by Rebecca Fairley Raney

Politics, propaganda and the Internet

Back in 1996, when I started writing about the Internet, I was most interested in following the development of the medium as a tool of propaganda. In those days, a handful of young political theorists and consultants started developing the practices we see in campaigns today.

By my best estimate, I have written more than 100 stories on the subject, most of them for The New York Times Web site and newspaper. I've organized links to those stories in the categories below.

Internet campaigning page

The link above goes to an index of 33 stories on Internet campaigning.

Here's the upshot of that coverage: In the early days, scholars watched the Web for signs that it could compete with television as a tool of persuasion. But campaign managers quickly learned that the Internet is not television, and that the value of the medium lay elsewhere.

Top Story:

"Former Wrestler's Campaign Got a Boost From the Internet"

JESSE Ventura, best known for his career as a profess-ional wrestler, was elected Governor of Minnesota on Tuesday in an upset that was one of the biggest surprises of the election -- a victory that some attribute to effective use of the Internet as a tool for mobilizing volunteers and voters.

The New York Times on the Web, Nov. 6, 1998

E-democracy page

This link goes to an index of 22 stories on the topic.

Here are the issues that these stories explore: What is the role of the Internet in a representative government? Can fast online communication improve the dialogue between people and politicians? Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.

Top story:

"E-Mail Finds the Rare Ear in Congress"

IN theory, e-mail should be a useful tool for democracy, an easy and prompt way for citizens to reach their representatives. And with the fear and disruption resulting from the discovery of anthrax in Congressional mail, e-mail might seem an ideal alternative.

But although many members of Congress asked constituents to switch to e-mail after mail delivery to their offices was halted in October, the trend on Capitol Hill seems to be a backlash against the medium.

The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2001

E-government and campaign donors page

This link goes to an index of 22 stories on e-government.

Here's where that coverage led: Local, state and federal governments have pushed information and services online at a rapid pace. That push is changing people's perceptions of government.

Top story:

"Speeding Scrutiny of Senate Donors"

NEXT month, after the candidates for president file their quarterly reports about who gave them money and how much they gave, voters will be able to see those reports on the Internet within a couple of days. You can go to the Web site for the Federal Election Commission ( ), type in the names of neighbors, co-workers and friends, and see their donations. The system works just as quickly for candidates for the House of Representatives.

But as the 2004 election year approaches, one notable body remains exempt from federal regulations requiring quick Internet disclosure of donors: the United States Senate.

The New York Times, Dec. 3, 2003

Electronic voting page

This link above goes to an index of 11 stories about electronic voting.

This is early coverage on the topic, dating from 1998. In the late 1990s, advocates of Internet voting lobbied to get their systems adopted by election officials. Then came the 2000 election and the national focus on the integrity of voting technology. The questions about security raised by the early opponents of e-voting are the same questions that opponents of electronic systems are raising now.

Top story:

"Voting by the Internet: The Mouse Still Hasn't Roared"

IN some parts of Alaska, about the only way to get to a voting booth in January is by dogsled. So to encourage participation in its presidential straw poll last Monday, the Alaska Republican Party tried something different: Internet voting.

The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2000


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