Net results

By STEVEN STARK  |  January 16, 2008

In their search for anything to write about, Internet commentators also write obsessively about polls, which, besides being zealously inaccurate (as we’ve once again discovered), are only a picture of a moment of time that is, of course, not the one that counts on Election Day. These polls, Boorstin noted, are also a kind of pseudo-event, “forced into existence for the primary purpose of being reported.”

With little real news being generated, blogging space and cable-news time are usually filled with speculation and mediocre analysis. And that, in turn, has affected mainstream political reporting, since print journalists read (and write) blogs and assume others do too (even if the truth is that the average voter hasn’t a clue as to what’s transpiring in the electronic universe). Another unanticipated result is that the tendency for the political press to write as a pack has become more pronounced, not less, as one writer’s uninformed opinion becomes conventional wisdom in a matter of minutes, not days, in this new electronic echo chamber.

Case in point, again, was the lead-up to New Hampshire.

Lest we forget, it’s also the case that the Internet is still an overwhelmingly male domain. Most of the pundits are male; so, too, are most Web and blog readers. The result is a universe heavy on male-sports-combat imagery and analysis with the constant use of words such as “battle,” “destroyed,” “fight,” or “go on offense” — and reader rejoinders that rarely rise above the verbal equivalent of towel-snapping. And pundits wonder why the public is alienated from politics as usual (or why some voters may think Clinton is getting a raw deal)?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some good analysts on the Internet. But they are few and far between. Smug, snide, and self-congratulatory to a fault, the vast Internet “mediacracy” have created a largely imaginary political world that has made the quality of our civic discourse not better but worse. Despite what you read, the politics of 2008 isn’t surprising or confusing — it’s members of the media who are surprised and confused. Not that you’ll ever hear that from them.

THE FIELD
REPUBLICANS
JOHN McCAIN

Odds: 2-1 | past week: 5-4
RUDY GIULIANI
Odds: 3-1 | same
MIKE HUCKABEE
Odds: 5-1 | same
MITT ROMNEY
Odds: 7-1 | 12-1
FRED THOMPSON
Odds: 12-1 | 15-1
RON PAUL
Odds: 200-1 | same
DUNCAN HUNTER
Odds: 2 million-1 | same
ALAN KEYES
Odds: 60 billion-1 | same

DEMOCRATS
HILLARY CLINTON

Odds: 1-2 | past week: same
BARACK OBAMA
Odds: 2-1 | same
JOHN EDWARDS
Odds: 75-1 | same
DENNIS KUCINICH
Odds: 2 million-1 | same
MIKE GRAVEL
Odds: 32 million-1 | same
BILL RICHARDSON
Odds: withdrew

On the Web
The Presidential Tote Board blog: http://www.thephoenix.com/toteboard

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