It’s not just Congress which is willfully ignorant. The lobbies and even the so-called “public interest” people are either dim or playing games at our expense.
The problems lie on both the sending and receiving side:
- Congress has been careful to exempt itself, and political campaigns, from anti-spam laws.
- Congress has been placing increasingly high hurdles in front of citizens who want to e-mail folks.
Notice the contradiction. They can spam you, but you have to fill out math problems to e-mail them. They want to protect themselves from “Astroturf,” sponsored by corporations, unions, issue groups or the organized blogocracy, while at the same time they seem to think that political spam is going to influence how you vote.
Spam will impact how people vote. It already has. Those politicians who spam lose. This doesn’t seem to get through their skulls.
Issue groups, even those who claim to stand for “good government,” show the same asymetry:
- They are furious that Congress is frustrating their efforts to organize e-mail campaigns.
- They think money will determine the outcome of Internet campaigns.
It’s asymetry and self-interest which are at work. We want to organize e-mail campaigns aimed at Congress, but we don’t want to extend this right to others. We want to be free of spam ourselves. but don’t want Congress to be free of our organized e-mail. Congress wants to filter e-mail, but thinks somehow its spam will be effective.
It’s all nonsense. Congress needs to know when there is genuine concern about an issue. It has a right to distinguish between Astroturf and real grassroots. Congress also needs to understand that we have as much a right to choose how we filter our e-mail as they do, and that both their spamming, as well as that of their opponents, or the interests they attach to, simply won’t work.
How then, do you do political prospecting, and how should Congress react to the e-mail flood?
- Ads need to point to information.
- Blogs need to engage as real conversations.
- All lists must be opt-in to be useful.
- Filtering should follow the sending of e-mail, not precede it.
Here’s what politicians need to understand about the Internet. You can’t fake it. Astroturf no longer works, fake blogs don’t work, ads which lead to corporate sites can be seen-through, and the cost of campaigning in the Internet age will decline, if we allow the Internet to evolve as it should.