Unlocking the political Babel

By Andrew Leonard
October 20, 2004 11:26PM (UTC)
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Election year 2004 has proven, finally, that the old promise that digital media and the Web would democratize artistic expression wasn't such a big load of hype after all. Every day, our in boxes are full of another slew of amateur or semi-pro produced multimedia content -- and these days it's all political, whether it be the Jib-Jab's "This Land," (and a million knockoffs), the recent remaking of The Monster Mash as a slam on Bush's environmental policies, or the just plain hilarious "If the Bush Administration Was Your Roommate" series.

But with this profusion comes an obvious new problem. With so much stuff out there, how can you keep track of it all? Enter p2p-politics, a new Web site cooked up by some geeks (with the advice and help of uber-intellectual property academic Lawrence Lessig) to help distribute the "extraordinary range of political speech" that has been created by amateurs and professionals alike for this campaign.


The site, as of Wednesday, wasn't actually technically a P2P network -- that is, a software program that uses a network of computers to distribute content -- although Lessig told War Room in an email that by Thursday it would incorporate such software as well. More fundamentally, it's an appropriation of the idea behind such networks -- that individuals can connect to each other as individuals and recommend links to the great ads, speeches and other political content that they've seen, without being told what to think by some centralized organization with a huge TV-ad-buying budget.

As one of the site's creators, J. Christopher Garcia, told us, "The 'p2p' of the Web site is referring to individual people creating and distributing political speech without having to rely on 'the media' or other service to approve of it. The candidates themselves don't even have to approve of it."

"With the rise of blogs, the accessibility of digital media tools and software, and an increase in Fox News-style sponsorship of certain political agendas," Garcia added, "individuals are supplying the richest debate -- material that traditional sources can't or simply won't touch."


Oddly, while there's tons of pro-Kerry, anti-Bush video on the site, donated by both MoveOn.org and the Kerry campaign, neither the Nader nor the Bush campaigns have offered any of their ads. Do they not trust the people?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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