Though America is not yet at war, there is a good chance that war will come. How has the Internet and the World Wide Web changed the way nations go to war?
First, it has allowed a much broader access to information so that people can find many sources for news. It has made the world smaller and allowed us to know what others are thinking and saying about the war. For example, this morning I can read news of the war from the BBC in the UK, from Canada, from New Zealand, from the Czech Republic, or from Pakistan.
In addition to reviewing news from around the world, I can also read information directly from the US Administration. For example, here is a transcript of remarks on the war recently made by the President in St. Louis. This allows them to take their case directly to the people. It also provides the people an opportunity to determine exactly what the President’s case for war is. By reading the transcripts of the President’s remarks, people can make up their own mind.
And if people agree or disagree with the President, letting him (or their representatives) know about it is simple as well. In addition to its other activities, Common Cause provides one way for any citizen to easily compose and send e-mail or faxes to their Representatives and Senators. This short feedback loop allows members of Congress to learn firsthand the feelings of the voters.
And as it always has, the Internet provides a great opportunity for ‘communities’ to spring up. For example, the Move On oganization in a relatively short time has gathered over 700,000 members that are banding together in protest against the war. Using only the Internet they raised over $400,000 to air TV ads around the country. In a single day of fund raising, they also raised enough money to run a pro-peace TV commercial during the Superbowl. Imagine any non-profit attempting to raise that kind of money from small donations in a single day before the Internet existed. It just wasn’t possible. Another example is International ANSWER. They were able to organize mass demonstrations in Washington, DC and San Francisco using the Internet. They literally organized bus trips to the demonstrations from over 100 US cities using the Internet.
In many ways, this is a history making moment. But given the dynamic nature of the Internet, how much of this ‘content’ will be retained? Years from now, will these stories be available and part of the record of history? Who will capture the news stories, the presidential remarks, the organizing e-mails, the editorials and (yes) even the Weblogs that make up this dynamic story?
We have an opportunity to have history write itself. If we capture and save the news stories, remarks and organizing e-mails, then later generations will have the best account ever created for what actually happened in the run up to a war. (And if there is no war, then the Internet will have played a big role in preventing it.)
Who will save the Internet content that is part of this historic moment for posterity?