New Media And The Capitol Protests

I like writing about media. This piece for Wisconsin Interest, the triannual political journal I help edit, examines how new media  drove the Capitol protests and its coverage. The piece begins:

The revolution came to Madison in February, but not the one you think.

Sure, Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to roll back a half-century of labor legislation and the ferocious liberal backlash were earthshaking events. But the outcome of this epic struggle awaits a last act.

No such uncertainty marks the digital revolution. New media played a crucial role in both organizing the Capitol protests and in covering them. The digital future arrived on the wings of text messages, cell-phone photos, flip-camera videos, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Several thousand words later, I end by saying that while  the mechanics of politics has been transformed by new media, the nature of the our politics hasn’t been changed at all.

The rise of social media has had little impact on the polarization of American politics. No middle-of- the-road, “third way” movement has been texted into public consciousness.

If anything, the new technology has been deployed in the revival of a grand old creedal fight. Surging conservatives are rolling back 50 years of liberal Democratic programs in Wisconsin and even challenging the Progressive and New Deal shibboleths of earlier generations. New media has been conspicuously agnostic in this war, equally available to the left and right.

The irony is that the epochal rise of digital media may wind up triggering Gutenberg-like changes in our culture and economy, in the transmission and creation of news, and in the very nature of our intimate communications. But in the substance of our politics — well, not so much. At least for now.

To read the full report,  please go here.

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