The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan famously told us. But what about the message, unmediated?

That’s the promise of the internet – and why it’s becoming more and more popular with politicians. Take Hillary Clinton’s announcement yesterday.

The French might be cheese-eating surrender monkeys, but that’s where the highest profile Democratic contender for the presidency took her lead from.

As the Rightthinker website observed; “Last week Nicolas Sarkozy in France won the nomination as the UMP candidate via an internet primary. The Socialist Presidential candidate in France, Ségolène Royal cleverly used her website to promote a sense of participation in her campaign.”

Hillary has taken a lead from both of them and shown how web savvy politicians can harness the new medium.

“In declaring ‘I’m in’ the White House race in a video clip on her new campaign website,, the New York Democrat did considerably more than simply appear before the cameras; she invited supporters to join an almost Oprah Winfrey-like session of give and take,” LA Times staff writer Peter G. Gosselin commented in the wake of her announcement:

“Let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine….” she told viewers.” With a little help from modern technology, I’ll be holding live online video chats … starting Monday.”

By doing this, Clinton signalled her intention of using the Internet to shore up one of her chief political weak points, what independent analyst Charlie Cook called the caricature of her as “this shrill, raving, partisan, liberal lunatic.”

“This is an example of what’s to come,” Cook said. “It has lots of bells and whistles. There’s nothing left to chance.”

Modern political campaigning is cited as beginning with the televised debate between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. It arrived in Australia with Gough Whitlam’s 1972 “It’s time” campaign.

In this election year it will be fascinating to see who can pick up the baton and make the running with new media here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey