama says that he is for Gay marriage and it has been an issue that he is fighting for but people from Towerload.com disagrees and says he is just trying to use this issue as a easy way to get re-elected. American University Communications professor Matthew Nesbit says, “The heaviest users of video are people under the age of 25 and Gay rights are one of the political issues young people feel passionate about”. According to Towerload.com Obama’s Gay marriage support has lead to a YouTube spike. Not just on YouTube but also on Google. There has been a 458 percent increase for Obama and Gay between the hours of 10am and 6pm on the day that Obama released the meeting that he supports Gay marriage. Showing how Obama is yet again trying to target more votes from the younger generation and the Gay community. The younger generation will not research Obama’s words and will most likely support him without any hard facts like how, when, and why he will try to make this into a constitutional law. Gay’s and older adults that do have access to the Internet will use it to research to see how committed Obama is to having this passed into a constitutional law.
In a way, any information can be bought by money. In order to improve their popularity, candidates with the most money and most sponsors can buy more airtime or have more ads posted up for their campaign. Popularity can play a key role in how our leaders get elected. Nobel Prize winner Saud Bellow said. “The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of clichés the first prize.” People who don’t have access to the Internet can only follow and can’t lead themselves to believe what they want. Therefore, most people will follow the most popular topic or person in the news or whoever gets the most media attention. Not all news is true and in fact most news is exaggerated so that the viewer will be more interested. In an article by Ester Duflo said. “They conclude that Fox News caused an increase in the Republican vote of about a half percentage point, or 200,000 votes, enough to change the result of the 2000 presidential election.” This means that Fox News had a direct impact on the result of the 2000 elections.
Televised media can only tell you one view of the story, without extensive Internet research you won’t know much about a candidate, except the highlights their speech that every mainstream media will use. With Internet research one can check if the candidate is being honest and sincere about what they are promising to change or do. You would need to do some research in order to know about that politician’s life. One tool in this search would be the website Politifact.com. It shows all the promises that a candidate hopes to accomplish, but more interesting it will also show how much of it has been true and how much of it has been lies.
Professor Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School said. “The spread of false information and rumors poses growing risks to society and the economy.” This is a scary fact, with consequences if Americans elect our leader based on false information and false promises. In the world of politics most politicians have had their dark moment in life and if they have the money politicians will try to cover it up their past. The perfect example would be Mitt Romney’s gay bully years during high school that was brought back to the 2012 presidential campaign.
Life is not always bad for people making political decisions without relying on the Internet, and it is possible for them to gather valuable information in order to vote well informed. People with access to the Internet may rely on their favorite blog, twitter, or any other Internet sources to receive the most updated information. However in all those situation there is a middleman, which can be a reporter, a blogger, or anyone with a twitter account. Those people help information to be spread from the subject to the audience, some like reporters ought to be non-bias while doing their job; however most information is delivered with added opinion of its author. People without the Internet, can attend meetings held by candidates, talk to representatives, read political programs. Therefore they will make an informed decision before voting. However, this vision is based on the belief each an every person without the Internet is an active citizen taking is duties to the fullest.
Internet allows almost 80 percent of the American population to feel that the world is at their reach, because they have all the information at the tips of their fingers. More and more, the Internet is perceived more as a Right than just another medium, and for people without Internet access, it represents a personal flaw. For those in this situation, experts have an optimistic outlook. For example, Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press, says, “In moments of technological change, whether it be electricity or television, a certain segment of the population seems to hold out and say, ‘I'm just fine with my outhouse’ or ‘Who needs a phone line?’ "That doesn't mean that those people are misinformed or misguided. It's just the natural progression of technology adoption.” Or IBM’s Vice President of Innovation Bernie Meyerson who believes that the digital divide will vanish within the next five years. Making it possible for everyone to use the Internet to make an informed decision about politicians. It also allows politicians to find new ways to use the Internet to rally more supporters.