Not content with the track record of the Democratic party or its surrogates in winning the post-debate meta-debate media framesetting in the 2000 election, left/liberal online activists circulated chain mail messages online yesterday, itemizing the contact email addresses and websites of the major print and cable TV news and punditry outlets with a concerted effort to hammer home a pro-Kerry spin online throughout the next few news cycles.
One diarist at the left-wing Daily Kos collaborative media site posted a yardlong list of online pollsites, lifted with glee from the right-wing Free Republic message board.
When right-leaning news commentators (example, Joe Scarborough) and networks (example, Fox) began ceding the victory in this first debate to Kerry and seemed halfhearted in their assessment of Bush’s performance, left-wing blogs republished their commentary online, vowing to hold up a mirror to these same pundits and anchors should they start mouthing a refreshed set of talking points in the next few days.
One would assume that the right-wing bloggers* and online activists were voting in polls early and often themselves and would be quick to pounce on and hammer home Kerry’s one bona fide gaffe (his use of the phrase “passing the global test”) and probably praise Bush for staying on message and communicating on a more populist level.
It appears, though, that in the first news cycle after the debate the distributed pro-Democrat spin team was succeeding in creating or protecting a perception that Kerry won the debate. I have yet to see an online poll that gave the debate to Bush.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the reaction shots displayed on TV despite the candidates’ agreement will tar the President with the equivalent of Gore’s sighs in 2000 or whether popular conservative opinion will find something off-putting about Kerry’s agressive dominance of the terms of debate last night.
In the meantime, I have never before seen such a campaign in which the supporters shared so widely an analysis of the role media plays in determining elections and felt themselves to be taking an active role in an important measure of success or failure.
* Speaking of right-wing bloggers, it’s interesting to note how the warblogs that rose to prominence in the yearslong aftermath of 9/11 inspired numerous in-depth analyses reaching to explain the “innate” conservative or libertarian bent to the blogosphere, whereas now the Anybody But Bush coalition pumps energy into the Democratic presidential campaign, prompting the same kinds of articles describing an “inevitable” left-wing tilt to that same fragmented ‘sphere.
Eventually, the traditional press may catch on to the salient fact of the living web. It is not left or right, conservative or liberal. It is decentralized and two-way and many-to-many and populated by human beings with real voices, not statistically abstracted data points.
Update: If the Republicans were caught sleeping in the online postdebate spin game after last week, they won’t be this time around, according to this post at Kos.