Truth and politics

13 Oct 2006
00:00

Google-YouTube is the tech topic of the moment, of course. The story has everything, including the prospect of industrial scale litigation.

For what it's worth, Convergence view is that YouTube is worth way less than $1.6 billion, and there's a big question mark over how much value the smart guys at Google can wring out of it.

Pretty obvious, eh‾ So enough on that issue. The Google story that caught my columnist's eye was not the acquisition of a profitless startup, but chairman Eric Schmidt's voyage through British media and political scene.

In newspaper interviews and a keynote speech to the Conservative Party annual congress, Schmidt repeated a few nostrums about how the Internet was going to change politics and how poor old politicians just didn't get it.

These were prepared remarks, repeated in a number of different contexts, and obviously made quite deliberately. The curious thing is why, especially when his comments are remarkable only for their vapidity.

Schmidt says that elections will change forever in the next five years and that the game is changing from "appointment politics", where politicians turn on and off for the cameras, to "always-on politics".

Actually, the Net is already changing politics - and I'm not just talking salacious emails to young staffers. I'm pretty certain even politicians have noticed.

For one, all western political parties use the Internet to mobilize their voters and raise funds. More than that, the Net and the blogosphere both break news and keep alive stories that the established media has ignored. It was way back in 1998 that Matt Drudge revealed the Monica Lewinski-Linda Tripp story. The Internet and blogs are an embedded part of the news process.

"Truth predictor"

But Schmidt's big idea in the UK was a "truth predictor" -- software that would be able to instantly verify the truth of what the politician was saying.

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