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Politics on the Internet

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By Rick Howell

    A central feature of the unfolding revolution in Egypt has been the use of the Internet, specifically, the use of “social media” outlets, such as Facebook, to organize meetings and protests.

    In our country, so far, the Internet is primarily used as a fundraising tool for candidates and campaigns. But if we ever had an upheaval such as the ones now circulating through the Arab world, the Internet would surely play a powerful role in organizing.
    I’ve even heard it said that labor unions of the future will organize and meet not in traditional union halls, but on the pages and Web sites of our computers. That’s another reason not to let the conservatives kill them off today; technology may provide a way to keep them alive that the enemies of working people hadn’t anticipated.
    The Internet is also an incredibly diverse source for all the political information anyone would need. There are blogs, of course, but those are a dime a dozen and are mostly opinion, not fact.
    My own blogging days ended in 2009 when I shut down the humbly-titled “Rick Howell Speaks” mainly because I just got tired of doing it. I was especially tired of one particular weirdo who seemed to display a deep psychological need for my attention with his constant posts.
    Discourse on the Internet can often be the informational version of “working with the public.” While your own efforts may be sincere, serious, even intellectual, the responses you get may be quite different (just read some of the comments on news sites that allow them and you’ll see what I mean).
    I suppose my greatest little moment was when I was interviewed by a reporter from the national Web site, “The Huffington Post.” I was quoted in a story there about then-gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s efforts to attract blogger support. Not 15 minutes of fame, I guess, but a few seconds of it on the Internet.
    So, where are the best places to go for a liberal-minded lady or gent interested in educating themselves for participation in The Great Struggle Against Primitive Conservatism?
    Certainly, you should check out the aforementioned “Huffington Post.” It’s chock full of up-to-date political stories, and includes a lot of columns and other opinion pieces. Anything even slightly scandalous is usually prominently featured, which may relate to the one serious fault it has: too much glitzy celebrity nonsense that doesn’t belong on a serious political site.
    After you look at that, you’ll be ready for the more sober side of political news that you can only get on Politico.com, which has a dry format but one that contains a great number of important political stories. That site probably has the most stories about the 2012 presidential campaign, even at this early date.
    There are two national newspapers that cover politics better than anyone else: The New York Times and the Washington Post. They are essential. The paper in the national capital should have the best political coverage, and the Post does. The Times provides top-notch political coverage, as well, plus international news coverage that you can’t find anywhere else. Their Web sites are a must.
    Also, I must again recommend the English version of the Arabic news channel, Al Jazeera. It has been, and remains, absolutely essential to keeping up with the developments in the Middle East and other parts of the planet we used to call “the third world.”
    When it comes to politics, history, and public policy, there’s no such thing as “too much information.” Fight the right by surfing the Web!

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com