The resounding moment of truth during Thursday's Reagan-raptured debate came when Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul said he preferred Internet reporting to mainstream media, then strongly defended the need for Internet freedom and independence.
When asked the question, "Do you trust the mainstream media?" Dr. Paul instantly replied:
"Some of them [mainstream media]. But I trust the Internet a lot more. And I trust the freedom of expression and that's why we should never interfere with the Internet. That's why I've never voted to regulate the Internet even when there's the temptation to put bad things on the Internet. Regulation of bad and good on the Internet should be done differently. But there's every reason to believe we have enough freedom in this country to have freedom of expression and that's what's important..."
What a welcome relief to hear a Presidential candidate willing to take on New Media, where establishment rules of "off limits" and "quid pro quo" no longer apply. Where predictable questions which candidates rehearse are replaced with relevant questions 'we-the-people' want to know.
As long as the Internet can sustain the freedoms espoused by Congressman Paul, we-the-people will play a pivotal role in the governance of this nation.
Two months ago, while attending a speech by Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, I was taken aback when he didn't address the millions of Americans who'd protested Government policy for the past six years. I wondered if he'd paid attention to the massive organizing, the heartfelt pleas, and the distances traveled by patriots who marched and rallied across and beyond this land. I wondered if he cared.
That evening I wrote an article, in which I proposed that all presidential candidates be asked if they'd paid attention to the millions who opposed the policies of the current president. I proposed that they each be asked if they cared. Because if they didn't care and they didn't pay attention, than the presidency shouldn't be theirs.
Old Media spent the entire presidency of George W. Bush suppressing public opposition and concealing democracy-in-action. From its near total blackout in 2005, to its scant exposure in 2007, media owners like GE, which benefit handsomely from the military industrial complex, have no profit motive to televise peace. They choose corporatism over patriotism and money over country nearly every time.
But a window of truth has finally opened and some light is seeping in. Thanks to the growth and empowerment of grassroots media and Internet journalism, the words and deeds of politicians holding office and those running for office, are monitored and broadcast freely over an ever widening web of accessible sites. In the current Presidential election, mainstream media swiftboating is less likely to succeed. And no mealy-mouthed candidate will be permitted to retreat from battling back.
Who ever takes the people's mantle this time will be held to account by the people themselves.
At last weekend's California Democratic Convention at the San Diego Convention Center, New Media were prominent, welcome and vital participants. On the Convention floor, an central area was roped off and specifically designated for the bloggers of Calitics, the community website for California politics. Several Calitics bloggers played dual roles at the Convention as Delegates and full-fledged members of the Press.
All eight Democratic presidential candidates attended the event. John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich were completely at ease with New Media. They welcomed ALL questioners in their press conferences and beyond. This time, John Edwards clearly acknowledged the active role Americans play in their democracy. As he said in his closing remarks on Sunday:
"The fact that you are here and that you are this involved and this engaged, demonstrates your commitment to the country. But I think every one of us have to ask ourselves, what are you willing to do? How much are you willing to do? How much do you love America?
If you look at the big changes that have happened in this country--the civil rights movement that began on college campuses in America, speaking out against the war in Vietnam, bringing down this apartheid regime in South Africa.
This movement to end the war in Iraq, the great movements that have happened in America, they didn't start in Washington, D.C., they didn't start in the Oval Office, they started right here with people of conviction, and courage, and passion, who would stand up for what you believe in, and what you knew is right. We need you again. We need all of you-- to speak out, to speak up, and to build the kind of America, moral and just, that all of us believe in."
Thank you, John, for listening!
Chris Dodd was also quite gracious. At his press conference I asked if being a first time father at sixty-two prompted his bid for the presidency. He responded that his two tiny daughters were indeed his impetus, which led me to ask how he, a parent now himself, believed George Bush had treated Cindy Sheehan. Dodd responded, "Terribly. Demeaning people, belittling people who have a different point of view. That's not right."
Yet one candidate was a bit uncomfortable with New Media. That was New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson.
At the very beginning his press conference, Governor Richardson immediately called on a reporter from the AP who asked an inconsequential gotcha question about deceased Supreme Court Justice, Byron White.
Contrastingly, the next questioner from New Media asked whether Paul Wolfowitz should resign. Then came a New Media "youth" reporter who addressed issues important to youth. Another New Media questioner asked about income disparity in America. New Media reporter, Kate Daniels, from The Women's International Perspective, asked Richardson how he would develop new alliances and improve America's image abroad.
Not long after came my question:
"Leading up to the war against Iraq, millions of people protested around the world, possibly fifteen to thirty million. Millions protested within the United States. Over the past six years this government has shown disdain for people who exercise that First Amendment right. What's your opinion of people who actively protest policy?"
Governor Richardson responded:
"Well, I'm for it. I think YOU should demonstrate as long as it's peaceful. I think YOU should direct YOUR demonstrations to the Congress because I believe that's where we need change...
Every president challenges the authority of the war powers act, but it's the Congress that has the authority to make war, to stop war, that is our Constitution...
Look, I'm for making sure YOU have that."
Interesting how Governor Richardson believes public protest should be directed at Congress and not at the President, which would immunize him from such actions should that Office one day become his. The fact is, public protest should be directed at ANYONE who deserves to be opposed. Be it the president. The vice president. Secretary of State. Congressperson. Corporation. Or contractor.
Also interesting was how Governor Richardson used the pronoun YOU when answering me, especially since I never included myself or the pronoun I in my question. Nor was I biased in my tone.
Presumably, Governor Richardson was troubled by my question because traditional or corporate media rarely ask it. But New Media will ask this question and many more like it, because New Media cares that the president who is elected honors the rights of those he or she represents.
Immediately after answering my question, Governor Richardson mocked, "This IS a press conference, isn't it? Has any member of the press not asked anything?"
Yes, Governor Richardson, this was a press conference. And members of all forms of press had something to ask. But your confusion stems less from the unfamiliar faces present and more from the questions they asked. This, Governor Richardson, was not YOUR traditional corporate press conference.
It was a New Press conference with New Media voices who aren't corporate owned. New Media voices who won't permit another president to disregard the will of the people as the "Old Press" wantonly do. A New Press with free unencumbered voices, much of which arise from the Internet. A New Press that appreciate Congressman Ron Paul, who 'trusts freedom of expression so much that he would never interfere with the Internet' to uphold the Constitutional First Amendment ideal.
Bottom line, Governor, this ain't YOUR corporate Media any more!
Photo by Maggie Freilich