Election Campaigns Transformation:
President John F. Kennedy's campaign in the early 1960s transformed the way the US presidential campaigns use Television as a medium to reach the American electorate. This year, Barack Husain Obama's campaign is re-writing the rules as it embraces Web 2.0 technologies to reach out to the young voters across the nation. The dramatic success of the Obama campaign among young, affluent voters and on college campuses has been quite a phenomenon. Obama has personally been a very active participant on Facebook. Obama's most passionate supporters and workers are mostly young, college students or recent university graduates who hang out on the social networks for hours on a daily basis. This passionate support of young men and women has translated into great success in terms of votes and campaign contributions. There are reports of both the Clinton and the McCain campaigns having money troubles, in spite of their appeal to the big establishment donors in both parties. Obama has had no such problems.
Online Campaign Statistics:
Here are some statistics published by The Mercury News that show the extensive use the online communities by all three camapaigns:
Facebook Supporters:Obama: 610,225; Clinton: 121,955; McCain: 71,079; Huckabee:65,664
YouTube Views: Obama: 22m; Clinton: 7m; Huckabee: 5m; McCain: 2m
Percent of campaign web traffic: Obama: 44%; Clinton: 26%; Huckabee: 16%; McCain: 8%
Here are more excerpts from San Jose Mercury on Obama Fundraising success on the Internet:
"....the extent of Obama's online fundraising prowess - $28 million in January, with signs that total will be exceeded this month - has outstripped all competitors and stunned many political analysts. About 90 percent of that money came in donations of $100 or less, allowing donors to give again every few weeks - up to the limit of $2,300 each for the primary and general elections.
GOP strategist All said he knew Obama was onto something during a summer visit last year to a friend in Ohio who planned to contribute $10 or $15 a month to Obama. "That campaign understood ahead of everyone else that you don't need to rely on megabucks and bundlers, and I'm afraid some Republicans still don't get that," All said.
Obama's huge donor base, now approaching 1 million, allowed a long-shot campaign to grow into a national force, outspending Clinton in state after state. And it freed up Obama to campaign while Clinton had to spend time with fundraising events.
"This is a wonderful, new development," said Zephyr Teachout, a leader of the Howard Dean campaign in 2004, which raised a total of $27 million online over many months. "Instead of calling rich people for money, you can concentrate on your campaign."
The campaign invested early in Internet infrastructure, spending $2 million in 2007 on software and hardware. Some of Obama's new-media leaders, such as Joe Rospars, came from the Dean campaign and Blue State Digital, a consulting firm."
Election Campaigns in Pakistan:
Turning attention to Pakistan, this year we saw a dramatic increase in election campaigning on the multiple TV channels and networks in the recent elections. With the growth of the Internet access, we can expect a very active Pakistani blogosphere to play a bigger role in election campaigns of the future, particularly in urban Pakistan. Social networks such as PakAlumni Worldwide and Naseeb.com are also starting to grow and may become useful tools for election campaigns as well as growth in online commerce.
Here's Niall Ferguson in Newsweek fretting about terrorists using social media:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that information technology—in particular social networking through the Internet—is changing the global balance of power. The “Facebook Generation” has already been credited with the overthrow of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. For a brief period, the darling of Tahrir Square was the young Google executive Wael Ghonim.
Yet there is another side to the story. It is not only proponents of democracy who know how to exploit the power of online networking. It is also the enemies of freedom.
Ask yourself: just how did the murderous mob in Mazar-e Sharif find out about the burning of a Quran in Florida? Look no further than the Internet and the mobile phone. Since 2001 cell-phone access in Afghanistan has leapt from zero to 30 percent.
It seems paradoxical. In Samuel Huntington’s version of the post–Cold War world, there was going to be a clash between an Islamic civilization that was stuck in a medieval time warp and a Western civilization that was essentially equivalent to modernity. What we’ve ended up with is something more like a mashup of civilizations, in which the most militantly antimodern strains of Islam are being channeled by the coolest technology the West has to offer.
Here’s a good example. According to the Jihadica website, there is now a special data package produced by the “Mobile Detachment” of the “al-Ansar al-Mujahideen Forum” especially for cell phones. Users can download encryption software, pictures, and 3GP-format video clips with titles like “A Martyr Eulogizing Another Martyr” by the Somalia-based Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen. Also available to users is the electronic magazine al-Sumud (“Resistance”) published by the Afghan branch of the Taliban, and edifying documents—available in both MS Word and Adobe formats—like “How to Prepare for Your Afterlife.” Killer apps, indeed.
Then there is Inspire, the online magazine published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and aimed at aspiring jihadists in the West. In addition to bomb-making instructions, it also publishes target lists of individuals against whom fatwas have been proclaimed.
No one should pretend that these messages do not find receptive ears. In May 2010 Roshonara Choudhry stabbed the British M.P. Stephen Timms after having watched 100 hours of extremist sermons by Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Where did she find these sermons? On YouTube, of course. Al-Awlaki’s other followers include the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, the Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
In short, Google’s pro-democracy Wael Ghonim is probably a less significant figure than Fouad X, the head of IT for Hizbullah in Lebanon, who tells Joshua Ramo (at the beginning of his superb book The Age of the Unthinkable) that “our email is flooded with CVs” from Islamist geeks wanting to “serve a sacred cause.”
So far, so bad. Now here’s the real problem. Many of these same Islamist geeks (among them Al-Awlaki) have hailed the so-called Arab Spring as a golden opportunity. The March 29 issue of Inspire declared: “The revolutions that are shaking the thrones of dictators are good for the Muslims, good for the mujahideen, and bad for the imperialists of the West and their henchmen in the Muslim world.”
The clash of civilizations would have been easy for the West to win if it had simply pitted the ideas and institutions of the 21st century against those of the seventh. No such luck. In the new mash of civilizations, our most dangerous foes are the Islamists who understand how to post fatwas on Facebook, email the holy Quran, and tweet the call to jihad.
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