Internet and Politics Quotes

Quotations on the impact of the Internet on politics and political activism

"Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders." Ronald Reagan

"Don't think of the Internet as a broadcast medium...think of it as a conversational space. Conversation is the opposite of marketing. It's talking in our own voices about things we want to hear about." David Weinberger, Marketing consultant and Internet adviser to the Dean campaign

"This victory is in large part due to the Internet... For the first time, a coalition of NGOs has had an influence on the security of the entire world without being a superpower." Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

"Politicians used to put out leaflets with pictures of their family and pet dog and copies of their lousy speeches and it would be enough. Unfortunately many politicians now just create a web site with pictures of their family and pet dog and their lousy speeches but it is not good enough," Stephen Coleman, Oxford Internet Institute

"A lot of the Internet traffic may represent an echo chamber of virtual activism rather than meaningful protest. The web allows people who agree with each other to talk to each other and gives them the impression of being part of a much larger network than is necessarily the case."  Barbara Epstein, University of California Professor

"The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest  problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the  communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it."  Bill Gates

"There is a connection waiting to be made between the decline in democratic participation and the explosion in new ways of communicating. We need not accept the paradox that gives us more ways than ever to speak, and leaves the public with a wider feeling than ever before that their voices are not being heard. The new technologies can strengthen our democracy, by giving us greater opportunities than ever before for better transparency and a more responsive relationship between government and electors"  The Honourable Robin Cook

"The Internet makes it far easier for us to restrict ourselves, much of the same, to groups of like-minded people -- to live in echo chambers of our own devising. In this way, the Internet is creating an increase, in many places, of social fragmentation, and hence an increase in both tolerance and incivility, as people end up seeing their fellow citizens as stupid, or malicious, or despicable. This problem is increased by the fact that much of the Internet is intolerant and far from civil. The culture of (some) television -- with liberals simply attacking conservatives, and vice-versa -- isn't healthy for democracy or tolerance, because it encourages people to choose teams, rather than to think issues through. For many people the Internet is aggravating this problem." Cass Sunstein, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Chicago and author of

"With email, a person can get his questions answered. You can bring people up to different levels of engagement with the campaign. You can't do that with any other medium." Joe Rothstein, Washington, DC consultant

"At its best, the Internet can educate more people faster than any media tool. At its worst, it can make people dumber faster than any media tool. Because the Internet has an aura of "technology" surrounding it, the uneducated believe information from it even more. They don't realize that the Internet, at its ugliest, is just an open sewer: an electronic conduit for untreated, unfiltered information. Just when you might have thought you were all alone with your extreme views, the Internet puts you together with a community of people from around the world who hate all the things and people you do. You can scrap the BBC and just get your news from those Websites that reinforce your own stereotypes."  Thomas Friedman, New York Times

"Overall, the work of rebuilding and transforming government for the digital age is only just beginning. Governments remain organized according to political and bureaucratic imperatives, not according to what makes the most sense to citizens."  Andrew Leigh and Robert Atkinson in "Breaking down bureaucratic barriers: the next phase of digital government"

"Imagine a school with children that can read or write, but with teachers who can not, and you have a metaphor of the Information Age in which we live."  Peter Cochrane

"Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand."  author unknown

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it." Nobel laureate economist Herbert A. Simon

"The positive claims for the value of the Internet offered by our contemporaries are mostly hype. Whatever the long-range value of the Net turns out to be, it won't be the quality of information it offers, the democratic distance learning it makes possible, the presence of the Net user to all of reality, and the possibility of a new life full of meaning."  Hubert Dreyfus, Philosopher University of California

"Overall, the work of rebuilding and transforming government for the digital age is only just beginning....Governments remain organized according to political and bureaucratic imperatives, not according to what makes the most sense to citizens."  Andrew Leigh and Robert Atkinson in "Breaking down bureaucratic barriers: the next phase of digital government"

"A candidate who can master the Internet will not only level the playing field; he will level the opposition." RightClick Strategies' Larry Purpuro

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  Arthur C. Clarke

"The Internet has become the main strategic communications tool behind the scenes in politics. It is not a medium to sway undecided voters. It is a medium to organize your supporters, feed them your message and get out your core vote. It may have an impact on new and less frequent voters some day, but that seems a long way off. No candidate that I am aware of has ever won because of the Internet."  Steve Clift, Democracy Online

"The Web is trivially simple - massively successful and its like Karaoke - anybody can do it."  Ted Nelson, Computer Visionary & Founder of Hyper Text

"Encouraging e-democracy is less desirable to elected officials.  On the contrary, most of what they do while in office is try to increase their chances for re-election.  Consider a politician who has the opportunity to create easily accessible public records of public meetings, including his own roll call votes.  The person most motivated to use such records would likely be an opponent who wants to embarrass the incumbent."  New America Foundation fellow James Snider

"The net is more than an organizing tool - it has become an organizing model, a blueprint for decentralized but cooperative decision-making. It facilitates the process of information sharing to such an extent that many groups can work in concert with one another without the need to achieve monolithic consensus." Naomi Klein, No Logo

"Many key decisions are complex, and there is considerable uncertainty about the consequences of alternative measures. The policy-making bureaux in most governments are limited in size, and are typically overloaded. The new technologies hold out the promise of drawing upon far wider expertise. The challenge is how to do this in the most effective way. I suspect that the more structured the questions that are posed in the Internet dialogue the more meaningful will be the responses. Participants in the dialogue could be required to provide evidence backing up their arguments. One advantage of this approach is that it would widen the circle of expertise which the government could draw upon, which all too often is limited by circles of personal acquaintance." Joseph Stiglitz, former Chief Economist of the World Bank

"The net, by its very nature, is inclusive. It reduces the barriers to human interaction. That said, for the Internet to . . .transform and not to perpetuate our political circumstances, three further conditions must be met. The first, most obviously, is universal Internet access. The second is a citizen body . . . willing and able to use the net to become connected and re-engaged. And the third, perhaps most importantly, is a formal political class with some predisposition to take Internet politics seriously. Of these, there is evidence to suggest that the big problem lies with the formal political class." Ian Kearns and Nick Hardy, Institute for Public Policy Research, UK

"Each new generation of nerds thinks it has the answer, only to run into the same brick wall of human behaviour. We must understand people and organizations before we can determine how to meld them with technology." Frank Bannister, a senior lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and e-democracy expert

"While the major political parties have struggled to use the Internet to their advantage, grassroots groups with enthusiasm beyond their budgets are finding that electronic politics can be a powerful force.  The old and inefficient telephone tree is giving way to e-mail lists and computers that can send a letter or news alert to thousands of people in seconds.  It is a trend that might reshape politics, bringing more people into a newly decentralized - - and democratized - - process just when many experts have concluded that the nation suffers from a near-terminal case of apathy." Daniel Weintraub, Sacramento Bee

"Computers are so deeply stupid. What bother me most when they talk about technology is they don't realize how much more exciting their minds are. That machine is stupid. And boring. It does just a few things and then it'll crash. People think, 'I am on the Net, I am in touch with the world'. Wrong! The point is how we work, not how machines work."  Laurie Anderson, Artist and technology pioneer

"One must be wary of the view that these loose and diverse coalitions represent a new form of globalized participatory democracy. The dissent industry is largely a product of the Internet revolution. Inexpensive, borderless, real-time networking provides advocacy non-governmental organizations [NGOs] with economies of scale and also of scope by linking widely disparate groups with one common theme."  Sylvia Ostry

"I can't think of anything except kissing babies that you can't do online." Michael Cornfield, political scientist at George Washington University.

The modern campaign headquarters...has an annex open any hour of the day or night, at an address starting with www. New York Times, 10/19/99.

The Internet is rapidly taking its place as a full-fledged component of the political campaign media mix. As it does, it will open more opportunities of leveraging the most valuable currency in the modern world of political campaigns: information. Ron Faucheaux, editor-in-chief, Campaigns & Elections.

"The technology that's out there is going to change the country; therefore, it's going to change our politics." Doug Bailey, publisher, Hotline.

"Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn't have to experience it.” Max Frisch

"I was not only the first woman to become secretary of state, I was the first [U.S.] secretary of state of the 21st century. I was the first secretary of state to own a Web site, to visit Internet cafes, and to make Internet access a part of policy." Madeleine Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State

"By and large, people are sort of technologically averse in the political space." Mike McCurry, Press secretary to President Clinton.

"Today there are 400 million people around the world who have access to the Internet. By 2005, there will be more than 1 billion. We can all imagine the expectations and demands this will impose on government, but also the possibilities it will bring for improving services and revitalizing democracy."  Graham Stringer, UK Minister

"Creating the foundation for dramatic change, the Internet has had a profound impact-in part by enabling organizers to quickly and easily arrange demonstrations and protests, worldwide if necessary. Individuals and groups now are able to establish dates, share experiences, accept responsibilities, arrange logistics, and initiate a myriad of other taskings that would have been impossible to manage readily and rapidly in the past. International protests and demonstrations can be organized for the same date and time, so that a series of protests take place in concert. The Internet has breathed new life into the anarchist philosophy, permitting communication and coordination without the need for a central source of command, and facilitating coordinated actions with minimal resources and bureaucracy. It has allowed groups and individuals to cement bonds, file e-mail reports of perceived successes, and recruit members." Canadian Security Intelligence Report, Anti-globalization: Spreading Phenomenon

"The Internet is becoming the ‘pre-digestion’ chamber for public policy discussion.  Public policy ideas are being introduced, accessed, advocated, promoted, and debated on-line and then flow into the formal channels of official policymaking. As issues move through these channels, a parallel debate occurs on-line.  When decisions are taken, the issues are re-fought on-line. Cyber debate and discussion is becoming the background soundtrack of government policy-making, both reflecting and influencing the process." Scott Proudfoot, Hillwatch

"Men have become the tools of their tools." Henry David Thoreau

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." Mahatma Gandhi

"Technology is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand and stabs you in the back with the other.”  C.P. Snow

"I'm addicted to the Internet. I admit it. It has transformed the way I work as a senator, communicate with my children, and keep tabs on news and cultural developments.... The Internet is a more direct communications link between legislators and their constituents....I constantly work at fusing my Senate work into my office home page to make it as useful, timely, and user-friendly as possible for Vermonters and others who may visit.....I look at my Web site, as my 24-hour virtual office, where visitors can send me an e-mail or search for the information they need anytime, day or night.”     Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont

"New information technologies—including email, the web, and computerized blast-faxes and phone calls—have fundamentally changed the landscape of political competition in modern democracies.  They’ve done so in three ways: by dramatically boosting the access of individuals and special interests to politically potent information, by making it easier for such people to coordinate their activities and exert political power, and by greatly increasing the pace of events within our political systems.”    Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto

"A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention in human history, with the possible exception of handguns and tequila." Mitch Radcliffe

"The electronic town hall allows for speedy communications and bad decision-making." David Shenk

"Our democracy, our constitutional framework is really a kind of software for harnessing the creativity and political imagination for all of our people....The American democratic system was an early political version of Napster." Al Gore

"From far left to far right - and almost every point in between - advocacy groups are leading the charge into cyberpolitics. It’s essentially impossible to find an activist group of any significance that does not have an internet presence today. Advocacy groups, having gained experience from constant campaigning, tend to engage in more sophisticated online activism than candidates and corporations do. And they're constantly getting better at it..... It is not a medium for mass persuasion; if you want to run for president, you'd better buy lots of television advertising.  But, if you want to move individuals to meet, march, and mail public officials, you'd best be online..... It levels the playing field and lowers barriers to participation by placing powerful information and communications tools in the hands of even small nd cash-strapped organizations. With an ever-increasing number of government documents available online, key information is no longer restricted to organizations with sophisticated Washington-based lobbyists who know on which Capital Hill doors to knock. One e-mail alert can do the world of countless phone trees and in infinitely faster than mailings. Organizations can afford to communicate with non-members and to build rosters of activists who are not dues-paying members.”   Tom Price, ZDNet

"Wealth and speed are what the world admires, what each pursues.   Railways, express mails, steamships and every possible facility for communications are the achievement in which the civilized world view and revels, only to languish in mediocrity by that very fact.  Indeed, the effect of this diffusion is to spread the culture of the mediocre." Goethe

"Information and images bump against each other every day in massive quantities, and the resonance of this interfacing is like the babble of a village or tavern gossip session." Marshall McLuhan

"It has provided more access to more information and political activity than anyone has in the history of the world to a sliver of the population – for instance junkies like me.  But most others have been largely oblivious to the information cyber-revolution." Norman Ornstein

"The Internet is many things simultaneously …a new broadcast medium…interactive bulletin board …enormous collaboration tool…a huge post office.. The Internet is a venue for one-to-many communications, one-to-one communications, and many-to-many communications." Kevin Hill & John Hughes

"A survey by Holm Group in 1998 found that 88% of staff members in congressional offices check the Internet for information every day." Rebecca Fairley Raney

"Our marvelous new information technologies boost our power and opportunities for political engagement, but they can also disempower us by contributing to extreme political mobilization that sometimes overwhelms our institutions.  These institutions were designed for rural societies operation at a tiny fraction of today’s speed and with a citizenry vastly less capable that today’s.  It’s unclear how they will change to adapt to the new reality, but change they must." Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the University of Toronto

"The political technology of the Industrial age is no longer appropriate technology for the new civilization taking form around us.  Our politics are obsolete." Alvin Toffler

"Keep your web pages up to date. 'The first thing I do with a witness is go to their web site.'" notes a parliamentary researcher. David McInnes

"High-powered politicians had reams of statistics and analysis why a set of international investing rules would make the world a better place.  They were no match, however, for a global ban of grass roots organizations, which, with little more than computers and access to the Internet, helped derail a deal.”
Madelaine Drohan

"Who killed the MAI – the Multilateral agreement on Investment?  According to many accounts, civil society deserves the credit – or blame – and its weapon of choice was the Internet.  The Internet with its revolutionary ability to connect millions and share information and strategies across time and space, allowed for an unprecedented global mobilization of opposition to the Agreement." Horizons

"From gas prices to cultural jamming and on-line concerts, the Internet is a hotbed of activity.  On-line activism is everywhere and while this kind of Internet usage might not get the attention that startups and broadband battles do, the innovative uses of the Internet are reminders that real people are using technology to incite actions and maker their voices heard." Emma Smith

"The Internet, unlike television, is not universally available, and online information reaches only highly interested voters." Rebecca Fairley Raney

"In the ever accelerating world of the Internet, e-campaigning has gone from a novelty to a necessity in less than a year.  With increasing sophistication and urgency, campaigns are using the Web as a bulletin board, advertising medium and organizing tool." Howard Fineman

"The potential of any technology is always dissipated by its users involvement in its predecessors…Computer are still serving mainly to sustain precomputer effects." Marshall McLuahn

"Unless the digital divide is narrowed soon, the United States may be headed to the class warfare of a century ago, the last time the economy changed so fundamentally.  It won’t be pleasant." Jonathan Alter

"The net is emerging as mainstream, multipurpose political tool." Amy Borrus

"The Information Revolution is likely to democratize politics by weakening the elites’ grip on information." Richard Dunham

"Without question, the mass gathering of peaceful protestors and a small number of violent critics of the WTO would not have been possible without a wired world.  With thousands of web sites featuring sophisticated analysis of the complex 134 country organization and urging the world to come to Seattle, it was the Internet that made this protest the loudest and largest in decades." Bill Tieleman

"As a two way mass communications medium that allows users to receive news and information, as well as participate in information transmission and public discussion, the Internet potentially diffuses power over information and public debate.  That ability even extends to overt lobbying by individuals in behalf of their own political interests."  Richard Davis

"The new electronic independence recreates the world in the image of a global village." Marshall McLuhan

"Advancements in electoral politics have almost always come from marketing, advertising, and communications techniques which were developed and refined for the consumer marketplace….As new marketing and communications techniques are developed to respond to the e-commerce boom, it will likely be from these areas that crossover applications to the electoral arena will originate." Grant Kippen

"The communications revolution is changing how people interact with one another, how organizations engage their constituencies, how we access information.  It also makes possible a collective I.Q. where thousands of people can be connected to focus on an issue." Morino Institute

"In 1994, if a political party or interest group had even a rudimentary web site, it was a pioneer in the Information Age.  In 1995, if a party or organization had a flashy series of web pages that included graphics, audio, video or text, it was hip.  In 1996, if a Candidate for president has a web site, he would likely give out the address for during televised appearances…By 1997, if a party or interest group still did not have a web site, it was run by a bunch of idiots….Any political party or interest group …that does not take advantage of the Internet for lobbying, member recruitment and retention, and information dissemination, is cheating itself of one of the biggest boons to organized political activity in the twentieth century…The web is potentially the greatest thing since the postal system and the telephone for political interest groups." Kevin Hill & John Hughes

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