Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Community, Not an ATM Machine

There are a lot of gems in this Vanity Fair oral history of the Internet (1958-2008), but my very favorite comment is Howard Dean's:

The thing is, I was introduced to the Net in ways most politicians are not introduced to the Net. I was introduced to the Net as a community, which it is. Very few politicians have understood that it’s not an A.T.M. machine. It’s a community of people. It’s the beginning of two-way campaigns.

The Internet is the most important democratizing invention since the printing press, 500 years ago. The Internet is remaking American politics, and the Republicans are in big trouble because of this. American politics is no longer a top-down command-and-control business, which people in Washington can’t get over. But it’s true. If young people want to get something done, they go on the Net. They find out some information. They find an affinity group—or if they don’t have one, they start an affinity group.

And so when we started all this stuff, we hired a bunch of really smart 25-year-olds who I think slept under their desks. The real key is trusting people in local areas to do the right thing and giving them the resources to do their job.

The same theme comes up in history again and again. Google didn't invent the "Don't Be Evil" ethic; they just understood better than most how and why it worked.


ml242 said...

Dean is amazing. It would be a real tragedy if his legacy is defined by "the scream" and this Florida/Michigan Electoral debacle.

Tim said...

I think that if Clinton had won the nomination and replaced Dean at the DNC, his legacy probably would have been pretty ephemeral. As it is, I think/hope he'll be remembered as the candidate who saw the potential of the internet, who put the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party center stage (and brought everyone but Joe Liberman with him), whose 50-state strategy remade the Democratic Coalition and the legislative majority, and who worked with Barack Obama to win the White House.