Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Distortion effect

So it turns out that Dean wasn't the Democrats' best hope after all, and his support is much lower than it would seem. How could that be, with all his vaunted grass-roots support and funds? Simply put, the Internet allows groups that are highly dispersed (because of their generally-small numbers in the real population) to appear concentrated online (because they deliberately come together in a single place). The high concentration thus gives the illusion of larger numbers than actually exist. By bringing the diffuse group together, the Internet can actually give it temporary power out-of-proportion to its size (hence Dean's large war chest), but reality does eventually set in.

So it is with other sites like MoveOn.org or even Indymedia. MoveOn.org is really rather small, but in a large country such as the U.S., even small percentages can be significant if you can get them in one place. Indymedia is the fringe of the fringe of the fringe, but they have been uniting lunatics all over the planet for years now (both virtually and in the real world, as with the "anti-war" and "anti-globalization" demonstrations), and the concentrated echoing moonbattery gives them the illusion of being a much larger force than they really are. In the end, though, reality usually reasserts itself -- free trade is expanding, the U.S. invaded Iraq with overwhelming approval of the American public, Kerry won Iowa 2-to-1 -- and sometimes, rather than recognize the illusion for what it was, some people just can't help spinning conspiracy theories and getting very, very angry.

Which is good. We could all use a good laugh.


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