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Conservatives and Libertarians Embrace the Internet (40 of 45)

(This is excerpt No. 40 (of 45) from America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power, by Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke.)

As the Internet began to grow in size and importance, conservatives and libertarians were quick to embrace it.  We saw a general trend taking place when we published America’s Right Turn in 2004:  The Right was better at Americas Right Turnutilizing the Internet as a news and opinion medium, while the Left was better at utilizing it as a medium for political organization.

We also noted a dramatic increase in use of the Internet as a source for alternative political and campaign news, and this was most pronounced with younger Americans.  These are trends that have continued to this day.  Some on the Right even speculated that the Internet would help us transcend government.  Fourteen years later, we’ll let you judge the validity of those crystal balls.   

Conservatives Embrace the Internet

Most of the world sees Matt Drudge as a conservative.  In his 1998 Playboy interview, Drudge talked about liberal and conservative political leaders and affirmed: “I am a libertarian, not trusting any of them.”  Whatever.  He certainly isn’t a liberal.

Matt Drudge showed us the future, and both conservatives and libertarians followed in his footsteps without hesitation.  Web sites are so pervasive today – every organization, every candidate, every big ego needs one – that it’s hard to remember what a recent development this all is, less than a decade old.  Matt Drudge introduced us to what we now call a “blog,” or personal Web page, in 1995; the Washington Times inaugurated its Web site in 1996; and Joseph and Elizabeth Farah started WorldNetDaily, the first independent Net newspaper, in 1997.  All of that is just yesterday, yet the world has changed so much.

Liberals have joined in the act, too, but not nearly as forcefully as libertarians and conservatives.  In some ways, however, today they are ahead of the Right.  As we go into the 2004 election year, we see a general pattern taking shape:  The Right has been better at utilizing the Internet as a news and opinion medium, while the Left has been better at utilizing it as a medium for political organization.  (We’re not talking here about the two major political parties, but rather the independent groups that constitute the Right and the Left in America.)

To keep things in perspective, one has to compare the sizes of the ideological sites with the sizes of the news sites. The ideological sites, in general, pale in comparison with the news sites, which basically are online extensions of their establishment print parents.  For all its complaining, the liberal establishment still reigns – not supreme anymore, but foremost.

That’s not to denigrate the accomplishments of the ideological warriors on the Right.  Think of the hundreds, even thousands of employees on the payroll of each of those big establishment media sites.  Then consider that Joe and Elizabeth Farah, with a staff of about 25 at WorldNetDaily, and Chris Ruddy, with a staff of about 50 at NewsMax, each publish a newspaper whose viewership is somewhere between the Wall Street Journal and CBS NewsThen consider that Matt Drudge, essentially all by himself, is able to get more of an audience on the Web than MSNBC or Reuters, and Lew Rockwell, with the assistance of just one-third of his webmaster’s time, is giving the Los Angeles Times and the prestigious Financial Times of London a run for their considerable money.  Incredible!  Matt Drudge wasn’t so wacky after all when he proclaimed this the age where “every citizen can be a reporter.”

Next, look at the composition of the top ideological sites.  Let’s draw a line, say, at the top 10,000 Web sites among the more than a million total.  In this top-pulling group, we find 24 right-of-center sites, 11 left-of-center sites.  Indeed, at the top of the list we pass four conservative and libertarian sites before we come to the first liberal site, Salon.com.  Then we pass another nine conservative and libertarian sites (plus the White House site) before coming to the next liberal sites, those of the Kerry and (now-defunct) Dean campaigns.

Before conservatives get too confident, though, try and find the conservative equivalents of the Dean Internet campaign and Moveon.org.  Political organization is the one area where liberals outshine conservatives on the Web.

Off we go into the wild blogosphere

Given how the Internet empowers the individual, the lightning-like growth of personal Web logs – “blogs” – should come as no surprise.

In the United States, blogs are becoming an alternative news and editorial medium of their own.  They may share the Internet with the huge corporate news sites, but the cyber-conglomerates constitute the meat and potatoes of the resulting stew, while the blogs provide the spices.  The most popular ones have personality, with lively exchanges between the blogger and the audience, and among the active visitors themselves.  Peter Jennings and George Will deliver lectures, insulated from their viewers or readers; most bloggers and their visitors have real conversations, and those conversations sometimes get a little heated.  But that’s why people keep coming back to them.

Academics are taking to the blogosphere in greater numbers, and the ones who have something interesting to say can get quite successful.  InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds, for example, is a law professor at the University of Tennessee, and his blog usually makes any listing of the most influential.  Lots of economists seem to be getting into the act, including the “classical liberals” over at Mises.org.

Dramatic increase in use of the Internet for alternative campaign news

The Internet today is an important source of campaign news for Americans.  While it is still overshadowed by television (both broadcast and cable), newspapers, and talk radio, use of the Internet is increasing dramatically while broadcast TV and newspapers are losing their audience even more rapidly. 

According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 13 percent of the American people were regularly getting campaign and candidate information through the Internet as we entered 2004 – a jump from 9 percent in 2000.  The future growth of the Internet can be seen when we break down the 2004 responses by age groups: ages 18–29, 20 percent; ages 30–49, 16 percent; and ages 50 and over, 7 percent.

Pew compares answers in 2000 with answers in 1996, and says the Internet “has gone mainstream in its preferences and pursuits.  A majority now cites convenience, not a desire to tap new or different information sources, as the main reason they go online for election news.”

We’ve done the math.  The result?  Between 1996 and 2000 the number of people using the Internet to get alternative campaign and election news more than doubled.  That’s why both conservative and liberal political sites have grown so much in recent years, a trend we’re confident will continue when 2004 data is available.

Will the Internet help us transcend government?

Historian and economist Gary North writes:

It is my firmly held belief (this week) that what brought down the Soviet Union was the photocopier.  It replaced carbon paper as the technology of samizdat: underground writing.  Surely, the fax machine was a key tool in Yeltsin’s ability to resist the Communist Party’s coup.  There were other technological factors besides the photocopier, but it was surely not people’s access to guns that brought down the USSR.  It was access to forbidden ideas.

Every political establishment rests on a specific view of the way the world works – or at least should work.  To maintain their power, men must control the public’s access to ideas.  Those ideas that run counter to an establishment’s paradigm are a threat to the system….

Part of every political establishment’s means of control, North goes on to argue, “has been the printing press” – controlling the flow of information.  Enter the Internet: “For the first time in the history of man, there are no longer gatekeepers who can control the flow of information to the public.  No longer can the Powers That Be control ideas by controlling printing presses, paper, and ink.”

Lew Rockwell has this to say:

In one sense, the Web is a lot like the world: filled with good and evil, dumb and smart… In another sense, the Web is not at all like the world because the government does not dominate it.  Yes, there are .gov Web sites, but they exist in a cooperative relationship among all the others, and not as master of them.  For the most part, people go where they want, read what they want, and do what they want.  The order we witness – from the massive reference sources and free offerings to the immense commercial apparatus that knows no borders – is a product of voluntary cooperation.

Or, as Gary North puts it, referring to one of the foremost free-market economists and philosophers, “an international digital revolution – no other word suffices – is today verifying Hayek’s theory of the spontaneous order.”

Could Adam Smith ever have imagined that his “invisible hand” might end up being cyberspace?

The Internet has empowered Lew Rockwell as surely as it empowered Matt Drudge.  Lew tells how:

I started, during the war on Serbia, to share interesting links with friends.  But then my own personal e-mail list became too long.  It occurred to me that perhaps people I don’t know might be interested in these links.  Thus was born my public site, just an interface to display things I saw (this was pre-blog).  Then I started publishing people’s thoughts, my own thoughts, and the next thing I know, I’m the editor of one of the most trafficked centers of political and economic opinion in the world.

We received an e-mail recently from our good friend Jon Utley, with a typically Utleyish subject heading: “News from behind the Neoconservative Curtain.”

“Governments can’t lie anymore,” he started out, “or rather get away with it.  That’s the real lesson of the Second Iraq War.  No wonder dictatorships as in China and Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc., do everything they can to prevent unfettered Internet access.”

“But there’s another great result of the Internet,” Jon continued: “Governments can’t hide information for long.  Searching with some thoughtfulness brings up all sorts of information barely reported in America, if at all.”

There it is again: that Internet information explosion.  Look on Antiwar.com and you’ll find links to articles from around the world.  Jon himself has created www.againstbombing.com as a conduit for three of his virtual communities – Americans Against Bombing, Americans Against World Empire, and Conservatives for Peace.  Look on that Web site and you’ll find hundreds and hundreds of links to articles from around the world.

That’s the way it is on the issue of war and peace, and, thanks to the Internet, that’s the way it is with any issue.  If you’re not satisfied with the range of viewpoints you find in the print media and on TV, you can go to talk radio and Fox News.  If they don’t satisfy you, you can go to the Internet.  And if the American sources on the Internet don’t please you, there’s a whole world of information (metaphorically and geographically) awaiting you.  There are no boundaries on the Internet.

 

America’s Right Turn serialization:

To order American's Right Turn from Amazon please click this link.

  1. “Media Monopolies Declare War on Conservatives”
  2. “What Conservatives Can Learn from the West’s First Media Revolution”
  3. “What Conservatives Can Learn from America’s First Media Revolution”
  4. “The Factors That Created a Grassroots Conservative Movement”
  5.  “More Factors That Created a Grassroots Conservative Movement”
  6. “Money in Politics:  Everyone Complains About It, but Every Political Movement Needs It”
  7. “Conservatives in the Wilderness: American Politics in 1955” 
  8. Conservatives in the Wilderness: Restless, but Lacking Leadership
  9. “How William F. Buckley Jr. Gave Birth to the Conservative Movement”
  10. “How Barry Goldwater Gave Political Voice to the New Conservative Movement”
  11. “Why There Was No Mass Libertarian Movement—Lessons for Conservatives”
  12. “1964:  This is What Happens When the Other Side Controls the Mass Media”
  13. “Thanks to Shamelessly Dishonest Liberals, Conservatives Have No Chance in 1964
  14. “How Conservatives Turned a Lemon (1964) Into Lemonade (the Future Successful Movement”
  15. Conservatives Test a New Secret Weapon
  16. “Conservatives Use Their Secret Weapon to Create a Revolution”
  17. “Conservatives Grow Under the Radar, Testing Their New Secret Weapon”
  18. “Why Direct Mail Is So Powerful for Insurgents—Like Conservatives”
  19. “Creating the Religious Right, and Electing Reagan, Using Alternative Media”
  20. “Phyllis Schlafly Showed Us How to Stop an ‘Inevitable’ Leftist Crusade”
  21. “Liberals Learn How to Use the Conservatives’ Secret Weapon”
  22. “What Conservatives Can Learn from the Man Who Built the Modern Liberal Movement”
  23. “Morton Blackwell Trains Tomorrow’s Conservative Cadre”
  24. “From FDR to Rush Limbaugh: The Talk Radio Revolution”
  25. “Talk Radio Demolishes Hillarycare, and Provides a New Battleground for the Culture Wars”
  26. “Why Liberals Fail—While Conservatives Succeed—on Talk Radio”
  27. “How the NRA Used Alternative Media to Save the Second Amendment”
  28. “C-SPAN Starts the Revolution Against TV’s Liberal Gatekeepers”
  29. “Fox Replaces CNN as King of Cable, Giving Conservatives a Voice on TV News”
  30. “Direct Mail: A Giant Step Forward for Political Democracy”
  31. “Why Direct Mail is the Smartest Form of Advertising for Conservative Candidates”
  32. “The 1970s: Healthy Growing Pains in the Emerging Conservative Movement”
  33. “Rush Limbaugh Becomes Talk Radio’s #1 Star; the “Tea Bag” Rebellion Becomes Its First Big Victory”
  34. “Cable TV—With Fox in the Lead—Becomes America’s Primary Source of Campaign News” 
  35. Political News and Impact: Newspapers Tumble—and Liberals Face Competition
  36. “Conservative Writers Get New Venues as Columnists and in Magazines”
  37. Conservative Authors Fire a New Weapon: Books with Ideas That Have Consequences
  38. “The World Turned Upside Down: How the Internet Empowers the Individual”
  39. Why Politicians Like Hillary Don’t Want You to Have the Choices Offered by the Internet
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