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[S]hould we believe the hype about social media’s impact on the 2012 election?
Pew Research says no. “Cable leads the pack as campaign news source,” it concludes in a recently released 35-page report. “Twitter, Facebook play very modest roles.”
Too bad that misses the point. New technologies have always altered campaigns and usually in mysterious ways. Party conventions were first televised in 1952 and soon lost their relevance, becoming scripted theater. Richard Nixon lost votes by sweating under harsh lighting during his televised debate with JFK. Bill Clinton bypassed the traditional news media, playing “Heartbreak Hotel” on his sax on Arsenio Hall’s late-night show. MoveOn.org used the Internet to accumulate small donations and host a virtual primary won by Howard Dean, who in turn was brought down by a scream, which in turn went viral on the Web. YouTube was soon created and in 2008 hosted “Obama Girl” and other user-generated campaign ads.
When Will Social Media Elect a President?