Waiting for an election bomb

As mentioned earlier in a post about my thoughts on citizen reporting (NOT journalism), NYT Noam Cohen writes about the recent Apple drop after unverified news regarding Steve Jobs’ health. Noting this trend wayyyy before Cohen, Prof. Harry Lewis fears that a similar thing will happen with the election at the last minute.

Although not related to journalism, a similar thing did happen with the 2002 presidential election in Korea. It was somewhat a close campaign between the conservative Lee Hoi-chang and more liberal Roh Moo-hyun. (One must note that in Korea, the concept of conservatism, liberalism, and so forth are quite different in dimension than that of the U.S. Given political history and surrounding countries, lefties are more closely associated with socialism in Korea than lefties in the U.S.)

Roh had already had quite a savvy Internet-centered campaign, very much like Obama (only in terms of Internet savviness- Roh didn’t have any higher education) whereas the Lee campaign was extremely ignorant of the Internet, no thanks to campaign organizers who ignored consultants and younger net-savvy campaign members. It was a close campaign, but many polls showed that Lee still had a slight edge. What gave Roh the final push, however, was in the last hours of election day.

Now on election day, unless one is terribly committed to a certain candidate, one sometimes is too lazy to go to the poll. Netizens, however, stirred up a frenzy towards the end of the day, claiming that Roh was extremely far behind and each vote was of crucial matter. These messages, posted on forums and passed through mobile text messages mainly among young people, urged many young voters to go to the polls at the last minute. The interesting thing was that the % of young people who actually voted at all was lower than that of previous elections, but those who voted were more Roh’s fans than Lee’s. Analysts said that these votes were crucial in Roh’s victory. He only won by 580,000 votes.

[Perhaps that is why, for a long time, I was wary of Obama, because a lot of things happening on the Internet (and the fact that like McCain and Obama, there was a generational gap between Roh and Lee) were so similar to what I’d seen in the 2002 Korean presidential elections. Not that it was his fault- it’s like how you feel after dating a loser and feel apprehensive about men who seemingly have similar traits.]

I felt in the case of Korea, the Internet fostered a terrible echo chamber that supported an underqualified candidate and strongly disagree with the poorly-argued Berkman report that suggests that the citizen journalism site OhMyNews played a role in promoting democracy in its coverage of the elections. (OhMyNews’ role and its effect on freedom of speech and its involvement in the election coverage was an entirely different matter. That is, unless democracy is seen as something on par with echo chambers)

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