Friday, July 31, 2009

Amplifying protests to Congress on YouTube

UPDATE: great piece on this same topic by Nancy Scola over at TechPresident

There's a great piece in the Politico this morning about the number of un-ruley political townhalls that have taken place in the past few months. As Members of Congress head back to their districts to take the pulse of their constituents, citizens who are angry about everything from stimulus dollars to the President's birth certificate are making themselves heard.

Many of these moments have been captured on YouTube. Congressman Mike Castle's (R-DE) town hall exploded over a conflict stirred by "birthers" who questioned the President's citizenship; Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) had to be escorted to his car after a townhall "gone wild" over taxpayer dollars being spent on the stimulus package; and "hundreds of protesters" came out to heckle Allen Boyd (D-Fla) over stimulus spending in Panama City, Fla earlier this month.

Of course, all of these protests are speaking to an audience wider than just their Representative - the protest videos broadcast on YouTube are getting thousands (in some cases, hundreds of thousands) of views. That fact is surely not lost on the citizens who are posting these videos to the site. A protest over the stimulus package to an audience of a 100 people at a town hall meeting can suddenly reach an exponentially larger national audience, so long as the protester's actions were intense or interesting enough to gain attention. Suddenly, a dozen protests held in a dozen locations string together into something much larger online.

Despite the risks politicians face in calling public gatherings with constituents, town halls are all the rage these days. President Obama seems to be calling a health care town hall almost every week - sometimes taking questions posted to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. While the discussion fostered by these online platforms ranges widely and often stimulates both high- and low-brow submissions, the ability for platforms like Google Moderator and Digg to let the wisdom of crowds vote up the most pressing and important questions has a civilizing effect on the dialogue. For all the bad rap the Internet can get for providing a potent combination of anonymity and access that can lead to guttural conversation, when the democratic features of these platforms are harnessed, they can actually make engagement more civil than some of the live, in-person town halls we've seen posted to YouTube in recent weeks.


Anonymous said...

MY BAND AID, with a big "NO" on it, is on the way to the president, and congress.
Let us bury them in band aids. They will not listen to citizens, maybe, this will get their attention.
It is hard to ignore millions of BAND AIDS.
If you care about this issue, and you want a say, get those band aids in the mail.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine told me that once an administration gives something to the American people, it will never be taken away. I disagree.
It seems to me that all of our Freedoms and liberties are being taken away by the Obama administration.

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