"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The 1:1 Republic



He's been shut out of the

debates, but Ross Perot has

actually beat Dole and Clinton

to the punch - or rather, made

it obsolete. His infomercials

take the logic of the major

parties' recent conventions to

its most likely conclusion: The

bare-knuckled bargaining that

really makes for engaging

television is a casualty of the

information age. Although Pat

Buchanan breathed no fire, this

year's conventions reminded us

of nothing so much as the Kiss

reunion tour - another outsized

event that coaxes thousands of

true believers into an ugly

arena to witness in person

something that's really made for




No one we know ever needed to be

told that Gene Simmons spits

fake blood, and political

correspondents' complaints that

the conventions generated no

news seem strikingly naive for

an age in which said conventions

are often viewed on press-tent

televisions. More importantly,

complaints about the mass-media

degeneration of politics into

scripted spectator sport ignore

the fact that each of us will

soon live in our own individual

society of the spectacle. And

though Netizen recently

reported that 1996 never proved

to be the campaign year of the

net (we can just hear those

yells of "Stop the presses!"),

the era of 1:1 campaigning may

soon be upon us.


[Lifetime TV]

Ever willing to extend different

promises to different

demographics (and sometimes

serenade swing votes with a

saxophone), politicians are

natural-born niche marketers who

haven't yet realized that the

net represents the future of

narrowcasting. Why go tough on

crime during fall football spots

and play up social programs

during Lifetime ads when it's

far more exact to serve up a

page promising to cut the cost

of college to anyone clicking in

from a .edu? It's cheap, it's

easy, and it reverses the

much-decried effects of

television on the campaign

process. On www.allears.com,

Perot looks every bit as

presidential as Kennedy.


In a democratic system,

politicians are often sold as

products ("now with 20 percent

more reform," "extra-tough on

Iraq") and customized websites

will makes it easier to match

consumers - er, voters - with

key selling points. Instead of

one website, candidates like the

many-faced Mr. Clinton could

eventually have several: a

Gen-X-targeted page emphasizing

MTV appearances, a senior-themed

page promising protection for

social security - even a page

for .mil surfers playing up the

importance of our armed forces.

Naturally, such Boomer-centric

campaign theme songs as "Don't

Stop Thinking About Tomorrow"

would become a thing of the

past, replaced by streamed

background music aimed

specifically at the demographic

group in question.



Old-fashioned types who favor

such second-wave notions as

civic involvement need not

worry, as the magic of the

marketplace will eventually make

political participation as easy

as fiddling with Firefly. With

people too busy keeping up with

Pointcast to follow politics

that don't affect them, the

dirty business of actually

voting will inevitably fall to

Internet-searching intelligent

agents preprogrammed with their

clients' cultural baggage,

income bracket, and favorite

federal programs. Why make a

choice based partly on emotion

when an agent can be relied on

to always vote in one's



Better yet, such agents would

make our democracy more

representative, giving every

citizen with net access the only

voice in Congress that really

matters: that of a lobbyist.

Contributing electronic dollars

on the basis of how exactly

candidates' web-published

platforms match their clients'

economic interests, these

intelligent programs will give

us all the insider's influence

of a GM or an Exxon. Power to

the people - so long as they can

pay for it.



Such agent-mediated interaction

certainly sounds futuristic -

the kind of pie-in-the-sky

concept to which Nick Negroponte

might devote a Wired column,

perhaps - but dedicated

followers of politics will

realize it's a natural next step

for a system that's always sold

ideas to different people in

different ways. Clinton may be

content to build his

metaphorical bridge to the

future with the raw lifting

power of mass media, but future

candidates will likely build

theirs one brick at a time. Even

the Brooklyn Bridge looks like a

great buy when the sales pitch

is aimed right at you.

courtesy of Dr. Dreidel